Yellow brick  /  Steps  /  STEP 50 | Athenian Tsiftetelli

STEP 50 | Athenian Tsiftetelli

with Elli Vassalou03/06/24, 01/03/2025 Steps Upcoming

Looking through the belly buttons of the fxmme cross-cultural migrations of Athens.

An embodied research on the cross-cultural, diasporic practice of Çiftetelli (Greco-Turkish belly dance) as a tool for collective healing, feminist place making and queer joy. The project aims to bring together old and new migrants from the east Mediterranean and the SWANA region to transmit stories, rhythms and dance moves.

Çiftetelli carries memories of the Ottoman times and can become a tool for emancipating non-eurocentric multicultural subjectivities, putting in question the European construction of the ‘Greek miracle’. It brings ambiguous connotations seen by an orientalist gaze, but incorporates a rare potential for social, cultural and sexual resistance.

The focus on dance allows the work to touch on the trauma of cultural and physical displacement stored in the body of the communities, as well as finding joy, kinesthetic pleasure, empathy and common histories through a ‘body topography’, where the body is a topos, including historical layers of sensations and temporality. The research goal is to use movement as social text to produce counter-narratives, new subjectivities and traditions, where the collectively owned embodied culture transcends imposed constructions of gender, sexual, racial, ethnic, national identity, class, age and ability. 



  1. Çiftetelli research, family archive of the artist,  b&w photography, photographer Stelios Vassalos, Athens, Greece, 1977.
  2. Çiftetelli research, family archive of the artist, Daguerreotype, photographer unknown, Kato Panagia (today Çiftlik Koyu, Türkiye ), Ottoman Empire, late 19th century.
  3. Çiftetelli research, ERT archive, video still from an interview of Roza Eskenazi, Athens 1975.
  4. Çiftetelli research, bibliography, Elli Vassalou, Brussels 2024.
  5. Metaspora research: tourkospori, digital images, photographer Elli Vassalou, Sozaki, Türkiye & Zarlandinge, Belgium 2022.

(Brussels) is a transdisciplinary artist, activist, and researcher. Her work intertwines concepts of migration, diaspora, intersectional and decolonial pedagogies; counter-mapping minor narratives on space and collective memory.
Elli designs platforms for co-creation, collective knowledge production and social change. She works hybridly through film, performance, storytelling, multisensorial, auto-ethnographic and p2p narrative tools, archives and spatial design. She has worked in Globe Aroma (Brussels) and Open Design Course (KASK, Ghent) and co-funded The Post Collective.