What does dance mean to you? How did you decide to pursue dance as a profession?
Dance is a metaphor for life. Any and all movement done as a response or reaction to emotion can be considered vocabulary for dance.
I’ve been dancing since childhood. My earliest ambitions I can remember was to be a painter. It was a fascination of mine in high school, however, I somehow decided to study linguistics. I was having a psychologically hard time in Sweden. Noticing how dance was helping in a deeply therapeutic way, I kept on dancing. I worked so hard, training 3 to 6 hours daily for up to 6 times a week. This dedication drove me to educate myself on dance ethnology which sparked my desire to become more involved physically and mentally with the art form. Oriental dance has always been my priority. It is a fascinating dance form, so expressive, and open. Society needs to be strip away their prejudices and let loose the inhibitions of the dance.
Middle Eastern Dances are becoming internationally more and more recognized. What do you want to say about it?
The Middle East is the cradle of civilizations and the rich culture here is beyond amazing. There is shortage of resources that cause Middle Eastern dances and dancers fall back. There are financial insufficiencies, and ideological, political, cultural limitations. We are in our own ways, conservatively confined. Furthermore, compared to my experiences in Europe, life is difficult here. There is very little time to appreciate something for art’s sake, performance mostly done as a commercialized business.
Oriental dance has been drawing attention for quite some time from the West. As a result of patriarchy and orientalism which are both prevalent in Turkey as well, oriental dance is almost always over-sexualized and directed towards a misogynistic audience. There is a large amount of dancers that objectify their peers and criticize them for these issues, focusing on their use of costumes and behaviors, etc. Interestingly, this criticism comes mostly from Western dancers towards other Western dancers and Middle Eastern dancers. However, there is this; no matter how conservatively women behave, patriarchy will always sexualize the image of a pretty woman dancing alone, anyway. So, this criticism again puts pressure on many female performance artists. If oriental dance is not fully recognized as an art form, it’s not because these artists appeal to the desires of their audience, it’s because of patriarchal norms.
Even the male oriental dancers feel these impacts. I personally have no approval of extreme modesty that organized religions preached to confine people. It is not what’s gonna progress this art form in anyway or garner more legitimate recognition. I think the act of expressing oneself freely, with well-defined self-confidence, while being equipped with knowledge and professional mannerisms is how both the performance artists and the well established art form will maintain legitimate international recognition.
Clinical Dance Movement Therapy is an especially important subject. Can you tell us more about it?
It is a newer type of psychotherapy under the umbrella of expressive art therapies. I consider it especially effective because movement can bring out the unspeakable, through movement we can reach the oldest memories that were formed before verbal skills. It combines our expressiveness and the process of life as emphasis, not the aesthetic aspect of dance. It can be utilized for clinical therapy as well as conceptual or recreational expression to relieve stress. I am not a clinical dance therapist yet, I’ll continue to further my studies. I practice something I refer to as “Interdisciplinary Creative Movement” for my own general well being. I invoke this creative discipline in efforts to boost the creative flow of energy my students work within. We initiate an emotion or a concept; with the use of personal and recognizable symbolism, we move, we paint, we write – this is the concept behind describing it as interdisciplinary – and we fully experience the development of the source concept towards the uncoiling event of creative energies.
4 – What are the benefits for actresses and actors to learn dance? Nesrin Cavadzade took dance classes from you. Can you tell us more about your dance teaching and teaching programs?
Indeed, actors and actresses can certainly benefit from the disciplines and expressive natures of dance. Dance invokes body awareness and body coordination. When you dance, kinesthetic, musical, emotional and rational functions work at the same time. It improves “body intelligence”. It improves expression, stamina, musicality, flexibility, also relieves stress! Nesrin Cavadzade was an awesome student, very open, and diligent.
My dance classes involve the intimacy of working one-on-one to fully explore the expressive needs and creative desires of the person. The work we accomplish depends on the experience level and the background of the student. Our first months together include a multitude of body awareness exercises and drilling, with simple choreographic. It’s important for a dancer to be able to easily pick up a given choreography as well as to be able to improvise. As for interdisciplinary creative movement and dance, it is a unique process for everyone. I am more of an enabler and creative guide than a teacher during these sessions.
