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Contemporary Dance in Turkey

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Most of the artists and companies have begun to gain international recognition in the last ten years, yet just very few can sustain financially. They largely depend on festivals and international touring, since there is no financial support in the country as will be explained in the sustainability section.

Aydın Teker is one of the teachers at Mimar Sinan University who influences many generations with her contemporary dance choreographies, realized outside the confinement of the university. She has started to create site-specific projects because the university did not permit her to use the studios and stages of the institution for her own productions. She developed her dance projects based on long time research, shaped by the different environmental conditions. As a result of this kind of strong research in developing alternative relations of the body and movement styles she now creates one of the most interesting works of Turkish modern dance. In her piece aKabı, bodies in specially manufactured shoes of various heights barely able to stand on stage create new relations with each other while developing interesting architectural/sculptural aesthetics. In harS, a human body interconnected with the body of a harp creates duet resonances with the sound of each body (www.aydinteker.com).


Mustafa Kaplan and Filiz Sızanlı (Taldans) turned their long-time research in the context of TAL (Tiyatro Araştırma Laboratuarı / Istanbul Municipal Theater) into a collaborative company. They started to create their solo works and combined these solos into duets, also working with other artists, including sound designers, to create contemporary dance works. Mustafa Kaplan has an engineering background and Filiz Sızanlı is an architect. They use their knowledge to develop peculiar bodily aesthetics in a very different way from people who have been educated in modern dance techniques (www.taldans.com). Zeynep Günsür, in Movement Atelier Company, works with non-dancers of old age as well as young dancers and actors. Together with the company members she looks for members for alternative ways of relating to our bodies and creating movement theatre works with a strong emphasis on social and political issues of Turkey (www.hareketatolyesi.blogspot.com).


Şafak Uysal (Laboratuar- Performans Art Research and Project laboratory-), who has a PhD in city planning, created a laboratory environment wherein research is conducted with new technologies, text and movement. None of the researchers have a proper dance education in conservatories or university departments; rather they come from METU modern dance club in Ankara (www.laboratuar.org). 22/11 Project Ensemble is founded by choreographer Handan Ergiydiren Özer, also educated in Ankara, METU and one of the founders of METU Dance Club. The ensemble’s projects are text-oriented and site-responsive. They want the architecture of the site to intervene in the choreography (www.cgsg-tr.org).


Two owners of dance companies who have had a proper modern dance education are Tuğçe Ulugün (REM Dance Company- www.remdans.com) and Mihran Tomasyan (Bare Feet Company - www.ciplakayaklar.com). Tomasyan and his classmates work on movement research while incorporating their oppositional political views into their work. Someone from the younger generation of choreographers, İlyas Odman (Undernine Dance and Movement Project) creates performative dance pieces dealing more with gender issues, trans-gender realities and politics of love. (www.ilyas-odman.blogspot.com)


Talin Büyükkürkciyan (Prospero Company) who was educated in Holland (European Dance Development Center and ARTEZ) also conducts research on performative body politics (www.talinbuyukkurkciyan.blogspot.com). Ayşe Orhon, also a researcher on performative body politics, has been rewarded in Impulse Dance with her first work called Can You Repeat?, about the authority of the author/choreographer and the process of obedience. In her last work, called Air, she deals with a classical old Turkish song/sound by transforming it into movement. Ayrin Ersöz graduated from one of the university dance departments in Istanbul and is also interested in identity politics. As a Turkish-Bulgarian immigrant she looks into history using text and movement.


İDT+ which was founded by one of the modern dance pioneers, Geyvan McMillen, focuses on dance theatre, installation works and video relations (www.istanbuldanstiyatrosu.com). Emre Koyuncuoğlu (Emre Koyuncuoğlu Project) who is a theatre director also works with movement, and develops pieces in the border line of theatre, and dance theatre, while also delving into traditional sources (www.cgsg-tr.org). Berrak Yedek, the founder of Kumpanya Ballet Turk in the ‘90s in Istanbul currently lives in Prague and teaches at the Duncan Center Conservatory. Since 2000, she has been working in the field of belly dancing, specifically focusing on ancient Turkish belly dancing (www.iam.cz).  


There are choreographers who only create solo works like Ziya Azazi (Ziya Azazi Dance Project- www.ziya-azazi.com) Özlem Alkış, Sevi Algan, Aytül Hasaltun. Younger dancers /choreographers who recently started to stage their choreographies are Aslı Bostancı, Esra Yurttut, Erdem Gündüz, Lerna Babikyan, Ufuk Şenel, Fırat Kuşçu, Alper Marangoz and Sezen Tonguz. Çağlar Yiğitoğulları, an actor working both in theatre and dance recently started to stage his own performances focused more on bodily expressions and movement combined with theatricality.

Apart from these companies which depend on project-based support, there is only one modern dance company which is professionally supported by a bank (AKSANAT/ cultural department of Akbank): Zeynep Tanbay Dance Project, founded by an ex-Graham Company dancer Zeynep Tanbay herself. (www.akbanksanat.com)