What is left?

how do I refer to Alevism in my choreographic works?

In my choreographic works I am interested in researching intense physicality that connects performers and witnessing audience into a temporary community. That enables involved bodies to synchronize and undergo mutual energetic transformations.

Rhythm, repetition, variation, vibration, resonance, sound, physical stimulation of profound perception that allows sharpening of the senses and blurring of sensual boundaries are the core of my works that strive to establish a feeling of togetherness. The reference to folk dances, not folklore rearranged for stage, but raw and vivid dances of indigenous communities uniting their members in a joyful, vigorous, bodily activity, has always been present in my artistic quests.

My focus on Alevi community rituals was triggered by an utterance of one of the spectators after the presentation of my dance performance “reverbs_feiern” some years ago. The person, who was a Sunni, commented on the fact that the performance ended with a black out by saying: “and now the candle goes off”. This phrase pierced me as an arrow. It brought back my memories of being raised in an Alevi family in Turkey, of my traumas of living in isolation and alienation.

Alevis have been throughout centuries stigmatized and chased by Muslims in the regimes like the Ottoman Empire and the present Turkish Republic. The saying “and now the candle goes off” has been used to disgrace Alevis by insinuating that after their ceremonies in which women, men and children took part all together, orgies and incest would have been taking place. The re-utterance of this phrase awakened in me an immense need to face my past, reconsider my cultural identity and reflect on Alevism.

The idea for the project “Die Kerze ging aus! Ein Abend mit Tänzen von Özlem Alkis” (The Candle goes off! An Evening with Dances by Özlem Alkis) appeared.

I wanted to gather an assembly of people who would jointly dance, speak and eat. It was not meant as autobiographical, but yet was biographically motivated and so I decided to face some of the Anatolian Alevi rituals. I wanted to know which rituals that keep up the memory of the beliefs and that recall us to take care of each other are still present and performed. I wanted to investigate what happens with notoriously oppressed and silenced body. What choices does it have? What is that it does not want to hear? How to enable it to listen and to be heard?

Unfortunately due to Covid-19 lock downs and restrictions the project could not be realized, but it was a first step for me to articulate my needs for further research. It made me also recognize how many of the gestures and movements present in Alevi rituals refer to contemporary applied somatic practices and that fascinating revelation opened for me the path to engage not only with reflecting on the past and tradition but to rethink those in terms of what it could become in the future.


A performance






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