Bursa: Moving On. To the Dance.

Trip Start Feb 08, 2008
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Trip End Sep 11, 2009


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Flag of Turkey  , Bursa,
Sunday, July 13, 2008

In the aftermath of G.'s hasty departure (her quixotic temper has precipitated before) of last Thursday, I have learned over the years--and with ample experience--the best antidote to depression is to "Don't just mope there, Do something!" So, whatever I did early Friday, by afternoon I was getting busy with it.

All that week there had been an international folk dance festival taking place in Bursa. Groups from the following countries were attending: Bosnia Herzegovina, Bulgaria, South Aftrica, Georgia, Spain, Kosovo, T.R.N.C. (Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus), Korea, Macedonia, Hungary, Mexico, North Ossetia, Russia, Taiwan, Ukraine, and Greece. During the week there had been various performances in town in a set of venues, including "street performances." I had not seen a one.

But Friday night was to be an uncomplicated night, and there was the festival's competition night to be seen in the open air theater in the Bursa Kultur Park, the very fine large main park of the city.

I went early to check things out. But, even up until a half an hour before the scheduled night's program the gates to the theater were not open; though I had heard and seen through a crack some group in rehersal. Out in the park I saw in various near places young people putting on make-up. I started to have fears that it was a sort of high school level type event. My fears were proven wrong.

When the gate was opened the small crowd that had assembled filtered in. I was surprised to find it a free event. Earlier, near where I was waiting on a park bench outside, a bus contingent of police had arrived and milled about. Only one of them had a machine gun and bullet vest. Inside the gate my day pack was cursorily checked.

Well, all I can say is, if you ever have the opportunity to see an international folk dance competition, Don't miss it! I thought it was wonderful. Oh, my god, the costumes! What beautiful colors and variety. In these costumes and dances, as in mere mute objects in the museums of the world over, what a testament to the human imagination.

I am sorry to say I had a bad video day. My camera and file management have failed me, and I can't include the dynamism that was evident.

With good feelings from that evening I wanted to share it with some people here in Bursa that have been good to me. I text messaged Z. with an invitation for her and her husband to go with me to the Saturday Gala (closing) performance. And, perhaps a dinner before hand at a near-by restaurant I had recently discovered (and took G. to). I didn't get an immediate reply. So I sent a similar invitation to M., a  fellow member of a travelers' social network. He didn't immediately answer either.

In the meanwhile, Z. did respond with an acceptance. Then M. did respond, but for the Gala only, as he had a late Saturday class to attend. Well, that made things easier to coordinate, frankly.

I walked across town to the Muradiye Complex, walking slowly but still breaking a sweat in the heat and humidity. Along one street I was invited to join the "boys" -- a group of men about my age, sitting by, as the Turks are wont to do--for a tea. A man was emerging from a home as I passed, and seeing me as a foreigner asked if I was German, as also is the frequent case. I said no, I was American. And the invitation was extended.

I sat with them for perhaps a half or three quarters of an hour as we attended to some of the usual interests, talking in German, Turkish and English. (I often can get along on a little street German I know with Turks who have worked at one time in Germany.) One guy was said to be a former Turkish wrestling champion (gone to paunch, I must say). A couple of others were teachers, math and music. A later joiner was repeatedly said to be a "gypsy," all jokingly. We had some laughs. And when it seemed played out, I bid my thanks and went along.

I got to the nice square of the Muradiye Complex and had time to visit the adjacent museums of an Ottoman House, and a private museum of Turkish Folk Costumes and Jewelry. At the end of my stroll through that museum, the owner/curator, Mr. Esat Uluumay introduced himself to me, and took me into the small research library, and his equally small office. Mr. Uluumay is one of these wonderful people who spend a life-time at a hobby, then, with the unique collection made there from, present it to the public. That and with his other involvements which I can't go into here, he is, himself, one of those National Treasures.

By and by I was joined by Z. and her husband, and we had dinner at the restaurant also adjacent to the Muradiye Complex. Toward the end a call came from M. now down in the Kultur Park below, an easy walk from the restaurant.

Much, much to my chagrined surprise, this night there was a huge mob at the gate to the open air theater. And, it was a ticketed event! There was nothing about that, even in Turkish, in the program.

Z. recognized a friend, and American, and his date, a Turkish miss. They had tickets. They went in; we waited with the mob, wondering when and if the ticket office would open. Not a problem price-wise, at only 2 YTL , or about US$1.60. But, the ticket office wasn't opening. We stood by, as people with tickets streamed in.

Then I looked to see that not all that were entering looked to have tickets in their hands. So I resolved to resort to my youthful self (the 1968 College All-Star/Pro Football Game in Chicago, and Dylan and Beatles concerts being amongst the chevrons on my gate-crashing sleve). I said, "I'm going in. You guys follow if I make it."

I walked past one of the two ticket guy like I didn't see him. I heard him say behind me something about a "bilet." I didn't have to, but I turned and said in English, "Ticket? It was free last night." He just waved me on.

There was cellphone contact with Z., and they followed along. She called her other American friend and asked him to stand up. At about 6-7 or eight, he was pretty quickly spotted (it was like one of those atomic submarines breaching the ocean surface), and we went to sit with.

The seating spot happened to be on the same side as the crane of a television recording camera, and so it was a lot of the time interfering with a clear view of the performances. But, you kind of got used to it. Nevertheless, it provoked in me reflections on my human dilemma. Now I'm socializing; not being the loner. For the social imperative, as I refer to it, I had a lousy seat. Staying with the group, self-conscious of the social gain at the expense of the freedom to move to a location with a better view. I am afraid that for most of my life I have chosen the route of self-determination (not to say selfishness). There has been a cost.

The performances were each shorter than the competitive dances the night before. There was the compensation for me, at least, in that most were different dances, and mostly with a whole new array of beautifully colorful costumes.

Of the two nights my favorites were the Russia-North Ossetia group. I think. Two groups were similar and I can't remember which was which. In any case, whoever it was, the women had small, inverted cup-like hats from which flowed veils (not covering the face) over long silver dresses. The men were dressed in black, I guess formal Cossack style coats. You know, with the I think cartridge pockets across the chest. Their pants were tucked into high-topped, tight leather boots, which gave them long, pointed legs, the better to emphasize balletic en pointe and saber-like flicking steps. (The men did not have the blocked ballet slippers. They went on to the knuckles of their toes.) The long gowns of the women had them seemingly glide along as if on a conveyor belt. The dance was mostly a rather slow, formal and dignified, ball-like promenade. Those are the words I can momentarily think of. It was beautiful.

Contrasting, but also from a Russian-influenced (forgive my lack of historical precision) troupe from Georgia. They were as a wind-driven fire storm. For all the frenzy, the balletic training and group precision was to my eye, impeccable. The men especially. I mean, who else could you look at? They were similarly dressed, in the Cossack style, except for the hats; in this case large, wild sheep-skin looking tops. Several of the men performed singly, with frenzied individualized routines, perhaps in an internal competitive mode. Shouts punctuated the movements. It was the epitome of "macho," even though that word is Spanish. I don't know what else to call it. The speed and force and variety of their movements, one overlapping the other,  just has one's jaw dropping. It was meant to impress, and it did. The crowd's and the judges' favorites, the Georgians won the gold, first place trophy.

Second and third places seemed perhaps politically correct. Third Place went to the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus, and Second Place to the group from Athens, Greece. (Maybe, then, a small contribution to the narrowing, but not finally resolved, issues between Turkey and Greece over Cyprus.) The finale was all troupes on stage under a hail of fireworks. It was like the ecumenical (can I say) feeling at the end of an Olympics.
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