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Istanbul and Baila Tango Argentine Tango Festival 2003 - A Journal and Photo Documentary
- On Location
- Offstage with the Dancers

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By Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
July 31 - August 11, 2003

This is not a detailed and researched, travel documentary, but, rather, a mental and visual reflection of a wonderful trip.

For the full visual effect, please click on the photo above each section to see more photos from that part of the trip. Clicking on each small photo on those photo pages will lead you to a larger version of that photo.

July 31, 2003
Delta Flight to Istanbul


View From My Window, Turkish Islands
Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower

I had the pleasure and honor to fly Delta in Business Class. This was a rare experience, with highly professional wait persons, both male and female (used to be called stewardesses), and every amenity imaginable was awarded to me on this flight. In fact, I'm not sure if Delta does special evaluations to match passengers on this overnight flight, but, both ways, I traveled next to personable, professional women, whose company was well appreciated. We watched the same movies (How to Lose a Man in 10 Days, in this case) and chatted during the gourmet meals and snacks.

I had a window seat and watched the NY skyline disappear from Kennedy airport, with the familiar landmarks and twinkling lights. Delta provided a blue, triangle surprise bag, with tiny L'Occitane lotions and toothbrush, and blue socks, eye cover, and other comforting gifts. There were clean blankets, pillows, lots of legroom, and features of relaxation and stretching on the automated seats.

For a near vegetarian as I am, there were salmon and other fish dishes, as well as salads and grilled vegetables. The bottomless glasses of wine and mineral water were top quality, and the coffees were fresh-brewed. There were numerous snacks, which, on other airlines, might be considered as meals. I could listen to the music of my choice, classical or standards, and there were in-flight maps on TV screens, showing our location at sea, as well as over land.

Prior to this wonderful flight, I rested in the Delta Business Class Lounge, where complimentary refreshments, including coffee and fruit-cheese platters are presented. There are also ports with computers and telephones, as well as over-sized couches and piped-in music or sounds of nature.

My waitpersons were so diligent, that they did not allow me to be awakened, even when a friend tried to visit from another compartment. This Business Class trip was the equivalent of flying in a five-star hotel! I could not have wished for more, and I looked forward to the ultimate return home, with the same comfort and class.

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August 1, 2003
Arrival at Istanbul Airport

 


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Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower

On arrival at Istanbul Airport, Jak Karako, the organizer of this Argentine Tango adventure, a New York Argentine Tango teacher, who was born in Turkey, watched over all the New York Tangueros, arriving by two or more different airlines, all about the same time. He was diligent, low-key, and extremely professional. We each bought an anticipated, three-month Visa for $100 cash, and the line moved quickly, as no questions were asked! Just a cash exchange stop. I began endless thoughts about how to return, before the Visa expires. Jak chose some of us as baggage watchers, some as Tanguero retrievers, and some as van lookouts.

At the airport, I began to notice the different ways many women dressed, in shawls and long coats or dresses that looked simple and loose, gray or black, and, this being my first venture to a country, where many of the inhabitants are Muslim, I had the feeling that this trip would be more exotic and special, than I had anticipated.

In our spacious van, we were oriented to Turkey by Jak and Zehra Basaran, a Cyprus native and a personal Tango friend, who was on her way to Cyprus and a new position with the Government. While we looked at maps, I could not help noticing the many Mosques in the distance, with their towering architecture and round domes. I also noticed that there were not many Western tourists in the streets. This was very exciting.

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August 1, 2003
Pera Palas on Arrival

 


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Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower

I love historical homes, hotels, and points of interest. Pera Palas will be described in more historical detail, later in this Journal. However, on first viewing, I was struck by the impeccably shiny brass hardware, handles, elevator, and mementos. My room was dark, but spacious, with a pine cathedral ceiling, a mini-refrigerator, and a pristine bathroom, replete with bidet and a many-fauceted shower/tub.

It took me awhile to unpack, and, after descending in the one-of-a-kind elevators, labeled with the name Schindler (famed family of the film), I dined alone in the historical dining room, with exquisitely large chandeliers (I found that Istanbul is a city of chandeliers), and a pianist, who played American standards, as well as Turkish melodies. So, I was serenaded through my dinner, which, by the way, was exactly my favorite - fresh corn, vegetables, smoked salmon, fresh breads, and wine. The hotel treated me to Turkish delights (gelatin squares with pistachios) and Turkish coffee, indescribably strong.

I paid with American dollars, but, on a wiser day, changed to Turkish Lira, millions to the dollar, and not terribly difficult to use. There are paper money and coins, most of which are worth less than a few cents. When you go to a cash machine and draw 200 million Turkish Lira, they are worth less than one assumes. The exchange rate changes daily.


August 1, 2003
First Baila Tango Milonga

 


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Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower

The Baila Tango Studio is on a side street off Istiklal, a most unusual series of ever-lasting shops and restaurants, Western, Eastern, and everything one could imagine. One can see anyone and buy anything on Istiklal, and even at a bargain. More about Istiklal later on. Metin Yazir, the founder of Baila Tango, which has studios and teachers world-wide, with Jak Karako as a main organizer and scheduler of Metin and his partner, Vanessa Gauch's, performances and workshops. This studio was mainly of wood and plaster, dark beams and Tango photos and posters. The expansive floor was perfect for dancing, smooth and oak. There was a side office for Metin and his staff.

On this night, I realized one important feature of the Baila Tango experience - there would be charming, Turkish men for all the women! And, they were all excellent dancers, with style, class, and charisma. I have taken many Tango workshops elsewhere, and, for whatever the reason, it is always difficult to have enough experienced, male partners for all the women. Metin had arranged for many partners for all of us, so we danced and danced and looked forward to each and every Baila Tango Milonga with sheer anticipation and joy, as Tango is a passionate and addictive dance. I also realized that there were participants and visitors from around the globe, including Germany, Italy, England, Canada, Australia, France, and Spain.

In addition to the usual Milonga happenings -- dancing, announcements, celebrations, performances - my friend, Deniz, a NY Tanguero, invited me to be probably the only American to attend his Turkish wedding ceremony the following day, on the Asian side of Istanbul, reachable only by ferry or bridge, as we were on the European side. Deniz was to marry Annalisa, a Tanguera from Italy, also a New Yorker now, and there would be two weddings, the first, a Government Ceremony in Istanbul, and the second, a less formal celebration in Italy. Zehra, my friend from Cyprus, who speaks Turkish, was to attend, as well, and we made our logistical plans. Deniz and Annalisa were given a Pre-Wedding dance and a cake at this Milonga.

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August 2, 2003
The Wedding Trip

 


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Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower

Since Pera Palas Hotel is so close to Istiklal, I found myself walking that amazing cobble-stoned thoroughfare, with the red trolley line that careens along the center, with tiny boys hanging onto the sides and back of the trolley car. One hears haunting music, flutes and natural, stringed instruments, as well as the mystical Muslim calls to prayer from the many Mosques that inhabit this ancient City. In fact, five times each day, according to Zehra, my Wedding Trip guide, the time depending on the position of the sun and stars, there are the chanting calls that seem to last a few minutes, reminding the people to come and pray. Yet, I did not seem to see an exodus to the Mosques, although there must have some, who went to pray.

