BN1 chats with… Ceyda Tanc (Brighton Festival)

In the setting of her modern and bustling Brighton studio, Ceyda Tanc chats about how she took her hobby for dance as a child and paved the way for a successful career in contemporary dance. As the artistic director and founder of her own dance company (Ceyda Tanc Dance) who is set to perform at Brighton Festival and beyond, the next big thing in modern dance shows no signs of slowing down.

The 2018 Brighton Festival commission KAYA marks a definitive step up for Ceyda Tanc Dance. Performing at The Brighton Festival for the first time in 2017 in an outdoor space, this year’s performance has moved to the Theatre Royal, a prestigious venue with over 900 capacity. “It’s somewhere I’ve been going since I was a kid and it’s such a big venue.” Ceyda Tanc explains. “When we found out it would be there it was a bit daunting but equally exciting.”

Hayley Ovens, a dancer for the Ceyda Tanc company, adds “The support from Brighton Festival has been amazing, it’s nice to have the recognition because we have been working for 6 years now trying to build things up.”

KAYA explores human experiences of displacement, drawing on the strength and resilience of those searching for belonging in a new community. Ceyda explains the context of the piece, “It’s kind of based on migration and refugees and one thing that came up during all our research time and time again was how resilient these people are which is what we wanted to show in the work and shine a positive light on the current situation.”

The show mixes traditional Turkish folk dance with contemporary, both which influenced Ceyda growing up. She explains that she is half Turkish, and spent time training and dancing in Turkey after graduating from the University of Roehampton. Ceyda’s Turkish roots are at the core of her dynamic contemporary style of dance. “People like to see something they haven’t seen before” she explains when asked how the UK market responds to the unique dance style.

Company dancer, Hayley, runs workshops and adult classes that include Turkish folk dance. “I was a bit apprehensive to keep that element in but it’s gone down so well.”

“We find a lot of people have a connection with Turkey in some way. Either they’ve been there or have got family members there or in similar areas. Turkey has got lots of influences from the surrounding countries so a lot of Middle-Eastern folk dance is really similar.”

Being half Turkish, Ceyda explains the cultural differences between Turkish and British dance. “In Turkey, it’s a real social thing that everyone dances, men, women, children, elderly. Wherever you go – a wedding, street party or festival. Whereas in England its either you dance or you don’t.

“Turkey doesn’t really have the mentality of I can’t dance or I’m not a good dancer, everyone just learns to dance.”

The all-female company aims to challenge gender stereotypes in traditional dance by using explosive movements of male Turkish dancers on female bodies. “In Turkey, every dance has a female version and male version which are completely different. The male version is bold and explosive with big movements and loads of jumping and leaping, and the female version is more reserved and stereotypically feminine. So, I use female dancers to perform the male movements.”

The future is bright for the dance company, who hopes to tour KAYA round the UK with a booking already secured for Wilderness Festival, Oxford. ”We hope with each new venue we can approach the communities in the local area and try to get them involved in the show.”

KAYA will be performed by Ceyda Tanc Dance at The Theatre Royal on Mon 14 May, 8pm.

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