Swedish choreographer Gun Lund, who visited the Istanbul International Improvisational Dance Festival in September, is curious about the Istanbul dance scene. The focus of the festival was to present works created by new or emerging choreographers. In this text, he shares some personal reflections on his experiences during his stay. This is not a complete coverage and should not be seen as a traditional review but as a kind of dialog with the artists.

September 28, at the Museum of Monologues

The taxi driver looks suspicious when we tell him where we are going - "The venue is closed" he says... but we finally find the anonymous door. The performance space is small and overcrowded, we find a curious audience, mostly young, the atmosphere gives the air of an underground event, partly improvised with limited resources and technical demands. More of the installations or performance art, the meeting with the audience, the intention and willingness to test and experiment the work is what matters here, not the technical mastery.

“Atlas A Study”, An IIIDF Original Production
: Damla Durman & Esma Akın
Performance: Esma Akın

Surprisingly, we encounter IDF director Damla Durman as the co-choreographer, or rather the external eye, of "Atlas", choreographed and performed by Esma Akın. Although the connection to the legend remains unclear, the main object is a bathtub covered with a thin veil. Gradually a figure rises from beneath the curtain and finally stands there on the ground - a female Atlas! - The recorded text repeats "I am Atlas" and describes her difficulties. The dancer created a well-executed small scene with a coherent movement vocabulary. She made a strong appearance and above all she managed to do it in this crowded and small space. She kept the "distance" from the audience. It was impressive, especially the way she stood towards the door and didn't look away until everyone had left the room. It was admirable.

Photo: Umut Kambak

“Subject to”
Mehdi Dakhan

This work had all the characteristics of a performance work that you can experience in an art environment. The body is usually the center of the work - in this case, a muscular male body is presented, slowly moving, with its back to the viewer. The first section establishes the body as the object/subject of the piece. Moving into the next room, the artist's back is still the source of communication. On the floor were six large-scale burning candles tied together. The artist places the candle pack on his shoulders and carefully balances them close to the floor. Finally he stands up and, with the pack turned upside down, pours the hot liquid on his back. It must be painful, but it is part of the performance tradition. Finally, he peels off the solidified paraffin and distributes it to the audience. With this gesture, he shares with the audience the pain we all suffer from time to time, whether it is physical, psychological or existential.

Sofia Casprini

I enjoyed this piece very much, a woman explores the space without seeing anything, her head covered with a white paper basket. She looks like a robot-like creature, or rather a cyborg, as it is clear that from the shoulders down she has a human body. The movements were the movements of a trained dancer's body.

It was a harmless and innocent piece, perhaps an image of what life sometimes feels like for all of us trying to find our way in a society we no longer recognize. It was close to the audience and had a thrilling aspect that no one in the audience could miss, but which could not be presented in front of a larger audience.

“Attracted by Repulsion”
Choreography and Performance:
Beate Rakemova & Bente Bulens

We regret to say that we arrived late due to traffic and when we arrived the first part had already started so we may have missed some important entries about the performance. We focused directly on their beautiful hair and the mesmerizing work they do to adapt to different lengths and body heights.

Photo: Umut Kambak

They must have worked very hard to achieve this precision. The result is very beautiful images, sometimes combining their bodies. The constant "head banging" and the uninhibited expressions/enthusiasm at the end also create beautiful abstract images. One man in the audience was stunned by the experience. Hair should be read in a cultural context, in some cultures it should be covered and hidden, in others short hair is a sign of a married woman. In this context this work can be read as a declaration of freedom and liberation. Everyone is aware that hair is an important part of our identity*. This is a promising start for the evening.

* In one project, German performance artist Angie Hiesl devoted an entire evening to different aspects of hair and identity.

 “Kim Ki?”
 Choreography and Performance:
Ezgi Yildizkan & Gizem Seçkin

 Başından itibaren bu performanstan çok etkilendim. Net bir formu ve koreografik çizgisi vardı. Onlar sadece hareketlerin koreografisini yapmakla kalmadı, aynı zamanda
 koreografisi yapılmış bir alanı da deneyimledim. Dansçılar mekansal bilinçlerinin tüm potansiyelini kullandılar. Pozisyonlarıyla tüm mekanda çizgiler çizerek gerilim ve
 rahatlama yarattılar. Bu, kendinizi nerede konumlandırdığınız ve diğer dansçıya göre kendinizi nasıl konumlandırdığınız anlamına gelir. Bunu hem kişilerarası ilişkiler
 olarak, hem de geometrik desenler olarak okuyabilirsiniz, karar izleyiciye kalmış.

Photo: Umut Kambak

This work tells a story beyond relational dimensions without narrative. You can "divide" the space in front of the viewer with your positions or movements on stage, we humans are sensitive to such patterns. The artists also consciously used their different bodies; one extends and uses her long lines in the space, the other uses her energy in an exciting way. For me this performance was the highlight of the evening, perhaps because I was surprised as a professional myself. I couldn't foresee what was going to happen. "Who?" could easily be "where?" or "in which direction?". It is full of questions to explore. In my own work I always ask questions of my dancers and give them a framework to relate to. I think this work does the same thing, it's very good work. I would like to see these artists again in new works that they develop.

“Öncesi Sessizlik”
Choreography and Performance:
Beste Demir & Furkan Yılmaz

The beginning was very interesting, they challenged the patience of the viewer with their slow and minimal approach, and the slow development of the movement vocabulary was touching. Some of the developments were predictable. Will she put her head on his shoulder? When? What would happen if he turned at that moment and left her in this awkward position? But still this action was very beautiful, it was a beautiful piece of work. From a physical point of view they were balancing and supporting each other with equal strength. I saw a man seeking a more tender relationship with a woman, and of course this can be interpreted through the gender perspective that allows this kind of behavior in men. In many ways they were equal but the female dancer showed more independence. It was a beautiful duet, it was a beautiful work in form and especially the beginning showed that they had confidence in their choreographic material.

Photo: Umut Kambak

Serhat Kural

 A man and a chair, simple as that. The artist knew what he was doing; good craftsmanship based on his own body and movement vocabulary. Because the movements were so
 well integrated into the artist's body, the performance could have been done in silence. There was no real need for dramatic music that made the movements somewhat i
 nterpretive. But this is the choreographer's choice.

Photo: Umut Kambak

“Avuçların İçinde”
Serhat Kural,
Dancers: Ceren Sezgi Çopur, Elif Aktaş, Gizem Yalman, Nazlı Deniz Mercan, Burcu Uçatenik

The last piece mirrored the chair piece. This quintet clearly showed that the choreographer had managed to transfer the vocabulary of movement to five women. Who were they: hybrids, half human, half cat? The piece was structured and choreographed down to the smallest detail, offering great sequences, especially in the synchronized parts on the floor. The high speed draws the audience's attention, you have to follow carefully. This is an effective technique, and the dancers follow the score tightly. The dancers stayed in character for almost the entire piece. The title "In the palms of your hands" can be interpreted ironically, the palms were soft and peaceful, the claws sharpened and facing the audience. What are the forces we are unleashing.

Photo: Umut Kambak


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