I did see many policemen in the cafés, and I was told that policemen "need to rest, too". I heard music, saw fresh apricots, nuts, figs, olives, fancy cakes, glistening material and clothing in the windows, and dark, flat fabrics covering many of the women, including their faces. Men were all dressed in Western fashion. We headed for the ferry (across the Bosphorus Channel), where Zehra translated for us, and I had the queezy feeling of being the only foreigner on this boat. In fact, I think the passengers thought we were film stars, as we were dressed for the wedding and the later Milonga, which would be back on the European side of Istanbul, at a Turkish Belly Dance Restaurant.

We had to dash over some planks on each end of the ride, and we sat on an outdoor space, on a narrow bench, the only passengers engaging in English dialogue. At the landing on the Asian side, at Kadikoy, I bought fresh flowers for Deniz and Annalisa, the bride and groom. We took a taxi to the Wedding Bureau of the Municipality, where there were several wedding ceremonies being conducted. The Government of Turkey, so it seems, gives permission for the bride and groom to marry, based on a few questions. Then the guests pin gold on the happy couple and drink apple tea and wine and eat wedding cake. In this case, the wedding dance was, of course, a Tango. The couple would later celebrate at a lavish feast, in a catering restaurant, but Zehra and I were offered a ride home, over the bridge, so we could attend the Tango Milonga. I brought a professional photo of the wedding couple with Zehra and me, purchased from the "house photographer" as a souvenir.


August 2, 2003
Turkish Belly Dance Dinner

 


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Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower

Another feature of this Baila Tango trip was the way we were all escorted to and from our Pera Palas Hotel by taxis and vans, always with a native interpreter in the cab or van, so we did not get "lost" or overcharged. We were taken to a street, replete with balconied restaurants, many of which had live entertainment, chess games, and/or dancing. Dancing is very popular in Istanbul, as this is a City of such a cultural mix, with Salsa, Tango, folk dance, and Eastern dance, such as we would soon see and do.

We had two long tables on the balcony, and I had my overview seat to see the other establishments, up close. We chose from a selective list of main dishes, and I chose grilled fish. In Istanbul, when one orders fish, the waiter brings a tray of freshly killed fish, with heads and tails, and you point to the desired meal! So, I chose my fish. Lo and behold, it was served with the head and tail and bones and fins! This was a challenging meal, and I learned to "bone the fish".

While boning, suddenly a dancer and her musicians appeared, with decorative stringed and percussive instruments, and she wore a scant, but colorful costume with bells and beads. The dancer's job was to wangle paper money from the men and to have them place the money into her costume. I assume she shares the money with the musicians, but we were not given details. Then, the musicians play for all the guests, who party wildly to this evocative and exciting music.

The Tango Milonga followed, with recorded Argentinean Valses, Milongas, and Tangos, and we all had a fantastic time. I did not want this everlasting day to end, so I accompanied Metin to Muhendishane, an outdoor, late-night Milonga on a restaurant patio, and experienced this enchanting venue for what was to be the first of three such events for this trip. I met Hussein, who spoke little English, one of the best Tango partners I have known, and we clicked for many Tangos. Time stopped.

******************************************************************


August 3, 2003
Advanced Baila Tango Workshop, Led by Jak

 


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Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower

Jak Karako has a sense of humor, and we all learned about the Vals and the rock steps in these two back-to-back workshops. Jak and Metin, as usual, did a fantastic job, by arranging enough partners for each man and woman, who pre-signed for the workshops, the night before. This became the routine for the week. In other words, they made sure that the staff from Baila Tango Istanbul and Baila Tango in neighboring towns in Turkey, such as Ismir, was on hand to partner each and every Tanguero, throughout the workshop. This made the lessons wonderful. Nobody had to stand or sit out the practice sections of the workshops.

The third workshop, back at Pera Palas Hotel, was in women's technique, and it was led by the beautiful Vanessa Gauch, who is Parisian. This was an elegant setting, with the chandeliers and velvets, tapestries and brass, and the ladies learned to Tango walk, using their internal energy, with poise and presence. Didem, another Baila Tango staff member, assisted. The female participants thoroughly enjoyed this unique experience. Our male partners, meanwhile, practiced back at the Baila Tango studio with Jak.


August 3, 2003
My Independent Tour of Pera Palas Hotel
History and Photos of Public Rooms and My Private Room

 


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Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower

Source of this history is the Pera Palas gift book, English version, presented to me by Cevat Bayindir, General Manager, who has been employed by Pera Palas for many years in many capacities. Mr. Bayindir documented this book in historical detail and included sumptuous photos of this rare and well-appointed hotel.

Although 122 hotels have closed in Istanbul, Pera Palas has grandly survived, with a complete refurbishing, new plumbing and appointments, and a new café. Yet, its historical and world-class character is totally intact. It is the last hotel of the Ottoman Empire, built in 1893, and overlooks the Golden Horn, a very scenic view. When the capital of Turkey became Ankara, Istanbul developed an eclectic character, and Pera Palas conformed to this change very well. The Orient Express train brought many famous figures to this Hotel, from Paris and in-between stops, starting five years after the train was built in 1883. Originally, visitors reached the "Pearl of the Orient" by ferries.

Historical rooms mark the visits of Ataturk, Agatha Christie (who wrote Murder on the Orient Express in this hotel), King Edward VIII of England, President Tito of Yugoslavia, Jacqueline Kennedy, Mata Hari, Josephine Baker, Charles Boyer, Zsa Zsa Gabor, John Dewey, Sara Bernhardt, and Yehudi Menuhin. During the Nazi campaign, there were announcements on Pera Palas radio, condemning Nazi speeches. Fine wines and fine foods were the norm, throughout the 20th Century, and this norm continues today. The Orient Bar was the haven for Turkish intellectuals and spies, such as Mata Hari.

In 1941, a powerful bomb exploded in the lobby of Pera Palas, killing six people in a political assassination. Many rooms were temporarily destroyed, and cracks in the marble remain today. Many military officials and delegations have stayed at Pera Palas, such as The Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Naval Forces, First World War, and many French Generals. Many Balls have been created at Pera Palas, such as the 1927 Ball for the Protection of Turkish Women. Polkas and Viennese Waltzes have been played by bands and orchestras, during grand events at this hotel.

In 1918, both the Commanders of the occupying forces and the Commanders of the Allied Land Forces stayed at Pera Palas, but they could not agree to drink coffee together. This is a richly historical hotel, but the most renowned history revolves around Agatha Christie, who wrote Murder on the Orient Express in Room 411. In 1926, while staying at the Pera Palas Hotel, Agatha Christie mysteriously disappeared for eleven days. There is an ongoing saga of events, including the famed psychic, Tamara Rand, who, in a trance in 1979, announced that the mystery to Christie's disappearance lie in a diary, and the key to the diary could be found under the floorboards of Room 411.

