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SATURDAY

I don’t know much about whirling dervishes. I do know what I discovered at age 8, on the playground. A basketball backboard, sans hoop, stood at the edge of the blacktop, on two posts. Every recess, I would set myself between these posts and swing around them, grabbing one, then the other, in a determined pattern that, from the viewpoint of some sky god, would form an infinity pattern. It wasn’t worship; it was a way to alter my perception, to see the world slantwise. It was also a way for a lonely child to feel whole and purposeful—no different, in that way, from any other ritual. As I understand it, the whirling dervish—dervish means “doorway,” as in a doorway to the divine—is not seeking some cheap high; rather, he’s following a physical and worshipful discipline somewhat akin to that practiced in yoga. The sema ceremony is a Sufi expression of a progression toward perfection, a personification of the unity of God. I’ll be the first to admit, though, that all the reading I’ve done hasn’t quite prepared me to understand what will happen at Saturday’s presentation. I do know that there will be music: Sufi scholar Carl W. Ernst wrote that, for Sufis, music is “a way of transporting oneself back to that moment of harmony with God in pre-eternity.” You sit, they spin, when the Whirling Dervishes of Istanbul perform at 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 1, at the Warner Theatre, 1299 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. $20– $50. (202) 397-7328. (Pamela Murray Winters)