Didem Kınalı is a cheerful, extrovert, proud gypsy girl who hasn’t been affected by her worldwide fame.
She has earned her living from dancing and nothing else, but dancing remains a passion for her as it was in her childhood when she danced in front of the mirror.
Understanding Didem requires us to go back to her years living in the less privileged areas of Istanbul, Turkey. As with most gypsies in this city, the Kınalı family paid the bills through playing music to crowds. Her father was a drummer while her mother was a singer.
As Didem grew to become a woman, she began performing in the outskirts of Turkey. She was spotted early on by veteran belly dancer Sema Yıldız, who introduced her to Sultana’s owner Zeki Ayhan in 2000. Here she took a huge step in her career, as she was in the centre of Istanbul performing in 15 minute slots to an international crowd.
Her naturally thin physique wasn’t traditionally considered to be ideal for a belly dancer. But her flexibility and graceful movement captivated any viewer and quickly destroyed stereotypes. This was now a new era in Turkish belly dancing.
A few TV appearances in the coming years would slowly bring her to a larger audience in Turkey. However, it wasn’t until 2005 when she was catapulted to a national crowd. Ibo Show, a TV variety show presented by Turkish singer Ibrahim Tatlıses, signed Didem after the departure of Asena. Despite now being a new TV celebrity, Didem was still a mysterious figure. She wasn’t permitted to speak on television and this fact was emphasised by Tatlıses. The media were queueing to get an interview with her. “Who is this Didem?”, everyone was asking.
For five years she would perform on Ibo Show as well as some daytime TV shows. But this was the age of YouTube and talk of her beauty and talent was spreading like wildfire.
The growth of belly dancing as a fitness exercise and dance across the globe was certainly helped by Didem’s YouTube videos, mostly uploaded by Turkish fans in Turkey and Germany. She accumulated millions of views. Her moves, her music, her hair, her dresses were all points of discussion in comments fields and belly dancing forums.
Her exposure has led to invitations from across the globe. Didem has performed in practically every continent and continues to be booked for workshops and galas.
The future for Didem will always be on stage. It remains to be seen if she will add singing or other forms of dance to her performances. What is certain is that she will always be “oryantal Didem” to her fans.
Follow and speak to Didem on her social media accounts through the links at the top of this page.