Q&A: Korhan Basaran talks about collaborating with David Dorfman

Turkish choreographer Korhan Basaran talks about making a dance with David Dorfman as part of DanceMotion USA


Did you apply to study at a specific dance school? Is that why you had a visa?
I came in 2002 for the first time, right after I graduated and auditioned for NYU/Tisch’s master’s program. I didn’t get in, but I had a visa from all that way back. Since the school had invited me to the audition, they gave me a ten-year visa. I returned in 2009.

How did living in New York change you artistically?
I didn’t know anybody or anything, but eventually I was talking to some people who mentioned that there was an audition for a scholarship program at the Cunningham school. I was like, Okay, let’s go. I was 31! [Laughs] I got to meet Merce.  

What was that like?
I think that artists who keep their purpose and approach to life eventually distill and purify and become such beautiful beings. Because he had been doing this for so long, Merce was just light! He passed away six months after I started the program. But it was okay. I think Cunningham gave me a nice amount of time and space to distill my own information within myself. So I did this technique, and it made me so much stronger, but I hardly saw myself as a Cunningham dancer. It gave me so much groundedness, so much stability. The Cunningham technique gave me so much clarification. I did perform with the Repertory Understudy Group twice.

How did it give you clarification?
First of all, Cunningham was a technique that I never thought of approaching. When I was a little bit younger, I was more interested in making cool movement. But also coming from an acting tradition, I always needed some reason to find that movement, so it was always a little more like clearing the intention while I was making work. The Cunningham technique helped me to also look from the outside to the inside, rather than starting from an inside place. It helped me to say, Okay, I’m just making a dance right now. If it has a meaning, then it will reveal itself.

Why did you leave New York and return to Turkey?
There are a couple of things about that. I don’t feel like I’m settled anywhere right now, but Istanbul has been—for the last, maybe, two years—more of my home. Still, I’ve been coming back and forth for short periods of time. I needed to take a step to a higher level; I mean okay, finding funding and making a new work and expecting the critics to come and write about it—this is a system in New York. I needed to grow, and I didn’t know how to do that. Also, it was a little bit frustrating to go back to that zero point each time I did a new work. It’s like you find inspiration, the resources you need and the beautiful dancers, and then you cannot hold them together. It’s so upsetting. I just figured that, Okay, with what I see right now, I need another 20 years in New York to be where I want to be. I just wanted to take some time away from New York. Also, I’m figuring out that the people you find on the way are so precious.

In terms of dancers?
Yes. It’s not like you can just teach your movement to anybody and anybody can perform it. We are working together. We are companions, we’re sharing a life and therefore the work becomes stronger. Especially for my work. I had the great pleasure to bring three of my dancers from New York to Istanbul for three months. We did two productions and one was a commissioned work, which was with a choir—it was so beautiful.

What was that piece called?
It was the second RAu. It’s a play on words—raw materials—and it’s also like a formula. The u is small. It’s just a way for me to share a raw product. The whole structure and production is not there yet, but it’s a work.

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