You beautifully enlivened %100 Metal Headbangers’ Weekend Festival last year with your performance with Moonspell from Portugal. How was it for you? You performed an oriental metal fusion dance. What are the compabilities and differences between these two genres?
I enjoyed it incredibly much. I had, and still have a long term neck and shoulder injury. It was a time period where I was just recovering and picking up dance again. So, the preparation was quite painful for me. But the experience was most definitely worth it.
It is never an easy task to create a fusion of two very distinct genres. As an artist, the dancer should be well-versed in both styles to be able to combine to create a new blended aesthetic. Then again heavy metal is not a dance form; so, I utilized authentic or expressive movements to incorporate into my choreography for “Breathe”. I had prepared a fire show for “Medusalem” but we had to cancel it for technical reasons and I improvised that song.
Musicality of certain types of Heavy Metal is quite suitable for “belly-dancing”, where you get sharp clear drumming and shredding guitar. Blast beats for example are just perfect for the most fundamental movement of oriental dance, the shimmy, when the dancer vibrates the lower part of the body. Emotionally, both of the genres are actually extremely emotional, providing outlets for strong internal emotions, anger, pain, agony, that most people tend to keep hidden away from any audience. It is incumbent on the dancer to bring out these normally hidden emotions and express them in an understandable choreography of movement. Traditionally, Turkish style oriental dance is not as soft as Egyptian, but still very very soft next to Metal music. While I am very fond of this contrast, I incorporate the use fire manipulation as well as authentic movements to give off that harshness in heavy metal.
If the music is an Oriental Metal song meaning it has Middle Eastern rhythms or tunes, it allows you to stay with oriental dance realm, if it is not related to Middle Eastern style at all, then it is another type of fusion that opens up the discussion whether it is oriental dance still.
Just an example: Imagine a dancer dancing flamenco to Manowar’s Heart of Steel or Hail and Kill. Let’s imagine, dancing flamenco to Metal becomes a trend and people call it metal flamenco. It’s not authentic flamenco anymore, because there is no flamenco maqam or rhythm patterns. But still, it’s a thing. It is open for discussions. Dance is a many-layered tremendous subject, isn’it it? Then, imagine a dancer dancing flamenco to, say, Yngwe Malmsteen’s “Flamenco Diablo”, although it is not genuine flamenco, it has enough resemblances for the dancer to stay with flamenco feeling.
It is the same ideology with “metal belly dance”. Meanwhile I have to say that “belly dance” is a misnomer. There is this problem with terminology in English, when we directly translate from Turkish (Oryantal Dans) or Arabic (Raqs Sharki) it translates as Oriental Dance, which today refers to far-east in English and therefore it is confusing, but calling this dance form “belly dance” is like calling ballet “
tip-toe dance”. There is more than the belly involved. Just a little clarification.
Metal musicians from various cultures utilize their own native cultural aspects in their music. And Oriental Metal music has been around for quite some time. I am quite cautious when creating. I would love to see oriental metal to develop to be a recognized dance form. And l find it very suitable for Turkish identity. Classical oriental dance is being labeled as being outdated and overly traditional while metal music continues to progress and is very well-liked.
Lastly, I don’t personally insist on oriental metal. Metal music is expressive, it moves you, we can just get up and express what it makes us feel in whatever way we want. If we are professional dancers, then we have certain responsibilities such as aesthetics, representation, content, cultural awareness, costuming.
What are your impressions about Rakkas Istanbul International Oriental Dance Festival that took place in Istanbul between 1-5 June?
This was the 4th time, and I have had the honor to participate with the festival it since the first time. There are so many oriental dance festivals all around the world and it is still new in Turkey. Rakkas Istanbul, not to be confused with Rakkas Restaurant on Asian side of Istanbul, that’s Rakkas Restaurant, this is Rakkas Istanbul International Oriental Dance Festival. They are not related. Anyway, so it started quite big, however it was last year and especially this year that international teachers/dancers and students were hesitant about coming to Turkey – quite understandably.
