ON FOCUS : Korhan Başaran


Those who attend your performances on regular basis can identify that you as a choreographer have developed a distinctive movement language. Where is it coming from?

Well, honestly it didn’t start like this. I, like many other artists, started with copying the aesthetic ideas and approach of the masters, or just some other choreographers whom I felt close to. Even the first ever creation I came up with, people told me it looked like “Korhan’s” work. So maybe even then I had an idea, an approach of my own on life at least.

Where do you see the challenges of the creative process?

 Every creation you make is another attempt for you to know yourself better. With some you feel more content, more at peace with, whereas with some you feel that there’s something missing.  You learn from your mistakes, but only those who are true to themselves really learn. Art isn’t in a theory book you can read and learn from. All arts, especially performing arts, can only be refined through action, sometimes mindless and sometimes mindful, but you really need to experience. The key is to silence your mind while creating, to free your heart and make conscious choices which are speaking to you all the way from you core, your survival instinct and your heart. Once you get through this process well enough, the moment when an artist is true and honest to the self, only then can you start being unique. We might be worrying about the similar causes but with different rhythms, tears or laughter.

You have been burning borders by working with dancers of different nationalities and races. How can they internalize the movement vocabulary you are offering them to work with?

Working with dancers from different cultural backgrounds is always a beautiful experience for me. To get us on the same page, you need to have a universal voice, you need to be talking about things that matter. It fills me with hope that I am seeing many artists willing to help the shift to the light and positive in the world. However, art is broader than its tools. For a work to be a piece of art, you need to know what you’re talking about. Only then it will fall into place, may its tools be movement, dance, words, action, sound, music. If you don’t know what you’re saying, you can have the best dancers in the world, but you will fail.

It’s not always very easy and I have to say there is only a limited number of dancers who have a pure heart and mind, who are willing to go through the same journey. For most, it becomes just another movement phrase that needs to be learned and applied. Whereas a true artist just transforms him/herself with each process, each rehearsal, each performance and therefore you all grow together. You all dare yourselves to be better than the previous selves, so you dare the audience to become better themselves. I see people just doing everything in their comfort zones, just memorizing lines, everything and applying all in a most predictable way. Actors, dancers, who don’t think, who don’t feel. If you don’t have the need to feel the excitement of rediscovering, recreating the moment, why do it?

As the initiator of the project Dance Marathon, organised under the roof of Akbank Sanat, you have been one of the rare choreographers to work with dancers of little experience. Why have you devoted yourself to working with the young generation?

 Well, I thought it was time I rediscovered how to approach movement as a new dancer does, as a non-dancer would do, as a human being. Look for the places where they can find their own voices. Honestly, all of the creations were quite successful with each of them having a completely different atmosphere. We all managed to push ourselves a little forward as the team, and none of the performers were scared to step into the unknown. But as in real life running a marathon is hard. Our last edition had some issues as many of the performers couldn’t commit to devoting themselves fully to the work, so I had to make some shifts. We started as a group of 6 and in the end there were only two performers left, though what they’ve accomplished was stunning, both emotionally and physically.

You have been working with 15 young participants during the five-day workshop of Yaratım Atölyeleri Serisi VI – Korhan Başaran. How did you find this workshop different from that of Dance Marathon?

First of all, DansYazım hosted this event in collaboration with the Alt Art Space in Bomonti, a space with a completely distinct atmosphere. We had two rooms that we could play in and create freely, which brought a complete new layer and many ideas. In the Marathon, as its name suggests, we try to run the whole thing at once. The rehearsals are back to back leading to the performance, which requires more stamina, whereas with the YAS we only had the weekends, which gave the performers and me a 5-day break to live with the material. It grew with the performers and when we came back to it the next weekend, there was a bit of both history and new life experiences.  Also the group was very interesting as I got to work with 14 female performers and one male performer. Since the beginning it almost brought the concept itself.

Why did you choose “Gathering Harmony in the Unknown?” as the concept of the Yaratım Atölyeleri Serisi workshop? How would you describe the process of the work on this concept through the 5 days at Alt Art Space, Bomonti?

Gathering the harmony in the unknown… That’s actually a solid description of how I create my pieces. It is the way to silence your mind as once you realise and accept that the information you are about to bring out is in the unknown. You merely experience every moment as the creation itself. Harmony simply defines the universe to be at peace, in rhyme. At the same time, an art piece has to have harmony within, be content, accepting and present at all times. As the artist in this process I am the gatherer of the information that is in the unknown, step by step making something out of nothing. By having the reference point present since the first moment, I keep seeking till the last moment of creation. Then it is up to the performer to re-experience the composed moments and go through the transformative process once more, this time in front of the audience. In addition, having 14 women and one man in a room simply builds itself into a concept. For me it was just a matter of correct timing, correct rhythm and the composition to be content.

Through the observations of your work or life in general, what would be those four adjectives that, you think, would characterise the youth of these days? Is there a message you would like to communicate to them?

Curious, open hearted and more aware. Sadly, I’ll go with “fast consuming” as the fourth. Due to the unlimited internet connection, these new generations assume they know all.  However, you cannot learn “Little Prince” from a movie, you cannot experience how “Peter Pan” flies just by watching a cartoon. Having everything put in front of your eyes imagined by someone else simply limits the creativity for the coming generations. You also cannot watch something on Instagram and assume that this is your life experience. You need to really live, freely, fearlessly and only then can you have some real experience worth sharing.

This is simply like the education system in Turkey and possibly many other countries. You just memorise things. You cannot learn art from a book, you have to experience it! This doesn’t give you real knowledge, this just gives you a piece of information which you will erase very quickly indeed. Real knowledge only comes from experiencing the concept or the idea for some time and distilling through your mind, heart and physical instrument. Then it becomes yours. Otherwise you just copy what others think, what others do and there is hardly anything original these days.

KORHAN BAŞARAN, is a resident choreographer at Akbank Sanat, Istanbul and artistic director and choreographer at his project based company. As a dancer and choreographer he has performed on various stages in Turkey and abroad, including US, Denmark, Armenia, Germany etc. He has been teaching since 2005 and in 2016 he originated a unique project called “Dance Marathon” involving work with dancers with little experience and non dancers. The project premiered with two performances, “a draftwork for a Requiem” and “composition on X” created with the young participants of the intensive workshops realised during the months of February and June 2016.


“Feelings” by Sanaz Ghorbani, a reflection of a participant on the workshop Yaratım Atölyeleri Serisi VI – Korhan Başaran, Gathering Harmony in the Unknown

Edit Bapcanyova, March 2017