When Allaetin Can, a kebab shop owner, appeared in court on Thursday, a judge adjourned the case and ordered police to watch a DVD of dancers performing the “kolbasti” then decide whether to drop the charge against him.
Officers were called after a passer-by reported seeing Mr Can hitting, kicking, and strangling his wife Elmas during a fracas in a car park outside their shop.
After Mr Can had entered a plea of not guilty to the charge of “male assaults female”, defence counsel Greg Vosseler produced the DVD in evidence.
Outside the court, in the small North Island town of Hawera, Mr Can said later that he, his wife and their two teenage children had been celebrating an exceptionally profitable lunchtime shift in their High Street kebab shop.
Leaping around, their celebrations spilled out from the kitchen into the car park.
The frenetic dance, which originated in the 1930s, involves simulated fighting, with much arm throwing, slapping and wrestling moves that include headlocks.
“We are always dancing,” Mr Can said.
“I’m happy to dance with my wife and my family. What’s wrong with that?”
“My wife was nervous and confused when police came,” he told the Taranaki Daily News.
“Her English no good. If English was good, no case.”
Kolbasti was born in the Black Sea port of Trabzon, in the northeast of Turkey, and has gained popularity across the country in the decades since.
The dance is said to have been devised by the city’s drunks, who were regularly rounded up by nightly police patrols, and the lyrics include the words: “They came, they caught us, they beat us.”
Popular at weddings, when large numbers of people join in and dance until the fast-paced music stops, it is also a favourite of young men who like to show off in front of girls.
The name kolbasti translates as “caught red-handed by the police”.
Mrs Can saw the irony.
“My husband is a good man,” she said in her broken English.