It is a dance congregation where you can take classes during the day, buy dance costumes and dance related stuff in the evening. The festival begins and ends with a teachers’ gala show, then we have open stage show and competition and after-parties. This year, despite the fact that we were few, the ambiance was awesome, absolutely amazing oriental dance family vibes.
I performed one classical Turkish style oriental dance where there is an entrance, taxeem and floor work and a rhythm solo. This is how a traditional oriental dance performance starts, develops and ends. Then, my second show was oriental metal! There is an instrumental dance version of the arabesque song “Ben Insan Değil Miyim?”, so most oriental dancers are familiar with it. I chose the newer rock version of it by Hayko Cepkin and did a little bit of fakirism (meaning burning yourself in fire shows) where he groans ‘sen de yan/may you, too, burn’ and did a little bit of fire-eating at the end.
You have lived in Sweden, France and Greece. What are the benefits of experiencing a variety of differing cultures?
There can be different benefits for different people. For me, it helped me to be an adaptive person with a certain personal boundary. I may seem cold and peculiar at times but I have been shaped up this way. I acquired an discerning eye for similarities and differences. I have understood the triviality of borders, and nations and flags and magnificence of languages and etymology. In short, it freed me from subjective judgments, equipped me with another kind of acumen and openness in interpersonal relationships and larger societal relations.
What kind of music do you listen to in general? Are there bands and musicians that you follow?
My taste is eclectic. I mean, I am a dancer. I enjoy listening to various kinds. Generally Metal, Industrial, Punk and Gothic…
Dimmu Borgir, Mayhem, Keep of Kalessin, Rotting Christ, Behemoth, Ihsahn, Blut Aus Nord, Dream Theater, Danzig, Rammstein, Marilyn Manson, KMFDM, The Kovenant, Hayko Cepkin, Pentagram, Orphaned Land, The Cure, Nick Cave, Sisters of Mercy, Dead Kennedys, Exploited, Ebba Grön. Although some of which are inactive currently. I try to follow all the local metal and alt bands that I come across.
What does Heavy Metal mean to you? Do you have new projects in this field?
Heavy Metal means to me the unintentional and partial release of my subconscious and unconscious mind. It is a diverse and progressive art form dwelling on wide variety of themes; occult, esoterism, left hand path – the obscure, Satanism – the adversary; death, violence, sex – taboos, hedonism, misanthropy, socially aware subjects, rebellion and protest. Really diverse. The themes are always what the society, what the system taught you to avoid.
My repressed feelings find meaning and purpose through Metal.
I had two possible metal concerts this year but both of them got canceled because of the political unrest in Turkey. I will be continuing dancing to heavy metal and improving my fire techniques. It’s extremely dangerous you know, takes a lot of effort to work on it.
I would like to work with metal musicians on subjects around creative such as artist’s block, self confidence in expressing oneself , inspiration versus discipline etc.
Are you interested in literature? What kind of books do you read?
I studied British and American literature before I majored in linguistics at university. I had a kind of love and hate relationship with poetry. That’s why I chose linguistics, I just wanted to be analytical and avoid the emotions involved in literature. It’s not like that any more. I enjoy poetry a lot. But generally I read non-fiction books, mostly on psychology and politics.
Last question, can you recommend a book and a movie that left an impact on you.
Evelyn Reed – Woman’s Evolution from Matriarchal Clan to Patriarchal Family I recommend this book to everyone regardless of gender. Far from myths, it is a scholarly anthropological book rediscovering and redefining social evolution from a Marxist feminist perspective. I read it about 10 years ago. I can say it changed my life.
Batman: The Dark Knight – I know many people have already watched it. Joker’s depiction is a masterpiece. Batman and Joker really complete a whole together as Joker himself says in the movie that Batman completes him. Joker knows very well how to incite the shadow aspect in people, shadow aspect as in Jungian psychology, the dark side that everyone has. Don’t say it is just fiction. The story is very well built. “When the chips are down, these civilized people…they’ll eat each other.” The cognitive bias that we think we are more benevolent than we actually are. This movie sort of changed my life as well. I was going to therapy around the same time I watched the movie. It encouraged me to go deeper in my psyche to face my own shadow.