Contemporary dance artist, instructor, choreographer Cansu Ergin, together with musicians Sami Hosseini and Serdar Kastelli, staged their performance titled "Reflection" at the 3rd Istanbul International Improvisation Dance Festival. We had a conversation with Ergin about her festival experience, improvisational production and contemporary dance in Izmir.

Pınar Özer: We enjoyed your improvised dance performance "Reflection" that you performed at Arter Contemporary Art Museum with musicians Sami Hosseini and Serdar Kastelli as part of the 3rd Istanbul International Improvisation Dance Festival. What was the experience like for you?

Cansu Ergin: It was a very pleasant experience. Sami played many instruments such as cajon, tombak and cymbals, especially the tambourine, of which he is a master. Serdar Hoca played ney, flute and added electronic music. They created different ambiances. In an art gallery with a sharp idea and lines, accompanied by music made with instruments that carry cultural meanings and history, I found an identity for myself. It was as if this identity was independent of me. We experienced an environment where all these elements were in conversation with each other.

Pınar Özer: You have been producing your improvised performances together with musicians for many years. When did this collaboration start for you? How have the musicians you have worked with changed their thoughts and experiences about contemporary dance or improvisational dance?

Cansu Ergin: As part of my education abroad on improvisation, contemporary dance and choreographic creation, we came together with musicians and improvised together, practicing various methods. While I was studying there, I started experimenting with my musician and performer friend. Later, upon the invitation of a German soprano saxophone musician friend, I went on tour in Europe and worked with many musicians from double bassists to vocalists, drummers to guitarists.

Cansu Ergin, Reflection. Photo: Umut Kambak

This invitation continued for years in a row, I did improvisational performances, I realized that I enjoyed it a lot, I deepened. The path opened by my musician friend was very instructive. I thought, "This is a beautiful path, I want to do this in Turkey too." We are in the 10th year of our collaboration with Sami Hosseini. We have performed together in many cities such as Mardin, Istanbul, Izmir, Denizli. After the musicians who already know how to improvise and improvise, working with a musician who performs his own music with his own talent and introducing improvisational performance has been a different, long-term process. This process with Sami turned into an ancient friendship. I developed myself along with him. I thought, "How can I express myself to him, how can I accompany him?" and he started a new formation in me. Sami became the backbone of improvisation, and as his self-confidence grew, the way began to open up.

In recent years, we started inviting master musicians from Turkey, who are of international level and of very high quality, and they are very open masters, they accepted. Erkan Oğur, Can Çankaya, Turgut Alp Bekoğlu... They were not people who normally accompany improvisational dance with their music. As people who are masters in their own fields, doyen of improvisation in their own field of music, we started to open and deepen this path on an Izmir-based basis with their submission and contribution. I can say that they accompanied improvisational dance with me for the first time. This is of course lucky for me.

Cansu Ergin, Reflection. Photo: Umut Kambak

Pınar Özer: Is there a vitality, a search for artistic conversation in the artists' desire to produce together at the same time, beyond receiving accompaniment from the recording form of their works?

Cansu Ergin: I've always had the idea of inviting musicians whose music I admire, I feel an invitation when I listen to them. I get the idea, "If we get together with this person, we can create something together". Sami supported me at this point, that's how we invited Erkan Oğur. They accepted because of their mastery as well as their open willingness. Fazıl Say (I hope one day it will be possible to work together) says in a great interview that composing is the brother of improvisation. Improvisation is actually like composing, if you don't record it, you are serving improvisation, if you record it, it becomes a composition. The same goes for choreography. We produce movement material by improvising, we make the composition and fix it. As a person who also does choreography, the excitement I experience at the moment of improvisation is a feeling that is beyond me. Improvisation gives me more pleasure for now because it keeps me on the edge.

Pınar Özer: The audience is invited and witnesses the moment when the artist choreographs or composes.