The key was indeed found, and there were negotiations between Warner Brothers, Pera Palas, and The New York Times, for Tamara Rand to go to Pera Palas and hold the key, which Pera Palas would not release, other than through a pending contract. To this day, the mystery has not been solved, due to a long list of logistical obstacles, and one does not know if Christie had an off-scene affair or a short-term memory loss, which caused her to wander. Room 411 is quite popular and can be seen in an upcoming portion of this Journal. This is a mystical hotel in a mystical city.


August 3, 2003
Milonga at Litera Café

 


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Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower

The Litera Café is a bookstore café, with a rooftop restaurant that overlooks the magnificent city of Istanbul. The Mosques are lit in twinkling blues and gold. It is a fairyland of a venue, with a buffet dinner and dark, lively bar. Most of us had a salad and two glasses of wine, again pre-arranged by Metin and Jak, of Baila Tango. And, again, we had the staff available as partners, but tonight I danced with new partners from many countries, and I was in the heaven that it seemed to be, so high above the towering points of the Mosques, and so high above the city rooftops.


August 4, 2003
Tour of Topkapi Palace


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Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower

This was our first city excursion, as a group, and Umur, our highly experienced and professional tour guide, oriented us to Topkapi, as well as to all the historical sights that were on our itinerary for the week. Topkapi is an enormous palace, with various entrances and exhibits, all finely preserved. There were numerous visitors in many long lines, and I first noticed the levels of Muslim religiosity, depending on the size and extent of the scarves and clothing. There were women dressed like us, even in slacks, women with a colorful scarf around their head, and tied under the chin, with or without a coat-like dress, and then there were the highest level of religiosity or cultural tradition, with their entire bodies and faces covered in black, with tiny slits for the eyes to see. Men were all dressed as usual, in more Western tradition. It was not unusual to see a man in blue jeans with a woman completely covered in black, down to the ground.

At Topkapi, we learned about Harems, with 400 concubines to a Prince, many of whom poisoned each other to avoid undue competition for Princely jewels and attention, and many of whom elicited assistance from the Eunuchs, who were African slaves, and who were often spies for the concubines. We learned about the nature of the elegant baths and the crown jewels. We saw tapestries, murals, old, but fancy, fountains and sinks, and gold and more gold. We lunched outdoors on a terrace overlooking the Sea.


August 4, 2003
Carpet Adventure

 


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Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower

Today Umur took us, after the Topkapi lunch, to a Turkish carpet store, where the owners served us tea and made a presentation, in the hopes that we would buy their carpets. The carpets were beautiful, but one never knows if one orders a large carpet to be sent if one will actually receive the same carpet in the States. Also, negotiating under pressure is not wise. But as an educational experience, this was very interesting. The carpets were gorgeous, and the owners and salesmen were extremely friendly. They even served us Turkish coffee or tea.

We watched a young woman weave part of her dowry, that is, a carpet that will be included in her net worth at the time of marriage. I assumed she was engaged. She happened to be beautiful, and her carpet was, too. The larger carpets are woven by several women (never men), and they use a pattern with certain colored yarns. They can concentrate on the tiny needles just so long at one sitting, so they alternate workers, when necessary. The salesmen tried extremely hard to sell us carpets, and I believe one or two in our group actually did purchase at least a small carpet. The patterns and weaving were flawless. The textures felt marvelous in bare feet, so we walked across the rugs.


August 4, 2003
Grand Bazaar Orientation

 


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Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower

This was not a shopping spree, but an "orientation", so when we returned as a group (which I cancelled from my schedule) we would know how and where to shop. Umur highly recommended one jewelry shop and one carpet shop, both within the winding and cavernous Grand Bazaar. We were warned to go with a "guide", on the next day, so as not to get lost. I surely would have gotten lost, as there are no fewer than 17 entrances/exits to this Bazaar! I decided to do my shopping on Istiklal, which is easy to peruse, with one very long street, and it contains shops along the main street and side alleys for absolutely anything one would desire in food, in clothing, in musical instruments, in CD's, in costumes, or in gift items.

However, with a guide, the Grand Bazaar is worth a trip. A woman would not feel comfortable alone there, especially a Western woman, as the men are unbelievably predatory within this shopping cave, and they pop up in front of you and behind you, forcing you to see their wares. To them, "No" means not yet. So, you cannot even make eye contact with the sales people, unless you are ready to bargain. I bought nothing on this orientation trip, nor was there an opportunity to shop. Most interesting was the architecture, the winding hallways and rounded ceilings. There was nary an inch to spare in the entire Bazaar, with all the shops and people.


August 4, 2003
Interview with Cevat Bayindir, General Manager, Pera Palas

 


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Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower

In the historical, Orient Bar of the Pera Palas Hotel and in the infamous Room 411, where Agatha Christie stayed, before and after her mysterious eleven day disappearance.

REZ - For how long have you been associated with the Pera Palas Hotel?

CB - Forty years.

REZ - Why did you come here?

CB - For work. In the beginning, as a chef, and then Public Relations.

REZ - What was the atmosphere, here, when the Hotel was new?

CB - Here is a book as a gift. It tells the role of Agatha Christie, who was here from 1926 to 1932. She worked here as a writer. She wrote Murder on the Orient Express.

REZ - Tell me about the Pera Palas Hotel in the 1960's.

CB - It was always a wonderful place for the elite people of Istanbul. The Crème de la Crème. All the authors and cinema stars. And from theatre.

REZ - Did you meet Jacqueline Kennedy?

CB - The paparazzi (journalists) bothered her. In 1983 she stayed here. She escaped from the journalists through the back door.

REZ - What about Greta Garbo?

CB - In 1926, she stayed five to six days. She reserved the room in another name, a Swedish name. She was unable to pay the Hotel, so a famous playboy of Istanbul paid for her account, and then she departed.

But, I saw her between 1968 and 1971. I was in New York. I was an employee of Turkey, and I was sent to New York. I saw Greta Garbo. She was sitting in the back of a park. From her profile I remembered her. I spoke to her. She said, "Don't tell anybody".

REZ - Which famous people have you actually seen here in Pera Palas?

CB - The King of Italy, Umberto Terzo. His grandson wrote me a letter that he had seen his grandfather, maybe a dream, and he mentioned his room in Pera Palas. Then he stayed in that room and saw his grandfather there.

Mata Hari, the spy, stayed here one night around 1916 or 1917, before meeting her husband in Malaysia. (NOTE, Mata Hari was tried and shot in 1917 for her war crimes).

REZ - Was there an earthquake?

CB - No, it was a bomb explosion in 1941, an assassination of an Ambassador.

REZ - Is the Hotel busy now?

CB - We are 45% filled.

REZ - And there has been redecoration.

