Gilded Serpent presents...
Eastern U.S. Middle Eastern
and Balkan Music and Dance Camp
organized by Tayyar Akdeniz and Artemis Mourat
report by Tahya
Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania
at a camp devoted to Middle Eastern music and dance with some
of the most accomplished musicians in the eastern United States
gave attendees a chance to revel in joyous celebration. The
camaraderie of a camp - bunking with strangers who soon become
friends, "breaking bread" together, learning new
dance steps, songs, and drum rhythms - has all the ingredients
for a treasured experience, and this camp lived up to that
personal experience of reuniting with old friends was
greatly enhanced by the new friends I made. As I wandered
throughout the camp, it was heartwarming for me to observe
master musicians instructing several small circles of
the dance classes - Egyptian Oriental with Cassandra,
Turkish Oriental with Artemis, Turkish Romany
with Tayyar, and Balkan folk dance with Steve
Kotansky - were filled to capacity. And the evening
parties offered everyone a chance to practice the new step(s)
they learned, accompanied by one of the finest musician ensembles
I have ever heard - Omar Faruk Tekbilek (Ney,
Zurna and Baglama), Yuri Yunakov (Saxophone), Tamer
Pinarbasi (Kanoun), Avram Pengas (Bouzouki), Haig
Manoukian (Oud), Souren Baronian (Clarinet
and Riqq (Tamborine), Hamit Golbasi (Ney,
Zurna), and Seido Salifoski (Doumbek), among
others. Eloise Miller stated, "These
were incredible musicians incredibly fired up!"
with some of the camp attendees, I asked if they were enjoying
the camp as much as I was. Shibar, one participant,
cited Faruk Tekbilek's zurna and ney class as one of the camp
explained how he correlated the 7 holes in the ney with
the 7 chakras and the 7 openings in the head. From there,
she said, the discussion deepened into "an astounding
creative color visualization."
Miller, another camp participant, expressed his
gratitude by stating that in addition to beginner drumming
classes, a class for intermediate drummers was also offered,
and "I appreciated the class actually was advanced."
caring, supportive, engaging personae of event planners Artemis
and Tayyar attracted like-minded individuals, and despite a
record-breaking cold snap during the first two days, a warm
spirit permeated the camp. Rustic accommodations among the
pines at Ramblewood in the Susquehanna Valley of Maryland
gave the camp an 'earthy' ambiance, and our meals were abundant
with hot food. Ramblewood served these producers well for their
first attempt at offering an East Coast Middle Eastern Music
and Dance Camp. However, they will likely try for earlier accommodations
for the next event so that an unexpected cold snap doesn't
take anyone by surprise.
My only regret
was that the unseasonably cold weather dampened enthusiasm
for the traditional nightly bonfire drum circles. So I will
patiently wait until next year's camp for those events. Nevertheless,
as my roommate Jessie Bassil said, "It
was cold but we arose early every morning and danced late into
the night every night. I would like to add that both of the
evening programs were great! Cassandra was breathtaking and
Artemis, as usual, was sparkling and beautiful." Another
camp participant chimed in, "The band was hot hot hot!"
I asked Tayyar
how he felt about the event and he replied, "I was dreaming
to make a camp on the East Coast. I am so happy the plan came true.
I shared a lot with the dancers and the musicians. Also, it makes
me very happy it was a good camp, which makes it clear to me there
is a future for this camp." Artemis commented, "We wanted
to create an environment where dancers and musicians with diverse
areas of interest could come together and learn and teach and jam
- and we did! We had people with all levels of expertise in attendance
and we welcomed them all. Folks enrolled from as far north as Massachusetts
and upstate New York and down to Georgia and as far away as England."
Jesse and Tahya
international dance and music staff were representatives from
the U.S. and several Middle Eastern countries, including several
folks (staff and attendees) of Romany heritage.
wonderfully diverse backgrounds became a vehicle for
the celebration of this extraordinary music and dance,
and through our common passion, we came together hand-in-hand
and reconnected with our gypsy spirit.
my heartfelt thanks to Tayyar and Artemis for all their hard
work and meticulous attention to detail in organizing a most
successful event. How do I measure its success? The joie de'vivre
I observed among the nearly one hundred participants. Thanks
to ALL the teaching staff, musicians, assistants, and fellow
campers for a memorable experience that brought great joy to
dates for next year's (2004) camp are May 28-31, Memorial
the South Mountain YMCA Camp in Pennsylvania.
Camp info- www.folktours.com
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Check the "Letters to the Editor" for other
from the The 10th and Final Festival Fantasia photos by Susie
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a Revivification of Ancient Sacred Dance performed
by The Silk Road Dance Company
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impressed me as a stunning artistic success, splendid beyond
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it seems that this event is destined to grow each year.
Photos from The Middle Eastern Music and Dance Camp in
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the extra photos of our art and faces you know projected into
a beautiful natural setting.