Regardless of the type of dance (except maybe Latin) the main recommendation is to involve universities. Gonca Gumusayak offered to be the guide and facilitate the collaboration with Mimar Sinan University and arrange the formal correspondence with the university.
Consider to support and address all four dance scenes separately
In the dance field there are roughly four different types of scenes: there is the traditional Turkish dance scene (folk, belly dance, whirling dervishes), the Latin dance scene (Turkish Tango and other Latin dances), the small but sympathetic contemporary dance scene (no infighting, smart and educated people collaborate to set up the scene) and the hip hop youth and urban dance scene (often in the parts of cities that are not considered artistic centers, the district Ümraniye in Istanbul for example). The traditional dance scene is well supported by the government, has strongholds in numerous Turkish universities and conservatoriums and is extremely networked within the country. Due to the influence of academia there are both traditional and more reflective and innovation minded people in this scene. The contemporary dance scene roughly sees folk dance as the terrain of AK party supporters and traditional -but not necessarily Islamist- people. Most contemporary dance people are CHP or leftist in political orientation. There is not much overlap between these scenes. The Latin scene is more commercial as dancers in this scene mostly live from teaching classes to amateurs and the scene revolves around commercial dance studios that cater to this public. None of the three scenes discussed above have much contact with the youth that is into Hip Hop and part of this is due to social-economic differences and the fact that the youth is not formally organized (although they reportedly have very slick studio spaces that they made themselves in basements of apartment blocks) and live in locations that the members of first three scenes rarely visit.
Explore Turkish Hip Hop and bring it to the Netherlands
As far as I know there currently are no networks or connections between the hip hop scenes in Istanbul and the Netherlands. There are numerous venues and organizations in the Netherlands that offer salsa, folk dance and other movement and dance related activities in the Netherlands that could offer or be interested in Hip Hop. I think it is worth-while to explore ways in order to establish connections. The Hip Hop developments both have news value in Turkey and are a virgin area for collaboration between Turkey and the Netherlands. Additional benefit would be that focus on Hip Hop allows Dutch cultural organizations to reach Turkish audiences, cultural actors and youth outside the higher socio-economic classes and their neighborhoods. According to Fatush productions in Rotterdam there are Hip Hop and Folk dance fusions in youth scenes in South-East Turkey.
Make a strategic plan for long term collaboration with the Turkish Folk dance world
For Dutch-Turkish audiences folk dance is a well developed field that can benefit from projects such as ‘Buluşma’ where the more innovation-minded professionals from Turkey are invited to the Netherlands to work with Dutch-Turkish dance groups which would otherwise adapt new insights (if at all) with a few years delay compared to their counterparts in Turkey. For instance in Busluşma the simple linear composition that many Dutch Turkish folk dance groups use were discussed, thereafter the compositions became more interesting. When a storyline is created a dance performance that lasts the entire evening becomes more interesting for an audience. Discussions started on if different or more innovative costumes should be allowed. When the Turkish dance groups in the Netherlands can work with advanced Turkish folk dance professionals they can evolve into more up-to-date performers reinterpreting age old dances in innovative ways and making them accessible to new audiences outside their circles of family and friends. Dutch cultural actors only touched the tip of the iceberg when the extensive network of the Folk Dance scene in Turkey is concerned. A lot is possible but a strategic plan is needed.
More visibility of Dutch-Turkish Folkdance in Turkey would help more connections to develop in this field. Now in Turkey few people that I spoke to knew there was a Turkish folkdance scene in the Netherlands.
For very traditional people dance can be seen as sinful. In the Netherlands for a long time mosques did not offer any cultural courses. This started to change and some mosques are getting more interested to allow dance and music lessons on their premises. The courses they teach are often folk dance and classical Turkish instruments such as the saz.