CB - We made some changes. It's very hard to keep up and we keep everything clean, like the elevator lift, which is an original from the Schindler Company, the same Schindler from the film. A Producer told us this.

REZ - And, that elevator requires manpower 24 hours/day, even if there's only one person upstairs.

CB - We spend a lot on this lift. It's run by a machine at the top of the roof. We polish and clean it. We have many parties and colloquiums here.

The most important thing to see is Agatha Christie's room. In 1979, Warner Brothers decided to make a film of Agatha Christie. They started to write a scenario. It was about the eleven missing days in her life. They hired a famous psychic, Tamara Rand, who, in a psychic session, saw the key to the mystery buried in Room 411. Our General Manager met with Warner Brothers and found a key 8 cm long under the floorboard in Room 411. Warner Brothers wanted that key, but it's worth $2 million. The real key is in a bank vault. This key is a copy. Television companies came here to see the room.

It's very important to keep this Hotel in this manner. We have to spend money every year. Many of our guests are from Italy, Norway, and Sweden, Cyprus, and Greece. We are anxious to have American people come to us. We sometimes have international meetings, but very often we have Turkish wedding and engagement parties.

REZ - Thank you so much. I plan to return to Pera Palas.


August 4, 2003
Dinner at Pano Restaurant

 


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Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower

Tonight, Jak and Metin had arranged a special dinner for our group at a very lively Bistro, called Pano. It reminded me of a New York venue, with aggressive voices and music. The waiters did not speak English, and the menu was in English and Turkish, but the food translations were not created from reliable dictionaries. I decided to try my hand at boning a fish, now that I had learned this trick at the Turkish Belly Dance Restaurant. As usual, the waiter brought a full tray of freshly killed fish, and, with the help of the menu, decided to be daring. I saw "Black Sniper" on the menu, sounded like Film Noir. This was exciting -- a brand new species of edible fish, with a dangerous name. This fish turned out to be Red Snapper! Jak played with its head, as I could not keep the head and tail on my plate, while I ate the rest of its body. It was actually delicious, and the bones seemed to cooperate. It was a fun evening, and I sat next to Patrick from Baila Tango, San Diego.


August 4, 2003
Baila Tango Milonga
Baila Tango Staff Interviews
At Baila Tango Studio

 


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Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower

Metin Yazir, Founder and Head of Baila Tango, Worldwide

REZ - What is different about your technique?

MY - Trying to make Tango easy. Trying to teach first the ABC's and then make words and sentences. Few teachers teach what the students need in the Milonga.

REZ - Why do you repeat the figures?

MY - I give pictures in their memory. I use the eye to remind them what they saw.

REZ - For how many years have you been dancing and teaching Tango?

MY - Eleven years. I started teaching when I started dancing. I was in Munich the first four years with Gustavo Navarea and Roberto Vanina. They were great teachers, and I learned mostly through my own teaching. I learned the cultures. I traveled the past seven years. Other than Asia, I traveled Italy, Switzerland, England, and the USA. I was in the Milongas, making shows and exhibitions in Buenos Aires.

REZ - Are you still traveling?

MY - I travel every three days, someplace in the world, for workshops and classes. Jak is my Manager and books shows. Also, we have 16 franchise schools and studios in Ismir and Istanbul.

REZ - So, the other 14 franchises are in rooms organized by studios and organizations?

MY - And, I trained all the teachers in Baila Tango in Turkey and 50 in the world. Jak does the publicity.

REZ - How many languages do you speak, for all this travel?

MY - English, German, Turkish.

REZ - Where did you meet your partner, Vanessa?

MY - Two years ago in Brittany, a Tango Festival.

REZ - Where do you stay for all this travel?

MY - In hotels or the house of the organizer.

REZ - Do you see the sights of all of these cities?

MY - No, I work in the workshop, and, if there's an extra day, I sleep or go to the movies. When I have children, I will take them to see the sights.

Vanessa Gauch, Metin's Partner

REZ -Tell me about yourself.

VG - For ten years I studied ballet in Bordeaux as a hobby. One ballet teacher was also a Tango teacher. I learned Tango and did not practice alone. I had many partners and then one partner for about four years. I also danced Swing and Salsa. I met Metin at a Festival for Tango in France, one and one-half years ago. Now, we will be gin to travel together. My parents are here on vacation. My parents teach Tango in Bordeaux at the studio, Libert' Tempo. Fifty people dance Tango at the studio, and 300 dance Tango in Bordeaux.

REZ - What are your goals?

VG - Professionally, I want to teach. I want to create shows all over the world, in Tango, Salsa, and Swing. Personally, I want to spend my time with Metin and have children.

Hakan Gurel, Baila Tango Head, in Ismir

REZ - tell me about yourself.

HG - I'm from Ismir, Turkey. I am dancing two years, Argentine Tango. Before, I danced Ballroom Tango for five years. I am a mechanical engineer. I still work, privately, in my own firm. I manufacture machines, for 19 years, conveyors.

REZ - Why did you start Argentine Tango?

HG - I desired to dance, and did not get any education about it. A friend told me about a dance course. Seven years ago, I danced Ballroom. Five years ago, I met Metin. I heard about Argentine Tango and three years ago heard about the August Festival. I have a studio in Ismir. In Bursa, there is another studio, led by Ozhan and Serkan. I'm responsible for all Turkish Baila Tango studios, when Metin is traveling. In Ismir, there are two teachers, one Argentine Tango, and one Latin.

REZ - And, your goal?

HG - To be a good teacher.

Ceyda Gobekli, Asst. to Hakan in Ismir

REZ - What do you do in Ismir?

CG - I organize the studio, collect and prepare class lists, and am responsible for the music. I took a course of Tango lessons and became a partner to Hakan for the last year.

Serkan Gokgesu and Ozhan, Baila Tango Administrators and Teachers
They clutched English-Turkish dictionaries.

REZ - When and why did you start to dance Tango?

Ozhan -- In the University at Bursa. There's a big mountain there for skiing in winter. I learned International Latin in the Dance Club, like Paso Doble, Cha Cha, and Social Latin. I am friends with Serkan for 10 years, and, in a Holiday, we went to a Milonga to see Serkan dancing Tango. I fell in love with Tango. I had no teachers in Bursa to learn Tango. One year ago, in July, I entered a Competition. We (with my partner) were third. After this Festival, I met Metin and began to take lessons every day with Metin and Vanessa. After one month, I became Metin's Assistant. I began as a Latin Dance teacher. After this Festival (Baila Tango), I will be dancing one year in Tango.

REZ - Serkan, What about you?

Serkan -- I also took lessons at the University, Anadolu. I took Tango in the Dance Club and danced now two and one-half years. Two years ago, I took workshops from Metin.

REZ - Why do you both like Tango?

Serkan - I wanted to be like Metin.

Ozhan - You can come close, you can feel, you use different body language, like love. It is different from International Latin. In Tango, you can give your feelings about what you need.