Cansu Ergin: In our last performance with Erkan Oğur, Can Çankaya, Turgut Alp Bekoğlu and Sami Hosseini, we expressed this to the audience with the presentation of actor Bahadır Yüksekşan: Music as a composition, dance as a choreography will be created and produced in this space today and the audience will be witnesses. It's like we are inviting the audience to bear witness. When it's over, we can't believe what we have done.

Pınar Özer: You have been teaching contemporary dance and improvisation techniques in your hometown of Izmir for 10 years. Especially in the first years of this process, you regularly traveled long distances and while continuing your academic studies and performances in Istanbul, you also started to share and spread contemporary dance in Izmir. A structure that is woven like lace, how was this process when you look back?

Cansu Ergin: After going through various training processes and experiences, I returned to Izmir. I said, "How can I do this in Izmir?" and started running on the beach. There was no studio, nothing, I was going to the associations I remember from the past and applying with a petition asking if I could work in your hall. I was doing my own work to produce as a dancer. It was the belief in "pure god", now that I think about it. One day I saw an advertisement for Çanakkale, I applied, we were mutually very enthusiastic, we started a journey with them. At that time, I had started teaching at Yıldız Technical University in Istanbul, before the contemporary dance program was closed down, and in the second year I started my master's degree at Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University. The course fees were very low, I received a salary from Çanakkale, they paid for my travel, but there was no money left for my journey from Istanbul to Izmir. One day, on another bus ride, someone asked me if I was giving private lessons. In this way, the rest of my travels were covered.

 Like you said, really every step was a stitch by stitch. I was meeting this with this, this with that, it was like a patchwork. This situation started to improve me. After my
 master's degree was over, I entered the proficiency in art program. During this process, I was always saying that I was very proud of Izmir, but there were very few people
 who believed me. "You are laboring in vain, it is a comfortable city, come to Istanbul, you should be around here..." People who came to my first classes in Izmir, who I am
 now very good friends with, have discovered contemporary dance at its most honest and deepest point with me or in other cities.

Cansu Ergin, Reflection. Photo: Umut Kambak

Although they didn't know it yet, their minds and hearts were very open, and thanks to them I learned a lot and improved myself. I was researching how I could establish the right communication with people who had never met the performing arts culture due to some unfortunate circumstances, and how I could convey information. This situation also turned into a research towards my own essence. I was exploring both cultural and communicative channels. In the lessons, we were progressing like this; I would tire them out a lot, then leave them alone, then I would start improvising again, I would revive them. I would use Turkish Art Music at the most meditative and restful points. Turkish Art Music was something that touched our hearts and made us revive. I was lucky to meet people I could discover this, it was a teaching for me beyond schools.

Pınar Özer: How is the interest in contemporary dance classes in Izmir? What kind of profile and dynamic is there?

Cansu Ergin: The interest is good, I am very happy, of course, there has been a conscious segment of the population, those who are preparing for contemporary dance departments in Turkey and abroad have been there for about 6 years and their number has started to increase. In addition to this, people from very different circles, from architects, instructors, dancers to completely different professions are showing interest. Although it is not yet fully popular, I can say that it is quite popular. Those who want to be involved and come have increased.

Pınar Özer: You have an inclusive sharing structure that includes the search for a channel of transmission specific to each individual, which I think makes it possible to be accessible. You also organize improvisation technique classes with guest musicians.

Cansu Ergin: Those were great last year. Musicians such as Sami Hosseini, Korkut Peker, Cansu Nihal Akarsu, Uğur Erdoğan were involved, we had enthusiastic, well-attended improvisation classes with live music. When it coincided with the earthquake period, we also gathered to channel our strength there. It was like a community was formed for that period, it is among my plans again this year, I hope we will start soon. In those meetings, there was another deepening and integration because at the end of the improvisation lessons, which lasted about 1 and a half hours, there was a sharing environment that lasted up to 2 hours with the participation of the musicians and the conversations we had in the circle, I am very happy.