Support visibility for Turkish Latin dance in the Netherlands, especially Tango
Turkish Tango is a scene and Latin dance is as popular in Turkey as it is in the Netherlands. Therefore it offers opportunities for collaboration. Latin dance as a topic for Turkish and Dutch cultural collaboration also provides the image that Turkey and the Netherlands are part of global cultural networks, and not only focused on the narrow cultural exchange of two connected countries. Furthermore it may generate multilateral cultural collaboration with Latin speaking European countries that also have scenes and connections to Turkey and the Netherlands.
Belly dance is risky for Dutch collaboration because of the association with Orientalism, but books or documentaries honouring established artists are a good idea
Whereas the belly dance scene in the Netherlands is seriously into elaborate costumes and belly dance is mostly performed solo by women, in Turkey belly dance is a very normal thing done in normal clothes at parties and weddings by everyone, young and old men and women. There are some belly dancers in the Netherlands and one Dutch belly-dancer in Istanbul. There is some risk that Turkish audiences will think that Dutch people working with belly dancers in 2012 is cliché, populist and Orientalist. However there may be possibilities to create more collaboration in this field. The Dutch documentary filmmaker Zeynep Ozkaya is writing a book about belly dance and is busy with research for a documentary about a belly dancer, diva Nesrin Topkapi. Such an approach can be a good way to give attention to belly dance without stepping into all the pitfalls mentioned before.
Support projects combining whirling dervishes with contemporary performance because they reach a mixed audience
Those performing Sufi ritual called the Semah, or use elements from this tradition in an innovative way, may connect both to spiritual people from traditional backgrounds and to a more educated and high-brow audiences. Istanbul based dancers Tan Temel and Sernaz Demirel of the Istanbul dance theater use the principles of the Sema ritual as the basis of a contemporary theory and method of movement that focus on rotation in the body and of never-ending movement. The Istanbul dance theater is working on a performance on religion (Christianity & Islam) but takes a more personal approach; the dancers reflect on how religion affects their own life. The combination with contemporary dance works best for Dutch audiences, because a full evening program with whirling dervishes is to boring for them.
Focus on and support especially contemporary dance
For Dutch-Dutch audiences, contemporary dance from Turkey may be of interest. Activities like movement research which have no monetary value are done as well in places like Catı.
When looking at the overview of dance activities between Turkey and the Netherlands, there is way too little modern and contemporary dance coming from Turkey to the Netherlands. There is enough potential and there are individual connections. A more structured approach would be a good idea. Turkish dancers should be invited to the Netherlands and Dutch dancers and especially dance teachers should be supported to go to Turkey. I haven’t seen any 2012 proposals in this direction, but some contemporary Turkish dancers expressed they would like to collaborate and rehearse together with dancers from the Netherlands. One dancer with experience in the Netherlands even gave a recipe of how this could be done: ‘for 2 months each morning Turkish teachers teach Dutch groups and Dutch teachers teach Turkish groups. Dutch and Turkish groups have technical and improvisation lessons together. This will show the individual and cultural differences. Turkish dancers are often very good technically, but the Dutch dancers can be more used to improvisation. Afternoon mixed groups split up to work on different projects. Outcome is a small project and reflection/sharing experiences.’ Many dancers from the Istanbul scene are also organizers, so there is a good chance for relationships to continue after 2012. Furthermore, as far as I could find out, there are three dancers from Turkey that have experience with studying and living in the Netherlands: Gonca Gumusayak, Gizem Bilgen and Bahar Temiz (who studied in Holland -in Arnhem- but nowadays spends more time working in France).
Find a solution for lacking rehearsal space in Istanbul
No rehearsal space!! is the main concern for Turkish performance artists. The main need is space: mobile spaces, studio/black box spaces and more sophisticated old building restoration for performance spaces. The general conception of cultural people in Turkey is that 2012 and/or Dutch collaboration will create opportunities to claim spaces.