Gustavo Lopez, Baila Tango Staff, Istanbul and Miami

REZ - Tell me about yourself.

GL - I grew up in Colombia and then in the US for 20 years. I started Tango six years ago. I danced Salsa first. I am a Construction Engineer. I consult in construction of swimming pools. I am also a Tourism Guide. I am working at this now. My first tango teacher was Jorge Nel in Miami. I also studied French at the Alliance Francaise.

I met Metin in NY. I went to La Boca by accident. It was a Tango Restaurant. I said, "Let's Dance" to a girlfriend late at night. Metin danced with Rebecca and got my attention. I introduced myself, and we had a conversation. I emailed Metin to go to Miami. Osvaldo Zotto, Juan Carlos Copes, and others were in Miami in workshops. I started going with Metin to workshops.

REZ - What are your goals?

GL - To keep flying, direct to Milongas; to learn Turkish; to work as a Consultant in exporting marble from Turkey to Italy and Miami; to learn more languages; and to be able to dance a million Tangos with a million women!

Didem Ozdemir, Asst. to Metin in Istanbul

REZ -- Tell me about yourself.

DO - I deal with lessons, transportation, workshops, and organizing. I always lived in Istanbul. I'm a City Planner, by training, and I'm working on a PhD in Urban Design. I have danced one and one-half years, Argentine Tango, through Metin. I searched for Tango lessons and received email announcements. I took lessons. I did traditional Turkish dances for eights years. I wore costumes of the different regions and of the different styles of dance. I went to Festivals and Competitions.

REZ - What are your goals?

DO - Professional: I want to be a professional and own my own business. Personality: I want to build my own personality. Dance: I want to dance as good as possible. REIKI: I want to be a healer and mix Tango and healing.

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August 5, 2003
Group Tour of Saint Sofia, Blue Mosque, and The Underground Cistern

 


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Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower

Saint Sofia is an exquisite Holy Sanctuary, and the Wishing Post was used by one Tanguero. We learned about the five Muslim calls/day for prayer at the various houses of worship, i.e., the Mosques. At the Blue Mosque, we again had to remove shoes, wear shawls and leg coverings, including the men, and we marveled at the stained glass windows and chandeliers in both Holy Sanctuaries. We also marveled at the absolutely enormous hand-made Turkish blue/red carpet in the Blue Mosque. The female and male visitors were dressed in various levels of religious and cultural coverings.

The Underground Cistern, once used in a plumbing and water distribution mode, is now a lovely, romantic walk, underground, with dimly lit columns and pools of water, which shine in the colors of the intricate overhead lights. There are interesting artifacts of old columns, which are used in various positions for decorations and symbolic legends.


August 5, 2003
My Private Afternoon, Once More on Istiklal

 


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Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower

I will never forget Istiklal Street. I once heard Hebrew music emanating from one CD store, and Arabic chants emanating from next door. I heard Belly Dance music, Salsa, Tango, Classical, and Pop Rock, in English and French. In fact, in the CD stores, if a customer asks about a CD, the salesperson unwraps it and plays it out through the open doorway. Another important memory lies in the fact that after 5 PM, I did not see women in the street, except very few tourists in groups or couples. There were hardly any American tourists, although Turkey and Istanbul are so friendly and warm. On inquiring of native men, why women disappeared from the streets after dark, and the men seemed to appear in an entire second shift in the hundreds, I was told, "We do not want other men looking at our women after dark, in the way they are thinking at that hour".

On this particular day, I had an interesting bargaining session with two shoe stores, and finally purchased two pairs of locally hand-made leather sandals for about $20 each. I also found an art gallery and a crepe restaurant, called Otantik. I found side alleys, in which there are usually only men, even in the daytime, selling and socializing. I also found an Internet Café. This Café allowed me to use a personal web address, from Istanbul, in order to send a smoke signal to my family and associate that I was there and OK, since my usual Internet provider did not seem to service this City.

In this café and others, I discovered the phenomenon of the female toilet, the one with the hole in the floor! I was horrified, to the humor of the various café workers. I also discovered the Turkish pretzels, which look like bagels and taste like pastry. They are served outdoors, in open carts, everywhere, as are pistachios and other nuts, figs, and apricots. Also, in open carts, are "lottery tickets", toys, clothing, and ice cream. I bumped into Baila Tango staff, eating ice cream, and learned how to use the phone card to call the US, with the assistance of these same men who seem to inhabit the street.

*********************************************************************


August 5, 2003
Formal Milonga, Pera Palas

 


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On this night, the elegant dining room, in which our group, each morning, joined all the Pera Palas guests for a complimentary, sumptuous buffet breakfast, of olives, cheeses, melons, meats, nuts, dried and fresh fruits, eggs, pancakes, breads, pastries, juices, coffee, tea, etc., turned into a ballroom floor! Again, the luxurious chandeliers, the enormous parquet dance floor, a DJ, and the most fantastic Turkish and Argentinean Tango music one could wish for, created an ambiance fit for a King or Duke, in the style that only Pera Palas can create. The little round tables and the fully-equipped bar lent just the right touch to make all the Baila Tango festival participants feel ever so special.

There were breaks for Salsa and Merengue, and, as usual, Jak and Metin had arranged for the Staff to be there to dance with all of us, should we be looking for partners. By now, Ozhan and Serkan, as well as Turkish Tangueros, such as Albert, Ismail, Bedirhan, Kerem, and Ahmet, Jim, and many others, were all well known to us a splendid and passionate Tango partners, and we felt wonderful, dancing in their embrace.


August 6, 2003
Suleymaniye Mosque and Spice Bazaar

 


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Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower

This was to be the day of our Bosphorus Cruise, but first, a Mosque and a Spice Bazaar. In Suleymaniye Mosque, Umur lectured about the Muslim religion and about the methods and reasons for prayer. Again, we were barefoot (shoes are left outside, neatly, on guarded racks, and shawls and covers are provided). The hand-made carpets and lighting and stained glass windows, again, were magnificent.

At the nearby Spice Bazaar, which was again included only as an orientation, we saw coffees, fruits, spices, nuts, and most everything else one might imagine for food or food preparation, as well as perfumes, soaps, and sponges. There were even live leeches in giant jars, a medical remedy still used in Istanbul. I saw families there, but few tourists. I vowed to go, on my own, to a Spice Bazaar, but one in an Istiklal covered alley, which I could easily find and navigate.


August 6, 2003
Cruise on the Bosphorus

 


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Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower

For this private Baila Tango event, organized by Jak and Metin, the men took off their shirts, and the women let down their hair. There was sun tanning, sightseeing, Umur's geographical orientation, camaraderie, stories, picnicking (we had bought lunch supplies outside the Spice Bazaar, and I managed to get a hero, just the bread, no meat, and fill it with feta and vegetables and mustard from a different stand), sleeping, and joking around. We all took photos, and the waiter rewarded us, by taking a group picture, using each of our cameras, which lined a complete bench! Assembly line photography. We cheered his logistical success.

