Ballet, a dance of passion and determination
The Turkish ballet and ballet dancers have left a mark with their performances in Turkey and across the world. They continue dancing with great passion and intense training for six hours a day and six days a week, despite the risk of injuries that could put an end to their careers.
Compared to other branches in the arts, ballet dancers have a shorter career span but start their training at a very young age and put forth many years of effort to perform on stage.
Özge Başaran, the prima ballerina and Burak Kayıhan, the primo ballerino of the Ankara State Opera and Ballet (ADOB), have spoken about the difficulties of living in the spotlight.
Başaran started dancing at the age of eight and has been dancing for 29 years. She has completed her education at the Mimar Sinan University State Conservatory and the Hacettepe University Ankara State Conservatory. She has worked at the Antalya State Opera and Ballet, Stuttgart Dance Company in Germany and the ADOB.
The ballerina won the Grand Prix Award and the best modern ballet dancer award at the First Yuri Grigorovich International Ballet Competition in Sochi, Russia in 2006. She said she was introduced to ballet when her nursery school teacher discovered her talent in gymnastics.
Başaran said her family had presented her with an important opportunity by motivating her to learn ballet.
“If ballet had not been a part of my life, I would have felt something missing. It is a passion for me. I don’t realize it as much while I’m doing it but I feel it when I am away from it. We all have difficult times in our jobs. Aside from the difficulties of our profession, we have suffered from injuries. I have had serious injuries that have led to two surgeries, one on my foot and one on my knee. They had all been big surgeries. I might not have been able to return to dancing but I said “No, I will” and I did. Ballet dancing is like the meaning of life for me,” said Başaran.
‘It’s nice to leave dancing at a good point’
“There is a belief among ballerinas that in order to stay thin, foods like pastries should be avoided, but I eat everything,” she said, adding that since energy is spent throughout the day, the body needs these foods.
Başaran pointed out that passion and determination for ballet requires very hard training.
“We have ballet lessons every day except Sunday. Before and after our lessons, we have to prepare our body for 1.5 hours. We work at least five-six hours a day. If we are preparing for a premiere, then it takes longer. You spend all your energy during training. When you are home, you eat and relax. Then another day starts. You are successful as long as you follow this discipline,” she said.
The ballerina also said she did pilates during times like holidays when she was away from ballet.
“I am now 37. I try to bring a story to life when I am on stage. I believe the audience feels it. I try to become the character in the play. This is a completely different feeling; it makes me very happy to be in a different world. We don’t know the age when ballet will end either. I think it is nice to leave it at a good point,” said Başaran.
‘It begins to leave you after a certain age’
Kayıhan started his career in ballet at the age of 10 after being accepted at the Hacettepe University State Conservatory. He said he had been dancing at ADOB since he graduated.
The ballet dancer said he has taken the stage in countless gala nights abroad and has been proud to represent Turkey. Kayıhan also said his ballet lessons start at 10:30 a.m. every day.
“This job is a bit tiring but you forget about that when they applaud for you on stage. Even if you don’t want to leave it, ballet leaves you after a certain age. I am now 34 and I had a big operation on my knee last year. A piece the size of a centimeter was removed from my knee cap. I had a very hard time after the operation. I was not able to get up from the bed for 10 days. Thanks to physiotherapy, I was able to get up again and continue dancing. No matter how well you take care of yourself, as you get older, your bones do not let you dance like you did in the past. So you leave it after a certain point,” he said.
Ballet is one of the only realities in life for him, said Kayıhan. “Because I enjoy dancing. The place I feel the most comfortable is on stage. It might be upsetting to leave it but this is the reality of life. When the time comes, we will also leave ballet somehow,” he said.
As for being a ballet dancer in Turkey, Kayıhan said some things had changed over time. “In the past, when we said we were ballet dancers, people used to ask us ‘what do you do for a living?’ They used to see ballet as a hobby,” he said.
Kayıhan said ballet has become well-known throughout time and people have begun to respect it.
“Our goal at the State Opera and Ballet is to show people what ballet dancing is. We try to go to each Turkish province,” said the ballet dancer.
Kayıhan pointed out that the ADOB always performs for a full house and the ballet audience increases every day.
“The job we do is very special. I recommend it to young people and the new generation. It is very important to be involved in any branch of art, especially for our country. I think ballet is a very nice branch of art,” he added.