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Folk Dance

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The Turkish folk dance scene has developed parallel with the national ideology of the Republic, so stylization of folk dance choreography began to develop since the 1920s. Turkey is divided into cultural regions each of which has its own distinctive folk dance styles. Over the years these styles have been categorized and re-arranged choreographically in order to adopt them to the stage presentations. At first, this was done by People’s Houses (Halk Evleri), and then by the State Folk Dance Company (www.kultur.gov.tr). Later, with an increasing migration rate towards the cities, many Folk Dance Associations were formed by the migrated locals. These folk dancers performed in various contexts like regional festivals, contests, weddings, and local gatherings. Student groups mainly in primary and secondary schools do also perform folk dances on many occasions.  


Folk dances of Turkey provide a very rich source; it is estimated that there are more than 4000 different kinds of dances, most of which are not completely deciphered. Folk dances are practiced on many levels in the daily life of citizens, ranging from school contests to international festivals, but also at weddings and at all sorts of entertainment activities. Folk dances try to preserve ethnic identities and cultural peculiarities. The Turkish Folklore Institution (www.folklorkurumu.org), founded in 1964, is the central institution which conducts research, forms folk dance groups, gives courses and also works in the fields of folk theatre and music, and even hand crafts. In the 2000s, a new approach towards folk dance began to emerge in the form of commercial-artistic folk dance projects/companies. Examples are Fire of Anatolia (www.anadoluatesi.com) and Shaman Dance Theater (www.shamangroup.com) (a Turkish equivalent of River Dance). These companies often travel abroad and are supported by the Ministry of Culture, which thinks that these dance companies are the best representatives of Turkish culture. This idea has been widely criticized by all other dance professionals (especially by contemporary dance artists). A recent contest on State Television (TRT), Golden Steps / Altın Adımlar (www.altinadimlar.com) brings many folk dance groups under the attention of millions of viewers. The groups are selected by a jury of popular singers and actors. Only one folk dance teacher actually explains about today’s attitude to folk dance culture.

Another approach to folk dance can be found in a university-originated company (Boğaziçi University/ Music and Folk Dance Clubs) named BGST (www.bgst.org). This company favours a certain anthropological approach to folk dance by doing field research, and by opposing to “nationalization” tendencies emphasizes the regional-ethnic and cultural diversity of folk dances.