Toward the end of this cruise, a "kontrol" boat arrived and boarded to check the number of life jackets. This event was really bonding and fun.


August 6, 2003
Baila Tango Practica

 


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This was a great Practica, which means that Metin, Vanessa, and Jak modeled some choreography, assisted us with the choreography, and gave us time to practice it with each other. Metin and Vanessa are excellent performers. They are also excellent teachers, and repeat the motions over and over, so that there is no chance of forgetting what we just learned. Plus, we try the Tango steps with various partners, so we can be ready, no matter the leader or follower. One sure maxim of Tango - Men are leaders, and women are followers, no options.

Yet, Metin and Jak often dance together, Milonguero style, as in the original formation of Tango in Argentina, only the men danced, and with each other, so, for fun, Metin and Jak sometimes perform together. It's quite entertaining, and they alternate leader and follower.

Tonight I had a special treat. Lyne and I were the only Tangueras left after the Milonga, and all the men disappeared. I was hungry for dinner (and actually found Stop Restaurant, in an Istiklal alley, which de-boned and beheaded my freshly killed fish), so we were going to walk alone to a restaurant on Istiklal, but, along to our rescue, came Kerem! Kerem Oksuz is a Tango teacher and Milonguero from Ismir, who resides in the Taksim neighborhood of Istanbul. Kerem joined us as an escort, and Kerem and I arranged a plan to dance Tango in his private dance studio, two days later.


August 7, 2003
Another Istiklal Tour

 


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Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower

The night before, while leaving Stop Restaurant, a real "find", I discovered another "find", a smaller Spice Bazaar, right in this covered series of restaurants, along Istiklal. So, today, I returned to this alley venue to explore the spices and jewelry. I bought my niece, Jessie, a choker necklace, from a lovely young jeweler, and she made, on the spot, a matching bracelet, out of an existing look alike necklace. I also found Turkish Delight candies, which I bought as gifts for my family, the jelly and pistachio combination, rolled in confectionary sugar.

And, I finally, to great delight, found the Cappuccino I had longed for all week at Fape's, along with a perfect omelet, salad, and French ballads, Hustle dances, New Age music, and 50's Rock and Roll, all wafting from the rear. From my window seat, I could see clowns and musicians, women in long black clothing, trolley cars, with boys hanging along the rims, boys selling black coats (worn over their bodies in various sizes) -- a total mix of culture, sound, color, texture, and mood. It was time for another cappuccino!

Meanwhile, the owner of Fape's, posing in a photo, is also a tourism guide, and he told me to visit Princess Islands, since I had missed the beach trip today, as I nursed a sunburn from the Bosphorus Cruise. He told me about the ferries, and he made me a map. Now, I needed a translator-escort, and I had someone in mind, a perfect companion for this planned excursion.

*******************************************************************


August 7, 2003
Milonga at Muhendishane

 


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Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower

Ever since my first late night, experience at the Muhendishane Milonga, earlier in the week, as Metin's guest, I had eagerly anticipated returning to this exotic venue. To dance Argentine Tango outdoors (It did not rain even once on this 12 day trip!) on a dimly lit patio, under the stars, with the trees lit, as well, ever so slightly, was so surreal! I loved this setting, and the Baila Tango participants were becoming more and more sensual and sensitive, as the week wore on, thanks to the close embrace style of the Turkish Milongueros! The women were also, at times, territorial about their regular partners, but less territorial about the Baila Tango Staff teachers, who were always on hand to whisk us away to the live (here there was a band and singer) or recorded Tango music, some Turkish, some Argentinean, and, of course, the Salsa and Cha Cha breaks.

Ahmet was one of the organizers of this Milonga, and, of course, Metin and Jak figured prominently, as they were our hosts. It should be underscored that Jak and Metin always arranged for transportation to and from all group events and all dances, so that we could not get lost or overcharged by zealous cab drivers. Tonight was so special, and I danced often with Kerem, who turns every Tango into a dream-like state of floating and transcending the dance floor. I also danced with Ozhan, Serkan, Ahmet, and Ismail, all exciting and stylized partners.

All of the Baila Tango female participants were in full bloom tonight. The clothes were glistening, and our faces glowed even more. Jak and Metin performed, and the Turkish Tangueros danced the Turkish Chicarrera! I long to return to Muhendishane.


August 8, 2003
My Private Tangos with Kerem Oksuz

 


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Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower

This was a day I will always remember. As pre-arranged, Kerem met me right on time at a designated spot on Istiklal. He showed me the way to Taksim district, at the end of Istiklal, where there is a large Metro construction pit, as well as tall, modern office buildings and hotels. So, the cobble-stoned Istiklal turns into a modern thoroughfare, where restaurants are open late at night and cars pass (Istiklal is pedestrians only, except for the red trolley). Along the side streets there are smaller and very interesting residential buildings, with flowers and shops. The Marmara Hotel, a tall, modern, Western-style hotel, is a known landmark in Taksim.

Kerem's apartment is small, extremely neat, well furnished, and includes a complete dance floor, with mirrors and Tango posters. This is also his professional Tango studio, where he gives private lessons. I was amazed at the tidiness and decorative touch, with bright red and black (very Tango) against white and the colors of the posters and CD's. I inadvertently wore just the right color scheme for this adventure. His wall-to-wall mirror would have enabled me to see us in this dance experience, had my eyes been open.

Kerem gave me some energy and posture tips. But, mainly, we just danced to my CD's (Soundtrack, Assassination Tango and an early Piazzolla CD), and then to some of Kerem's eclectic collection. In all, we danced for two and one-half hours, with some breaks for Tango talk and our plans for the next day's adventure, the trip to Princess Islands. Kerem was the translator and guide I had chosen for this voyage, but that's another story.

Having this private dance in the early afternoon, this Friday, was one of my designated adventures in Istanbul. Kerem has charisma, charm, intelligence, passion for the music and dance, and very strong leader's technique. In his extremely close embrace style, a woman exudes sensuality and sees in her mind's eye that she is performing, as if onstage, but just for herself and her partner. Kerem has a very bright future as a Tango performer and as a Tango teacher, because he has the rare combination of magnetic stage presence and chemical compatibility. In fact, there was quite a bit of competition for a Tango or two with Kerem, whenever he arrived on the Milonga scene.

After our Tangos, we again ventured back toward Istiklal for lunch and window-shopping. As I stay in contact with Kerem, I will continue to write of his career in and out of Turkey, as well as his connections with the Argentine Tango community.


August 8, 2003
Baila Tango Milonga at the Studio

 


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Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower

Once again, Metin and Jak had arranged a lovely evening for our group, which was always enhanced with the presence of Turkish Tangueros from Istanbul and surrounding towns, as well as with the presence of Baila Tango Staff, who, by this evening, were our best friends. We just loved to be with and dance with these men, and, in the case of the male Tangueros, they had the opportunity to dance with female Turkish Tangueras, as well as guests who either participated in all of our daily and evening activities, or just attended Milongas.

