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Hurriyet Daily News and Economic Review
Anatolia News Agency
January 11, 2011


One of Turkey’s most acclaimed young artists, ballet dancer Kadir Okurer is looking to add to his haul of awards from international competitions at an upcoming meet in Budapest. The nephew of one of the country’s most famous ballerinas, Okurer has long looked up to Soviet ballet master Mikhail Baryshnikov, one of the art’s greatest practitioners


Decorated Turkish ballet dancer Kadir Okurer is setting his sights on continued international success with the upcoming Rudolf Nureyev competition scheduled to be held in Budapest in March. The dancer, who won his first award at a children’s meet in Varna, Bulgaria, when he was 16, recently told Anatolia news agency that rigorous training was essential to continued success on the stage. “The difficulty of ballet is that you should want to spend six days a week with it. This brings you success. I know that I would have nothing without taking this training,” Okurer said, adding that he worked on his craft from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day. “Everything in my life is too limited. I already have nothing but ballet.”

He said a ballet dancer could only realistically expect to dance until the age of 40. “Even though you take care of your body very well, you cannot dance after 20 years; you can only become a trainer. Even a small injury can finish your life of dance just like an injured horse that can never run again.”

Okurer, who has danced in the plays “Giselle,” “Harem,” “The Three Musketeers,” “Zorba,” “Blue Bird” and “Coppelia,” played his first leading role in “Anne Karenina” at the age of 18.

He has also participated in special shows, such as one in the Macedonian capital of Skopje in which he shared the stage with world-famous dancers, as well as another prominent project in Istanbul.

The dancer said his role model was Mikhail Baryshnikov, the great Soviet ballet dancer who now works as a trainer. “[Baryshnikov] became famous in competitions. I followed him with admiration for many years, and I have taken him as a model for the last five or six years,” Okurer said.


Attendance at Turkish performances uneven

Okurer said some plays in Turkey draw large numbers of spectators, yet others do not. “‘Harem’ is a very nice play by Melih Çimenciler and it has had very good audiences – it doesn’t matter the day of the show. But I cannot say the same thing for other plays. They are not full all the time,” he said. However, others are very popular, he said. “We play ‘Zorba’ and it receives great support from art lovers. ‘The Three Musketeers’ also draws a great audience.”

Okurer said he received the greatest support from his family, as well as the Ankara State Opera and Ballet Company’s principal dancer, Serhat Güdül. In addition, Culture and Tourism Minister Ertuğrul Günay also provides crucial morale and material support, Okurer said.

“I have never had a sponsor. Flight tickets, hotel and traveling expenses all cost a serious amount of money and you cannot make it without financial support. I appreciate the minister. He always provides money for all competitions,” he said.


A life full of awards

He said he first became involved in ballet when one of his father’s ballet friends recognized his natural flexibility and encouraged him to take up the art. The dancer said he took the conservatory test in 2001, ranking 14th out of 112 people.

Okurer, who is the nephew of one of Turkey’s first ballerinas, Binay Okurer, said his aunt was known by some as “Taşbebek [Doll] Coppelia” because of her great success in the three-act play “Coppelia,” the first ballet play staged in Turkey during the 1960-1961 season. The ballerina also played in “unforgettable” plays such as “The Black Swan” and “Romeo and Juliet” before moving to the Aegean town of Bodrum when she retired, Okurer said. “She is not the only artist in our family. My grandfather is an old theater actor and my father is a painter,” he said.

Okurer was beginning to dance with Güdül in Ankara when he won his first award in Varna, and the duo later won the grand prix at the 1st Istanbul Ballet Competition in 2008. Later, he received an offer from the director of the French Bordeaux Ballet, Charles Jude, and stayed there for a year before returning to finish his conservatory education.

The dancer won the second prize at the International Rome Premio Ballet in 2009 and, in the same year, won the second prize again at the New York Youth America Grand Prix competition. The awards paved the way for him to appear on a gala show for the event “Geleceğin Yıldızları Bugünün Yıldızları ile Beraber” (The Stars of the Future Together with the Stars of Today).

He also won the third prize at the 7th Seoul International Ballet Competition in 2010 and has continued winning medals in many of the competitions he has joined.

Okurer currently has a full scholarship from the American Ballet Theater, at which Baryshnikov was the former principal dancer.


© Copyright 2011 Hurriyet Daily News and Economic Review 

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