Sunday 1st June was a memorable day for Fethiye; the ballet came to town. Izmir State Opera and Ballet visited Fethiye to present the contemporary ballet ‘Guldestan’ (Rose Saga or Saga of the Rose) for just one night, and what a night it was.

Guldestan is not a story told in one dance, rather, a series of dances linked by the common thread of the rose and the various names used for the rose (gulnar, gulefsan, gulistan, gul – i – rana and gulendam) and what the rose symbolises in life.

Audience Immediately Spellbound

The lights dimmed, the music began, the stage was infused with an explosion of colours, shades of red, orange, pink and yellow (signifying fire), the dancers glided onto the stage and so the evening and first dance started. From that moment on, Guldestan held the Fethiye audience in the palm of her hand.

From fire we were taken to see the young men and women migrating to other lands, then on to a village wedding, complete with joyous and energetic music and dancing encompassing the whole stage. Then the pace slowed down dramatically to show the purity and romance of the first night of marriage and a bond being formed between the newly married couple preparing for their future life together.

Wonderful Costumes and Colours

Then another change of pace as we visit a city cafe and see the fun and frolics being had by the young men away from their women folk. The costumes were a fabulous clash of colours that somehow worked together, the facial expressions and acting made the whole scene exciting, funny and uplifting rather than seedy and clichéd. The height of the male dancers’ jumps was amazing and the grace and stature of the female dancers, simply beautiful.

Izmir State Opera and ballet visited Fethiye
Izmir State Opera and Ballet visited Fethiye

Dervishes Whirl for Fethiye

No dance in Turkey would be complete without some whirling dervishes, and Guldestan was no exception. But the presentation and execution was different without being disrespectful or removing the mysterious thread that draws people in. The costume design was modern but with traditional aspects, such as keeping the long white skirts, but with white and gold gossamer tops and loose fitting hoods instead of the usual sikke (conical hat). Regular whirling dervish movements were performed in conjunction with beautiful ballet steps. The whole section was magical and mystical, as whirling dervish and ballet both are!

More Ballet for Fethiye, please!

The finale was a breathtaking portrayal of the head of a rose. Voluminous red skirts made up of what looked like many rose heads sewn together. Beautiful, graceful movements culminating in the group of male dancers coming together to form a circle to create the head of a rose, then raising their arms in unison, much like the stamen of a rose, whilst the backcloth was a sea of falling rose petals. Amazing.

Beyhan Murphy choreographed the ballet and the musical director was Mercan Dede, who is very well known for his mixing of traditional Sufi music with contemporary music to create new and interesting sounds. The image and voice of Turkish actor, Halit Ergenc was used during the ballet for a poetry reading and for a rather sardonic ‘speech’ about the men in the cafe.

All the outfits were beautiful and colourful. The music was mystical and spiritual. The dancing was mesmerising and very graceful. The whole evening was incredibly special and a resounding success with the dance troupe getting a standing ovation.

Hopefully this will be just the first of many such events in Fethiye.