One can see in the faces and demeanor of the entire group of Baila Tango Festival participants that we were content and having a great time together. We were already familiar dance partners and friends, and everyone was relaxed. Although Istanbul can be mysterious and exotic, these studio Milongas were earthy and endearing. One must congratulate the entire Baila Tango Staff for such amazing organization and professionalism, as they dealt with all of our daily, logistical and interpersonal issues.


August 9, 2003
Trip to Princess Islands

 


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Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower

Today was another memorable adventure, and, again, I met Kerem at a designated spot on Istiklal. We were both in casual "boat" clothing and found a cab to the Ferry to the Sea of Marmara. In this Sea, there are 9 Islands, and we would eventually have time for just two, so this is a must-return excursion. The first Ferry was surprisingly well appointed, with hot and cold beverages served in glasses. One habit of the Turkish people is to always "eat in". There is no "take out". Therefore, I never saw paper cups, utensils, or trash in the street or on this boat. In Istanbul the streets and boats are spotless. The waiters here were well dressed and mature.

We met tourists from Israel, who also knew New York, so we seemed to be the only English-speaking group on the Ferry. Again, almost no tourists from the US. The views of the Islands were exquisite, and I immediately noticed dual horses with buggies, so adorable on the mountainous, cobble-stoned streets. I also noticed historical homes with flowers that seemed to remind me of New Orleans, a decidedly Old World, perhaps a French influence. There were many balconies and window shutters.

We had a walk and a snack on the first Island and noticed extremely luscious fruit stands, a fire station, with men at leisure, and fresh fish stands, a cut below the concept of the freshly killed fish on the restaurant trays. These fish were newly caught and on ice.

We mounted the Ferry again, as it makes multiple stops, just as the owner of Otantik (aka the tourism guide) had promised. This was Kerem's first experience on such a cruise, so it was special for both of us. The next Island was the large, famous Grand Island, so we soon descended again to the historical, winding streets. We asked directions to a beach, as we were toting bathing suits. We were told, I later discovered, once settled on a tiny, wooden motorboat, that the beach was accessible at the other end of the Island, by this rickety, tipping boat.

We were clutching a few more bags than earlier, as I had shopped for a baby toy for new triplets, the grandchildren of the owner of Saratoga Arms, where I stay in Saratoga Springs. These triplets have a Turkish father, so I found a toy made in Turkey. The motorboat made many turns, starts, and re-starts, splashing us and shaking us up a bit, but, after all, this was an adventure, so who cares?

The beach, as it turns out, was not my cup of tea, with old facilities, which I knew would contain the dreaded bathrooms with holes in the floor, and, as it was a Saturday, there were large families and little space. But, there was a sweet café, overlooking the Sea, and Kerem and I had a drink, facing this marvelous view, and philosophizing about our careers and about Tango.

We could not find another, tiny motorboat to return to the Ferry, so we walked past a farm and "hailed" a dual horse and buggy. All buggies here contain two horses to climb the steep roads. There was a small, but amorphous waiting line for a buggy, and our driver seemed anxious to have us. The views of the old homes and balconies, from buggy side were sumptuous. Although we were hungry, at our arrival at Ferry side, there was little time to spare.

As it seemed, our particular Ferry back to the mainland of Istanbul was cancelled. It was already too late to view more islands, as we each had schedules, and there was yet one more Milonga that evening at Muhendishane. It would be my last opportunity to see many friends from the Baila Tango Festival, as some were leaving Istanbul the following morning. So, unbeknownst to me, Kerem arranged for a different "kind" of Ferry back to a different end of Istanbul. He had no choice to save time, but this Ferry had poor facilities, including the horrible "holes in the ground" and no snacks. We had shared a snack back on Grand Island, before departure, but it was small.

At the mainland, we took a taxi through a severe "traffic jam" and arrived back near Istiklal just in time for each of us to continue our plans, including a few Tangos with each other that evening at Muhendishane. All in all, I would not have traded this adventure, one bit, for a quiet, hassle-free Saturday. Although I had missed some Tango workshops that day, I knew this was an adventure that would be worth the risk, and it was definitely a fantastic day, especially because Kerem gave me such time and effort. I found many of the people from Istanbul and from surrounding towns to be warm, generous, and very robust in spirit.


August 9, 2003
Farewell Milonga and Performance at Muhendishane

 


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Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower

This Milonga was a magical evening, all too short and all too ethereal. Everyone had the glow of the evening, the Tango costumes were scintillating, and some new dresses and accessories were noticeable, as women sported their finds from Istiklal and, perhaps, the Grand Bazaar. Everyone had wine or beer, and the mood was cheerful and buoyant. There were announcements from the organizers, both Baila Tango and local Tango groups from Istanbul. There was a live Tango band, singers, performances by Baila Tango staff, by Vanessa's sister and Jak, by Festival participants, some of whom danced with Staff, and by Tango performers and amateurs from in and around Istanbul.

There were a cake, candles, singing, a wild Chicarrera, starry-eyed Tangueras, and then very sad Tangueros, as the evening came to an abrupt ending, with the arrival of the group van, for the return to Pera Palas. I had had my dances with Ozhan, Serkan, Ahmet, Ismail, and many Tangos with Kerem, but alas, suddenly Hussein appeared, and the music stopped! We were all officially herded into the van, but nobody wanted to leave. It was a sinking feeling, and only 2:45 AM! (Tango Milongas usually run until 2:00 AM or 3:00 AM, or later, weekends. Not a sport for the early-riser.)

Back at the hotel, we were starving! I had never really had dinner. Some of the group was leaving the next day (like Tina from NY and Patrick from San Diego), and some were leaving Monday (like Rachel from San Francisco and like me), and some even later (like Carla and Paola from Rome and Ken from Chicago). As I was hungrier than most, the doorman escorted me to a late night "eating establishment", which was filled with men with piercing eyes (at my Tango attire) and trays of slushy meats (not my near-vegetarian diet). It was 3:45 AM, and I rejected this "establishment" for the unknown.

A small group of Tangueros -- Patrick, Ozhan and Serkan (our translators, always ready to party), Paola and Carla, and Tina and I headed for a cab to Taksim, where there was another "eating establishment" of stuffed sandwiches, filled with late-night revelers, and we returned by 6:00 AM, before some of our group headed to Istanbul Airport and their flights back to the States. This part of the night, too, was surreal and serendipitous.


August 10, 2003
Jak Jacob Karako's History, His Mother's Old Neighborhood
Morning of the Last Day in Istanbul

 


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Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower

This Sunday morning, after my favorite choices at the Pera Palas buffet breakfast, which I sorely miss, of a variety of olives with white cheese, melons and figs, tiny croissants and breads, and fresh coffee, I followed Jak outside the Hotel to a narrow, side street at the rear, where we explored his mother, Victoria's, old neighborhood. We looked at balconies and houses, windows and doors. Somebody was making a film, and others were watching us.