Cansu Ergin, Reflection. Photo: Umut Kambak

Pınar Özer: To what extent do private and public institutions support contemporary dance in Izmir? What have been your experiences in this regard?

Cansu Ergin: From time to time we have produced performances with some sponsorship support. The most recent example of this was the Feminine Dance Project, for which I was the choreographer. The municipality supported me in terms of visibility in my personal performances. The State Theater, Opera and Ballet Employees Assistance Foundation (TOBAV) has made a great contribution to me. For example, with the support of the foundation, we held a presentation of the choreographies I made for the people I worked with at St. Vukolos Church. This kind of institutional support has contributed to our progress. In addition to this, I would definitely like to organize a festival. I had an initiative on the scale of meetings and meetings before, but unfortunately it could not be completed due to disagreements between institutions. There were also cases where we were told that support would be given but it was cut short. I find it normal since it is a period when contemporary dance culture is just beginning to settle down and spread, it may not be fully understood. Organizations look at the number of people, since you can't promise that 1000 people will come to every event...

Pınar Özer: From a city branding perspective, contemporary dance can be one of the symbols of Izmir. Izmir became the world's first Cittaslow (Slow City) Metropolis in 2021. The spirit of "slow city" overlaps with contemporary dance activities, which deepen in a sharing, open to everyone, sensitive channel and lead to positive changes in the social network. We can invite Izmir's private and public institutions to look at it from this perspective. As a last question; you have the opportunity to observe the mental, physical and spiritual transformations of many people. What do you think is the constant constant in the common ground of humanity?

 Cansu Ergin: The people who come to the classes are usually very sweet, open, ready to open up. They come from various backgrounds; there are differences in profession,
 position, class. Due to the lack of social justice in our society, they come from different backgrounds and teachings. In addition, the person who comes realizes that they are
 together with people who are very different from them in terms of age and behavior. Then these differences melt within themselves and we form something in the middle
 vertically, as if towards the sky. This happens in every group. There have been very few people who don't like each other, who don't get along with each other, not that they
 have to like each other, but the situation of respecting and opening space has always happened. Understanding is developing, our lessons continue within the framework of
 respect and love. But if I need to answer this question in a shorter and clearer way, I would like to share Erkan Oğur's quote; the deficiency is in our essence.

Cansu Ergin, Reflection. Photo: Umut Kambak

Who is Cansu Ergin?

She completed 10 years of basic ballet training at MEB Ulis Private Aesthetics and Ballet School and received her MEB approved instructor certificate. After completing her education at Izmir Bornova Anatolian High School and Ege University Department of Biology, Microbiology Sub-Division, she received scholarships at Danceworks in Berlin, Duncan Centre State Conservatory of Contemporary Dance in Prague and Forum Dança Choreographic Creation and Dance Research Program (PEPCC) in Lisbon. In 2017, she completed her Master's degree in Modern Dance at Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University Institute of Fine Arts and in 2022 she completed the Modern Dance Proficiency in Art/Doctorate program of the same institute. In 2010, her solo "Glide" won the "Best Performance and Choreography Award" at the 2011 Szolo Duo Budapest International Dance Festival. In 2012 this solo was protected as a "Work" by J'ardin d'europe. In 2017, she won the 3rd prize at The NewEurope Dance Festival and Jarmila Jerabkova Awards Choreographic Competition in Prague with her performances "The Well and The Everlasting". She is a member of "Departs", the most important contemporary dance network in Europe. She was the dance/project coordinator of Portizmir/Nefes International Izmir Contemporary Art Triennial between 2017/2018. In 2023, the Feminine Dance Project, which she choreographed, was exhibited at the 30th Izmir European Jazz Festival. Having taught contemporary dance at Istanbul Yıldız Technical University Contemporary Dance Department and 9 Eylül University State Conservatory Ballet Department, Ergin still continues her classes at Izmir Collective Studio and continues to produce solo and collective dance projects.


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