Reprinted from yesterday's late editions

Whirling Dervishes - the very words strike a certain awe in the imagination of Westerners. It's a phenomenon everyone has heard of, however vaguely, and which one automatically equates with mystical rapture and mesmeric motion. The actual sight of them is no less impressive - it is, almost literally, spellbinding.

The Mevlevi Dervishes - the Whirling Dervishes - of Konya in Anatolia, Turkey, appeared at Lisner Auditorium Tuesday night, commencing a second U.S. tour (the first was in 1972), this time undde the auspices of Houston's nondenominational Rothko Chapel.

What's clear from the start is that the Dervishers' presentation, though executed (for the purposes of the tour) on a stage, is not a "performance" in our usual sense of the term. Rather, it is a public enactment of a sacred rite, at once solemn and costatic, mundane and transcendental.

But the 700-year-old ceremony of the Dervishes remains one of a kind, a human effort to join in "the dance of all things, from the atorm to the star," in the words of the poet Rumi, founder of the Mevlevi order. The conical hats of the Dervishes, their flaring white vestments, the curve of the head and arms, the polgnantly insistent, nasal keening of the instruments and singers, and the gyration itsefl - this seamless, mellifluent self orbiting that accomplishes 400 revojutions or more without break - add up to one of the world's true wonders, and the most engrossing "monotony" you're ever likely to encounter.