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Dancing in Denizli, Turkey

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By Sam Aslaner, YES Abroad Turkey ‘14

In December, Amelia and I decided to get involved in a local dance group in Denizli, Turkey. For me, it is really like learning a second language. Unfortunately, growing up I had never been involved in music or dance. I had always been on the field rather than the stage. So when I found out about this dance group through my host family, I knew it was a ludicrous idea for me, considering I have zero experience in the field of dance. However, one of the purposes of being here is to broaden our horizons and that's what motivated me to jump right in. As expected, I immediately had no idea what I was doing and these foreign movements to foreign music with directions in a foreign language were near impossible. I started relating these difficulties to the ones I have with learning Turkish. For instance, a lot of the time I would focus only on my legs and forget about my arms, and this would cause everyone to stop and stare at me. I realized this is the same exact stare I get when I mix up the words "aunt" and "rug" in school. However, Amelia and I continue to go four times a week, and every day it gets easier and easier.
This dance group pulls from people of all ages and all walks of life throughout our community. It is a great way to meet people that we would never have the chance to meet before. As we talk with everyone, we have the opportunity to learn about what brings this varied group of people to learn this ancient dance. It also provides opportunities for us to share our American dances and culture; Amelia and I often demonstrate how to square dance during class. Overall, as we begin to physically take part in this centuries old dance, it brings about a deeper appreciation for and a connection with the Turkish culture as a whole.

Our families and dance group members were very interested in why we Americans would decide to begin learning this dance. They called a journalist to come interview us at dance class one evening, and two days later an article about us hit the streets of Denizli. The article focuses on how much we love our city and our families and our appreciation for Turkish culture, as well as our desire to learn more about it. Amelia and I are both so happy that we have this opportunity to share with our community our genuine interest in the cultural traditions of their country.