Turkish ballet dancer spends 45 years on world ballet stage

Turkish ballet dancer spends 45 years on world ballet stage

İZMİR - Anatolia News Agency
Turkish ballet dancer spends 45 years on world ballet stage

Mehmet Balkan is the choreographer of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream.’ The play is the result of a big teamwork of a theater, ballet troupe, a choir and an orchestra. AA photo

Still going strong after 45 years in the business, world-renowned Turkish ballet artist Mehmet Balkan is continuing to serve his craft as a choreographer.

Balkan is now working with his wife, Lale Balkan, on the choreography of William Shakespeare’s famous “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” which is being staged in İzmir.

The two-act ballet is being presented with music by Felix Mendelssohn, he said. “The play is the result of big teamwork in which a theater and ballet troupe, a choir and an orchestra are working.”

Balkan said that as a choreographer, he was a perfectionist. “I am not completely satisfied with anything I do. I am nothing alone. Ballet is a team game from its stage technique to dancers and costumes. If players in the team are wrong, you won’t succeed.”

He said ballet had been a part of his life for 45 years and added that it needed more discipline than other branches of art since it depended on a dancer’s condition.

Balkan said a big gap forms whenever a dancer retires but added that he filled his own gap within a short time thanks to his hardworking tempo.

“Some 15 to 20 years have passed since I left dancing. I was not aware of it during first years. A dancer thinks that he or she will dance forever. And suddenly, someone tells your body that ‘it is over.’ This is worst moment. In all troupes I work with, I recommend all dancers make the most of the moment when they dance. I tell them to dance as much as they can because, one day, they will not be able to do it. This is a very bad period in a dancer’s life. Dance is a bit merciless,” he said. “You become an ordinary person; it is hard but you get used to it through time.”

As for his many students, including Erhan Güzel, whose performance was appreciated during the Istanbul International Ballet Festival, Balkan said: “I hope they will become masters. This is necessary for the progress of this art and humanity.”

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” which portrays the events surrounding the marriage of the Duke of Athens, Theseus, and the Queen of the Amazons, Hippolyta, is being performed by the İzmir State Opera and Ballet and will be on stage at the Dokuz Eylul University Sabancı Hall on March 29.

Who is Mehmet Balkan?

İZMİR - Anatolia News Agency

Long-time ballet dancer Mehmet Balkan, a graduate of the Ankara State Conservatory, played a leading role at the Ankara State Opera and Ballet at the age of 17.

The artist continued his education in England and made his name heard around the world when he won third place at the 1978 International Ballet Competition, which featured 151 dancers from 27
countries, in Bulgaria.

In 1979, Balkan was invited to West Germany by Munich Opera Director Lynn Seymour as a soloist at the Munich Opera; in 1982, he was named as one of the 100 most famous people in West Germany. He later worked as the lead dancer at the Belgium Royal Ballet Company before achieving great success during a U.S. tour in 1986.

The artist won a best choreographer award in 1994 and has choreographed nearly 60 ballets in his career.