We saw many stray cats and a few dogs, which, by the way, are very common in Istanbul. People tend to leave food for the stray animals, and they did not look weak or unhealthy. My suspicion was that there may be small, crawling, fast creatures that serve as targets for the roaming felines, but I did not see one. Maybe I was purposely not looking. There were terrific views of the Istanbul rooftops, and this was my last day in town.

I bought ten lovely postcards at the Hotel desk and wrote out nine in the Orient Bar. I had such a need to sit there one more time, amid the opulence of another era, another cast of characters. The Bellman at the door, with the encouragement of the all-knowing and ever-watchful, Front Desk Manager, offered to walk the postcards to the post office the next day, stamp them, and mail them, all for 10 million Turkish Lira, which they insisted was almost the price of the overseas stamps. In a leap of faith, I turned over a paper bill. To my delight, the postcards seem to have arrived, as I remember to check with the intended recipients.

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August 10, 2003
Interview of Ilker Kerem Oksuz

 


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Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower

Today, my last afternoon in Istanbul, I met Kerem, once again, but this time in front of the contemporary and lavishly decorated Marmara Hotel. We went upstairs to a lovely bar/café, overlooking Taksim and the Metro construction project, but also near a large, tropical fish tank We shared a light dinner, later, in a lively Bistro on Istiklal. I already missed Kerem, and he was still there. He became a loyal and understanding friend, with depth, humor, and character. He also symbolized the exotic fusion of Turkish culture and Argentine Tango.

REZ - Why do you love Tango?

KO - When I was a child, I heard Tango music, maybe Turkish Tango. I love the word, "Tango". The word makes music to me. It's interesting to say, "Tango". I remember the first time I heard Tango. If I don't do Tango, that would be a big emptiness in me.

REZ - What is special about your technique of teaching Tango?

KO - I want to teach how you live the music in your step. I want to live in the music and show the basic step to do this. The boléos and gonchos are not important to me. I can show another show figure, but I want to show a soft dance.

REZ - Talk to me about what happens to you, when you start to dance.

KO - First, I want to be with a woman, together, and then I start to do my step. In my thinking, the woman wants to feel what the music tells is telling them. I can't understand the words, but I feel the music.

REZ - Tell me about your childhood.

KO - I didn't dance, because I was too shy. My mother played music, and she helped me dance. My mother and father dance slow bolero. I started at 13 or 14 at a theatre school and did a show with the University students. I was then taken into the University group, and they liked me and let me work with them.

REZ - And, when you became older....

KO - I was going to another school, and, four years after, I went to high school in another City.

REZ - When did you start to dance?

KO - I did Lambada in a little Festival and then started Tango, when I was 18 or 19.

REZ - Who was your teacher?

KO - I first started in the University. They have a Club, and we started with cassettes. Then I met teachers and couples, like Juan and Viviana, Lena and Ahmet, Yuri Mezo, Omar and Monica, Eduardo, and Aysegul Betil (a teacher in Istanbul).

REZ -- What are you doing now to create a career in Tango?

KO - I teach Tango, and I teach this technique. I can understand the man's and the woman's technique. I would like to go to other countries and see other techniques and other teachers.

REZ - What do you want for yourself, and how will you make that happen?

KO -I want to be more perfect in the way I know Tango. Tango is a sea. You can drink the water one glass at a time. If I drink the sea with my glass, someday I will find the chance to be famous. This chance is important.


August 10, 2003
One Last Stroll on Istiklal
Shopping for CD's

 


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Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower

After a light dinner with Kerem, he assisted me in shopping for the perfect Turkish Tango CD's. I was looking for gifts for my Tango coach, Carlos DeChey, for friends, for my niece and nephew, father and son, and for myself. We looked in store after store (there are dozens of music shops here, with wide open doors that open haunting sounds of culture and dance deep into Istiklal). After Kerem and I said our Goodbyes, I bought extra CD's, with Belly Dance music for a friend and my niece, Turkish Rock for my nephew, piano solos for my son, cultural folk music for my father, Turkish Tangos for my Coach, a colleague, and myself, as well as haunting flute tunes, and Turkish Latin for Robert Abrams, my Webmaster, RobertaOnTheArts.com and Publisher of ExploreDance.com.

I also found small enough boxes of Turkish Delight to squeeze into suitcase corners, and returned to Pera Palas to collapse. There was packing to do, so I made a room picnic of some fruits and cheeses, a loaf of bread, and a small bottle of Turkish wine. I had already purchased similar picnic delicacies earlier in the week, and had found this resourcefulness well worth the effort, since there was a tiny refrigerator in each guest room at Pera Palas. Plus, it was like shopping for food in Paris. A Bakery here, a fruit cart there, a cheese shop down the block.

That night, I fell asleep early, to my surprise, (perhaps the Turkish wine was influential) and missed any last minute adventures or Milongas. The thought of packing and traveling in the early AM was a daunting prospect for a late night Tanguera.

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August 11, 2003
Istiklal Airport
Delta Trip to JFK Airport, NY

 


View From My Window, Turkish Islands
Photo courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower

With Jak's assistance, I shared a cab with Rachel on Monday morning, and, at Istiklal Airport, found my last minute gift items, such as photo magnets of the Mosques and of one corpulent Ali Baba riding a donkey. Bargaining at the airport was just as easy and less distracting than bargaining at the Grand Bazaar. In fact, there was another, mini-Grand Bazaar right there at Istiklal Airport, but I had not known. So much easier to do with the extra wait time, of late, prior to departure. But, there was no haunting music, no trolley, and no cobble-stoned walkway. Just the loud airport announcements.

Today was no exception to the rule that flying Business Class, or any class, for that matter, on Delta, is an enormous pleasure. Again, I found a Delta Business Lounge, shared by British Airways, and there was actually New Age sound and the natural sounds of birds chirping, as the waiting passengers brunched (about 10:45 AM) on snacks and coffees, brought to the couches and lounge chairs by cheerful waiters.

The flight home found me, again, next to a lovely professional woman, who had been traveling in Istanbul with friends, and we shared many stories. We both watched Laurel Canyon, a dark, twisted California film, on our individual TV screens, and I lunched on lobster, salmon, and vegetables. There was the well-appreciated sherry and lots of time to sleep. These flights were about 14 hours, with the airport logistics, so sitting next to a neat, personable passenger is critical. I was very lucky, both ways, and look forward to flying Delta again in the near future. I highly recommend Delta Business Class for all log distance flights, with the enormous leg space and the flexible and extended seats. I kept peering out my window seat, at islands, at the Sea, then the clouds, and then the skyline. We arrived 7 hours earlier than Istanbul time, so it was still late afternoon! Now, for the jet lag, but that's not an Istanbul story. And, in this eery transition in time, space, and access (now my cell phone worked, and messages were chirping), my mind dared to wander to the New York Tangueros and where the Milonga was......with Delta travel surprises tightly clutched under my arm.

 

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at zlokower@bestweb.net