Dance Music Theatre | Arts • Performance
Performance Philosophy and Sufism symposium

Date and Time

Fri 6 October 2017 to Sat 7 October 2017




PATS Studio Theatre

A two-day symposium hosted by the Centre for Performance Philosophy on the relationships between contemporary performance philosophy and Sufism. This event is the first in a 3 part series looking at interconnected yet distinct notions of spirituality, spirit, the spiritual, and spiritualism, from a pluralist perspective – drawing together forms of thought and ways of knowing from a selection of global philosophical and performative practices. 


Performance Philosophy and Sufism will explore the relationships between performance, philosophy and the spiritual within concepts and practices of Sufism, the traditional alongside the contemporary. Sufism is broadly known as the mystical or interior dimension of Islam, and is argued by many to be the very heart of original Islam (Winstone-Hamilton 1989, Blann 2005). Its practices centre on purification of the individual by way of preparation for divine union. There are diverse modes of Sufi practice including dhikr, prayer, fasting, study, music and whirling among others. In relation to performance philosophy, such Sufi practices can be viewed as actions which philosophise universal (spiritual and nonspiritual, timeless) truths. The methodologies, or spiritual technologies, that open these truths within the student or devotee are living, breathing philosophies which may or may not be explicable via language or linear thought.


With contributions from international experts, the event will include: a screening of the film, ‘The Woman Who Whirls’ (2017) - an ethno-poetics of contemporary whirling practice – produced by Hannah McClure and directed by Ella Wood; a participatory whirling workshop led by Azize Guvenc, Hande and Emre Basaran and Faridah Busemann; as well as discussions on intercultural philosophy and practice by Cosimo Zene (SOAS) and Dunja Njaradi (Lancaster), and a presentation focused on ‘Say I am You Mevlana’ (2012) – a full length opera for an intercultural musical ensemble and orchestra by its composer, Michael Ellison. The event will close with a celebration of the launch of ‘Global Journeys of Sufi Whirling, Sufism and Arts Practice’ a special issue of the journal Dance, Movement, Spiritualities (Intellect), co-edited by Hannah McClure and Dunja Njaradi.


Day 1


10-10:30 Registration and welcome


10:30-12 Parallel sessions


12-1 Lunch


1-5 Practical whirling workshop with guest presenters Azize Guvenc, Hande and Emre Basaran and Faridah Busemann.  


 Day 2


9-9:15 Introduction to the Centre for Performance Philosophy by Laura Cull Ó Maoilearca 


9:15-10:30 Screening of ‘The Woman Who Whirls’ (2017) followed by guest presentation by Cosimo Zene and conversation with Hannah McClure 


10:30–11 Tea 


11-11:30 Parallel sessions


11:30-12:30 Introduction of ‘Global Journeys of Sufi Whirling, Sufism and Arts Practice’ - a special issue of the journal Dance, Movement, Spiritualities - and presentation of the opera, ‘Say I am You Mevlana’ (2012) - with guest presenters, Dunja Njaradi and Michael Ellison 


12:30-1:45 Lunch 


1:45-2:30 Roundtable with all guests


2:30-3:30 Drinks reception & launch of ‘Global Journeys of Sufi Whirling, Sufism and Arts Practice’ co-edited by Dunja Njaradi and Hannah McClure



Dr. Dunja Njaradi is an associate editor of Dance, Movement, Spiritualities. She completed her doctorate on somatic movement and choreography in the department of Theatre Studies at Lancaster University. Publications include several articles and edited volumes on spirituality, somatics and ethnography. Dunja currently teaches at The University of Belgrade in the department of Ethnomusicology and is actively researching and teaching on topics of agency, histories and personal spiritualities.


Dr. Michael Ellison grew up in Istanbul as the son of American ex-pats and later completed his music education at Tufts (MA) and his doctorate at The University of California Santa Barbara. Currently affiliated with The University of Bristol, Michael researches the music of Turkey and Anatolia, collisions and intersections of culture and contemporary opera. An active artist and composer, Michael is an ongoing co-director the Hezarfen Ensemble in Istanbul. Recent works include ‘The Sea Crossed Fisherman’ (2016), and ‘Say I am You Mevlana’ (2012) both full length operas for intercultural musical ensembles and orchestra.


The late Dr. Rahmi Oruc Guvenc is a sufi master, a music therapist, an ethnomusicologist, a composer and a poet.He studied philosophy at the Faculty of Literature, Istanbul University. At the Cerrahpasa Faculty of Medicine, Istanbul he completed his doctorate degree in Clinical Psychology, focusing traditional music therapy. Oruc Guvenc founded the ‘Centre for Research and Application of Turkish Music’ at Cerrahpasa Faculty of Medicine. Later, he was appointed lecturer at the ‘Unit for the Research and Promotion of Turkish Music’ at the Turkic Research Institute of Marmara University.Earlier, in 1975, Oruc Guvenc had founded TUMATA (Group for the Research and Promotion of Turkish Music) and began researching the origins and healing properties of Central Asian music. He will be represented by Azize Andrea Guvenc, an ergotherapist, musician and his closest collaboratress as well as some of his closest students, Hande and Emre Basaran and Faridah Busemann. 


Professor Cosimo Zene is a specialist in Religion and Philosophy at The School Of African and Oriental Studies, London. With a particular emphasis on religions as lived philosophies and the need for dialogue between philosophies, Professor Zene opens a space for intersections and conversation - ultimately toward the goal of harmony and peace. His expertise in the parallel, conflicting and complementary structures of thought and practice in Bangladesh, India and South Asia bridge now outdated East-West and North-South divides. As chair of his department he has created the new BA program in World Philosophies, emphasising plurality and dialogue and leading the way in new thinking.


‘The Woman Who Whirls’ (2017) is an ethno-poetics of contemporary whirling practice. It speaks from and to the nature of whirling through visual and spoken non-linear narrative. Broadly experimental in its visual style, the film invites the observer into the inner world of the dervish through its cinematography and editing choices. Issues of tradition and agency, methodologies of practice, and contemporary spirituality are considered. The film was screened with live performance at Liverpool Hope University in April of this year and will be formally premiered on the festival circuit 2018. It runs 11 minutes 34 seconds. Produced and performed by Dr. Hannah McClure, Director Ella Wood.



Registration £26 Lunches, tea/coffee and drinks reception included.