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Hürrem Sultan Ballet Performance

Posted Nov 08 2010 5:14am

I had the chance to attend my first ballet in Turkey on Friday evening.

Well, actually, other than a performance of The Nutcracker by my childhood friend Kelly when she was like, ten, this was my first ballet ever.

The ballet was held at the Mersin Opera and Ballet Company. Mersin is a solid hour drive from our home. And, as is often the case in the Turkish culture, things start about an hour later than we would start it in America (7pm is a usual start time in the USA. This was at 8pm.)

So the ballet was at 8pm and an hour away. Those of you who know me well know that this is a real commitment on my part. I really do turn into a pumpkin at about 9:30! Our neighbor Elisa babysat and we headed off at 5:30 in order to give ourselves plenty of time to navigate the foreign roads. JB was the "navigator." We had a total of three cars and thirteen women in our group! And John did a great job getting us to our destination without error. The only issue came when we couldn't get our bilet (ticket) at the toll booth. The machine wasn't working, and we had no idea what to do. After some McGyver work on JB's part, we successfully overcame that obstacle. (This included him getting out of the van on a Turkish highway. Not something I was excited about him doing.)

This cultural opportunity was organized by my new friend Nevin pictured with me in the post I did on the Turkish/American Club last week. She is a retired ballerina, married to an American, with two sons attending University in Maryland. What a fantastic woman she is. She is a former ballerina who recently closed her own ballet school to be able to travel and see her own sons more often. We really have a fantastic connection, and I so enjoy being around her. During Intermission, we were talking with Nevin and her husband. When JB mentioned our hope to purchase some land in Washington in the next few years and have a farm, her husband beamed. They have a farm/orchard that they would like to show us when they return from the States. John was in heaven at the opportunity to experience this in Turkey.

There were actually a total of 15 Americans that attended just from our group. And the number of total Americans in attendance was actually close to 30! Since these types of events are basically funded by the Turkish government, it only cost us 5TL to attend (about $3!) Can't beat that.

I had no idea what to wear to a Turkish ballet. I wasn't sure I could wear a skirt above my knee. I didn't want to wear a fancy dress. So I opted for some dressy black pants and a nice blue shirt. My attire fit in pretty perfectly. People were dressed in all sorts of things. Some wore sweats. Some wore jeans. Some were very dressed up. There were also quite a few women in skirts above the knee. They did wear tights or stockings but seeing them encouraged me. All of my "dressy" clothes are skirts above the knee so to gain "acceptance" for wearing them at future events was encouraging.

We had a snack in the Turkish cafeteria before the ballet started. It was a little store that led out to an outdoor terrace with wooden tables and benches and beautiful greenery. The common fare for a "quick eat" here in Turkey is the American equivalent of a grilled cheese. Nothing special but it will calm a rumbling belly. I also got a few Turkish snacks -- cookies and chocolate. I'm always looking for an opportunity to see what is in all those snack packages.

The ballet itself was very entertaining. The music was absolutely fantastic and done live by an orchestra in a pit. The theatre was well-kept and the seats (and leg room!) comfortable. I found out during intermission that this was the fifth "tier" of professional dancers in Turkey. Four other groups get to pick their dancers first. That said, while I am not a ballet professional, the level of talent seemed lower than what I would see at a professional American ballet. But it was still remarkably beautiful and fun to watch.

One of the things that I found most interesting was that here we were, a group of people who did not speak Turkish, in the company of 1,000 other people who primarily spoke Turkish, and yet we were all able to enjoy the same event and understand what was occurring. How delightful! It was a fantastic evening, and I am so excited we were able to do this.

I have been made aware recently how fast our two years in Turkey is going to go, and I hope we can embrace this experience as fiercely as possible during the time we have.

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