Monday, July 20, 2015

Studying Dance in Turkey- The Diyarbakir Diaries

Continuing on my brief series of blogs on my dance study in Turkey this year, I now write about some of my experiences in southeastern Turkey- in the fascinating province of Diyarbakir. The city of Diyarbakir, a two-hour plane ride from Istanbul, is the capital of the Diyarbakir province, and is among the largest cities in southeastern Anatolia. It presents both a geographic and cultural landscape quite distinct from Istanbul. While Istanbul is on the sea and has fairly humid but somewhat temperate weather, Diyarbakir is landlocked, dry (and also beautiful) and dusty, and during our stay, the temperatures averaged to over 40 degrees Celsius.

                                                    at the old City Wall

As part of my study, we were guests of the Dicle University State Conservatory, and lived on campus at the campus guesthouse. We were greeted at the airport by a wonderful member of the Music faculty at the conservatory- Prof. Shahin- who plays Zurna as well as several other instruments, and specializes in folk dance as well. Over a delicious breakfast, he explained to me the different rhythmic/stylistic dance zones of Turkey.

He then took us over to the home of another faculty member, a thorough and patient teacher, Gonul Ozturkman. Gonul and her husband Ozgur are both well-established and well-known folk dancers, choreographers and teachers, and both on faculty at the State Conservatory. That afternoon, Gonul taught me classes on Ciftetelli and Zeybek and the Halay. I found her to be an intuitive and wonderfully interactive teacher, and she also patiently explained to me some of the background information about these dances.

The next day, we had class at the Conservatory, and I got a chance to visit the Dance Department there, and also had class in the conservatory studio facilities. We worked some more on the Zeybek and also had class on Azeri dance.

                                          Class at the conservatory studio with Gonul

I also showed Gonul a bit of my own Indian dance, and she showed me a parallel dance form with gestures for the everyday work of rural women as wells as women's self-ornamentation.

The following day, we again returned to the State Conservatory studio, and worked more on Azeri dance. I also met with the Dean of the State Conservatory Folk Dance Department- Prof. Gulbeyaz, who also graciously took us out for a delicious dinner and post-dinner coffee. He specializes in several different dance techniques, and has led several competitive teams internationally. I truly found the hospitality of all the faculty members and our new friends/colleagues in Diyarbakir wonderful.

 During my stay in Diyarbakir, I became especially fond of the Diyarbakir cheese, which we were able to get at breakfast at the university guesthouse each morning. I also truly enjoyed the warmth and hospitality extended to us by Gonul and Ozgur, as well as Prof. Gulbeyaz. In addition to teaching me the dances, they took us around to see some of the striking historical monuments and natural landmarks of the region.

We saw the great wall of Diyarbakir, with a sort of fortress inside it. This is a fascinating wall, surrounding the city, and is the second longest in the world, after the Great Wall of China. The wall has a door facing each city, and these doors/gates are named after these cities, such as "Urfa Kapi" facing in the direction of Urfa.

This fortress has a huge echoing domed ceiling inside it! This is photo I took of this domed ceiling from the inside.

The fortress also has a small cafe inside it, as well as a vendor selling beautiful local handmade clothes as well as dance costumes!

Our next stop was the On Gozlu Bridge, or the "Ten Eyed Bridge", named after its ten arches. This was another fascinating structure, built on the Dijle River. On the other side of this, we can see the construction of new buildings. 

To me, it was also fascinating to see the Tigris River. I had not initially realized that "Dijle" was the local name for the Tigris River. I had learned in school that the Rivers Euphrates and Tigris had been the cradles of civilization, and it was a strange and incredible feeling to realize that I was looking at one of these rivers, and to learn dance on a city situated on the banks of this river.

We also got shown around some of the new parts of the city, including underground shopping centres, and wonderful eateries and cafes, in both the old and the new parts of town. One of the most interesting of these was the Diyarbakir Culture Garden Cafe, which was a wonderful family cafe with outdoors seating in the evenings. 

One of our friends in Turkey told us- there is Istanbul, and then there is the rest of Turkey. I found this to be so true not only for getting a taste of the culture of the land, but also for an immersive experience of dances from Turkey. While I love Istanbul, and find it a truly vibrant city, I found Diyarbakir in southeastern Turkey also rich in history, heritage, music and dance, and ofcourse, the wonderful spirit and warmth of our company there! 

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