NCFP Entertainment | Turkish Dancer Özgen | Aşk Premiered

NCFP Entertainment | Turkish Dancer Özgen | Aşk Premiered

(c) Dark Soul Photography

NCFP Entertainment | Turkish Dancer Özgen | Aşk Premiered

Acclaimed Turkish dancer Özgen held the world premier of his new show Aşk (Turkish for ‘love’) yesterday. Set to Turkish Oriental and Romany music, the dance theatre show tells the tale of two love stories where dark passion, jealousy, romance and sadness reign supreme. Two performances were staged at the Lost Theatre in London on Sunday 18 May to packed audiences. Özgen’s desire to empower women through dance meant the cast of Aşk included both professionals and those new to the stage. Dr Hassan Khalil, emeritus professor at the Academy of Art in Cairo, gave a short talk before show. The audience and cast also observed a minute’s silence in memory of the 301 miners who tragically lost their lives in Turkey earlier this week. Following London, Aşk will now travel to Australia later this year and across Europe in 2015.

Following Özgen’s successful production One Day in Istanbul, which premiered in Madrid in 2012, before touring London, Leeds, and Melbourne, the Turkish dancer returned to the stage with his new show, which he wrote, choreographed and performs in. Aşk revolves around love and loss expressed through dance. The first of its two acts takes place in a modern Romany camp where passion and jealousy take hold in the fight for a woman’s love. The second act, set in the time of the Ottoman Court, expresses the pain of love lost completely and forever.

The show is “dedicated to those we love and those we’ve lost”. The theme was influenced by Özgen’s observations of others, as well his own life experience. Just under a year ago, the Turkish Cypriot dancer lost his father suddenly and, within a few months, his grandfather also passed away.

Using traditional dances Çiftetelli, Roman and Oriental, the cast illustrated two tales of love. The drama and mood was further heightened through the use of classic Turkish music, including Üsküdar and spiritual compositions such as the Sufi-inspired Gel Gör Beni Aşk Neyledi.

“Turkish music and dance lends itself to emotionally-charged dramas. Like the rest of the Middle East, we are hot-blooded people and our music and culture reflect this. Aşk draws on my background in dance theatre and, using a combination of modern, contemporary ballet techniques, and Turkish and Middle Eastern dances, we were able to tell two universal tales about love and loss. It’s a journey everyone can relate to,” explains Özgen.

In total, 28 performers formed the cast of Aşk, all at different stages of their dance journey, from complete beginners to professionals: students, teachers and dance enthusiasts whose origins spanned Britain, Spain, Japan, New Zealand, and Israel. The show’s co-producer, Rosy Summerbell from award-winning Dunya Bellydance, helped audition local dancers and students, who then attended workshops and rehearsals to develop their dance skills and confidence before they performed live. The casting reflected Özgen’s long-term aim of empowering women through dance, giving a platform to ten dancers who performed in front of a live audience for the first time alongside himself and fellow professional dancers Maelle and Rosie Sumberbell.

Özgen said: “I remember arriving in the UK in 2005 as an unknown dancer from Europe. I had to start from zero. While today I may be recognised internationally as a performer and teacher, I know how important it is for new dancers to be given opportunities to perform in front of a supportive audience.”

The audience at the 160-capacity theatre gave them dancers a standing ovation. James, who had travelled from Wales to see the show, said: “The dancing was fantastic and very emotional in parts.” Some audience members had travelled even further, with members of the audience coming from Belgium, Switzerland Italy, Spain, and France.

The show started with a keynote address from Dr Hassan Khalil. The former Egyptian undersecretary of state for the Ministry of Culture is globally recognised as the leading expert in Middle East folk dancing. The stunning costumes for the London cast were provided by Hassan Khalil and Nuriyya Hanem, and the show was sponsored by Everything Egyptian’s Bazaar and unique anti-aging brand NuSkin. The show also raised money for the Soma Miners Disaster Fund through donations.

Özgen will be taking Aşk to Brisbane Australia at the end of 2014. The show then tours across Europe in 2015.

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