Most contemporary dance activities take place in Istanbul. Contemporary dancers in Istanbul are developing their -very recently started- scene and are, at present, mostly focused on solving problems. Compare the situation with building a house: staking out your piece of land (position), finding money (teaching) and time (not teaching), setting up coordination (ÇGSG), informing people (a room with a concrete floor and columns in the middle is not suitable for dance), solving acute problems (no rehearsal spaces in Istanbul) and an open mind to anyone who can help to build networks and infrastructure. Especially the total lack of affordable rehearsal space is a bottle neck for this group. It seriously hampers the development of contemporary dancers and their scene (only those who study or teach at universities with a dance department have access to rehearsal spaces, but these are often not suitable as well). It also makes it difficult and expensive (rehearsal studios are rented out on an hourly bases to commercial dance classes) for Turkish-Dutch dancers to collaborate or rehearse together in Istanbul (the studios in universities are generally fully booked). In the TR+NL internet search about dance, it was interesting to find that one Dutch dance school collaborated with Turkish dancers by booking all dancers into the same (inexpensive) all-inclusive resort on the Turkish coast and used the wooden floors of the (probably) wedding room as a rehearsal space. Several dancers suggested that 2012 can be used by the Dutch to lobby for rehearsal space by asking Istanbul municipality for an artist-in-residency for performing arts in Istanbul. Istanbul municipality has buildings that it can allocate for this purpose. I talked to Nurnaz Deniz about the lack of rehearsal space and expressed my hope that if she would get a building that she would create some opportunities for dance there.
Focus on dance education, especially teaching the teachers
The contemporary dancers in Turkey also have the unique problem that most dancers were not formally educated as dancers (due to the education system in Turkey) and some others started formal/systematic dance education quite late in life. Maybe what is seen by some to be a limitation, can also lead to new and interesting interpretations or solutions. Several interviewees told me that dance was part of Turkish culture so they were exposed to it in a natural way very early on. One interviewee said (quote): ‘Turkish people do not like to dance, they like to behave’ hinting at the importance of the social context on people’s dance development. The contemporary dancers that teach are often not formally educated as dancers or dance teachers either. Many dancers started to work for themselves as dance teachers after the 1990/2001’s financial crises. 4 groups that are sufficiently trained at and concerned with the dance aspects of dance are: Iş Dance Theater, Çıplak Ayaklar, REM and Zeynep Ianbay at Akbank. Many dance people voiced their desire to have Dutch dancers, choreographers and dance educators come to Turkey and teach in their University departments or work with their dance group. Especially teaching the teachers is a good idea as it has a multiplier effect. A lot of networking and knowledge transfer can be achieved this way.
It is too early for Children and youth dance projects
There are no (contemporary) dance performances made especially for children or youth (Talimhane). The situation is the same as with theater, only worse. The reason is that it is too expensive for schools to take their classes to commercial performances and that there is no support for contemporary or youth dance from the State. Schools will need to be informed first about the benefits to take their students to dance performances and this takes time and coordination that is (too) difficult to organize with the current capacity of the contemporary dance scene. I think that in Turkey theatre for, by or with youth is more likely to succeed at this point in time. Maybe dance elements can be included.
Send big names of Dutch contemporary dance to Turkey
Due to the current invisibility of contemporary dance in the wider Turkish society, this scene could benefit from well established names from the Netherlands visiting Turkey (performances followed by master classes to Turkish professionals and at art academies with dance departments). IKSV named Jirí Kylián and the Netherlands Dance Theater and Scapino Ballet Rotterdam.
Encourage collaboration in dance criticism and writing on dance
In general the cultural sector in Turkey doesn’t have (enough) critics and this is also the case in the field of contemporary dance. There is one man writing about contemporary dance on his blog, but he doesn’t have enough knowledge of the field. This started an online discussion on the group mail of ÇGSG (an e-group for dance called: dans listesi) about whether or not contemporary dance needs criticism and what kind of criticism etc. Maybe when the dance field develops further a workshop about writing performing arts criticism would be welcomed.