There is an old Turkish proverb that no road is too long in good company. After spending four months at The State Turkish Conservatoire for Music and Dance in Izmir, Brighton choreographer Ceyda Tanc thought it fitting to put the axiom to dance.
“Patika is a duet which is based on the journey the dancers go on together,” she explains.
The dance, which will make up one-third of Harman, a new show to be danced by her Brighton-based company, recieves its UK premier this weekend.
Tanc trained in traditional Turkish folk dance at the conservatoire and learnt Zeybek and Denizli styles.
She created Harman, which translates as “blend”, to tour around the eastern country and performed the fusion of traditional Turkish folk dance and Western contemporary dance at theatres.
When Turkish media picked up on the tour, the small theatre bookings were cancelled and the shows upgraded to 1,000-capacity venues.
“We had such a good response,”
says Tanc. “They treated us like celebrities. Everyone was taking photos of the dancers – it was quite to different to here.”
Tanc’s father is Turkish and she knows the language as well as the culture.
“I have Turkish family and I know they can be brutally honest. I thought some people might come out and say they hated it. I was expecting them to say that’s not very Turkish, but everyone we spoke to seemed to love it.”
Turks are taught traditional folk dances in school. Each dance focuses on the culture of a region. They take place at weddings, celebrations and street parties.
For one strand of Harman called Volta, however, Tanc takes inspiration from another Turkish tradition – this time a more harrowing habit once practiced by her father.
Her father was arrested in 1981 aged 21 for being a member of a socialist party and served three years in jail.
The dance is based on walking exercises carried out by prisoners and inmates in Turkish prison.
“My father was a political prisoner in Turkey for three years. He told me this story of how whenever he had air time, they used to, for exercise, walk in pairs, and as they walked they had to turn inwards towards the partner.
“If you turned back on them it was seen as disrespectful and as if you were turning away from a friend. I used that as a starting point.”
While in Izmir, Ceyda taught contemporary dance workshops to degree students, youth companies and a company of professional dance teachers.
“There is not much contemporary dance in Turkey and for many it was the first time they had seen anything like it.”
Nevertheless her company has been invited back next year.
Inspired by tradition She thinks that is because audiences and dancers could see how she took inspiration from Turkish traditions.
Instead of directly copying she has switched the male and female roles.
“The female parts are soft and feminine and pretty. The male roles are stronger. They have bigger movements, but it is male parts I find more fascinating, so I take the male parts and use them on my female dancers. Why don’t they let the girls do the amazing male movements?”
Lewes-based composer Seb Jaeger has written a new score for the work and Ceyda Tanc Youth Dance, with 16 young dancers aged 14 to 19 from schools in Brighton and Hove, will open the show.