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TUFAG International Folk Dance Festival and Golden Carnation competition

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TUFAG International Folk Dance Festival and Golden Carnation competition
7 July 2009 - 29th June - 5th July, 2009

Every festival is different but TUFAG International Folk Dance Festival held in Yalova, Turkey, June 29th-July 5th, 2009, is certainly on the top of the list. From the moment Zornitsa Students Folkdance Ensemble from Sofia, Bulgaria, arrived we felt the atmosphere. The coming together of eleven nations was an ideal situation to exchange not only information about typical dances from the countries but to learn about the different customs of one another.

Groups participating were: "Ahlam", Sidibel Abbes, Algeria
"Zornitsa" Students Folkdance Ensemble, Sofia, Bulgaria
"Ballet Folclorico de Paipa", Colombia
"Paware Duchi", Costa Rica
"Salkino", Georgia
"Taban" Serbian Folk Dance Group, Budapest, Hungary
"Panghai Performing Arts", Ahmedabad (Gujarat) India
"Sanggar Panglima", Pelawan, Indonesia
"La Compagnie de danse Pom Kanel", Martinique
"Plomienie", Bydgoszcz, Poland
"Stropkovcan", Stropkov, Slovakia
"South Korea"

The opening ceremony on June 29th commenced with a parade through the atmospheric, people-lined streets of Yalova. Imagine the excitement, there were approximately 500 smiling faces of dancers from the above nations walking and dancing their way through the streets. The colourful costumes were beautiful and there was wonderful world music emanating from the different musicians. A moving spectacle, one might say. On arrival at the amphitheatre we were treated to an excellent performance by TUFAG.

TUFAG was founded in 1984 by the Yalova Tourism Folklore Research and Development Association and performs folk dances from different regions of Turkey. The number of dancers is around 400-500 divided into groups depending on the age. As well as receiving places and honorable mentions at the Turkish Ministry of Culture Folk Dance Competition most years, they won first place three times. The group has performed in many countries. For further information, please visit their website www.tufag.org.tr
The main objectives of the festival are to highlight the diverse culture of Turkey, to promote friendship and world peace and to show a variety of artistic events from all around the world. We did indeed experience all this and also saw some of the natural beauties of Yalova.

The festival, combining free time and concerts, was very well organised and was fantastic. We were accommodated in bungalows situated amongst trees and gardens alongside the beach and it was a perfect place to relax and swim. "Zornitsa" had afternoon rehearsals, and concerts were held in the cool of the evenings. On June 30th the programme included dancing horo one hour on a bridge in the centre of Yalova then continuing to the nearby village of Ciftlikkoy to dance horo again.
The evening of July 1st all groups travelled to the village of Subasi. This is one of the villages to where people of Bulgarian heritage (Pomaks) immigrated before the change in 1989. Here we were greeted and given juice, water and fruits before walking down to the amphitheatre where the performances took place.

On July 2nd we performed in the amphitheatre in Yalova and "Zornitsa showed Thracian Dances, Women's Shoppian Dance and Shoppian Suite. Afterwards we all drove to the village of Orhangazi where "Zornitsa" performed Women's Shoppian Dance, again in an amphitheatre. Whilst not ancient, the amphitheatres hold thousands of people and watching presentations given under the stars is something very special.

July 3rd "Zornitsa" was taken on an excursion to the Yalova Hot Springs. With it's therapeutic natural sources and green environment, Yalova became one of the favourite spots of Ataturk, founder of the Turkish Republic. Here he built Ataturk Mansion (just one of his houses!) which we visited and also the thermal baths in which we swam. The settlement covers several acres and the grounds are beautiful with many trees and flower gardens. In the afternoon "Zornitsa" had free time in Yalova before driving into the countryside near Kadikoy for a delicious BBQ held on top of a hill with a lovely view. Our musicians played and we danced horo, then continued to a small village where the girls danced Women's Shoppian Dance. Turkish people are so hospitable, again we were given refreshments of rice, sweets and aryan. Later in the evening we saw a super performance by TUFAG in the amphitheatre in Yalova. This was their 25th anniversary concert. Dressed in attractive costumes they presented a most interesting display showing dances from different regions, and the dancing was immaculate. It was stunning to see approximately 400 dancers on stage for the finale. Officials came onto the stage and there was an enormous cake, and fireworks.

Each evening there were parties. One night with a fire on the beach; a couple of nights there were "theme" parties, once with Hungary, Bulgaria and Indonesia, accompanied by their musicians, presenting dances and on another evening, Costa Rica and Colombia. On these nights everyone would join in to learn the horos of each other's countries. To give further insight into the customs, food was also given. The organisers must be congratulated not only for the excellent planning of rehearsals, concerts, accommodation, meals etc. but enabling people time to communicate, share ideas and to better understand one another. On one occasion too representatives from each group went to meet the Mayor of Yalova and Governor and exchanged presents in gestures of friendship.
July 4th was THE big day - that of the Golden Carnation Competition. One could feel the nervousness in the air. Afternoon rehearsals were held in the amphitheatre, "Zornitsa" rehearsed again back at the camp. Costumes were prepared, extra care was taken with makeup; all items of costumes to be taken were checked and double checked. At dinner beforehand we all had a sip of rakia from a bottle brought from Bulgaria, to "calm the nerves," then again on the bus on the way to the amphitheatre! Throughout the festival it became apparent that all groups were of a high level so the competition would be stiff.

The amphitheatre was almost packed. The concert started with a girl from each country and one of their own musicians, singing a Turkish song, all together. It sounded great....... The competent jury was comprised of an elected dancer or choreographer from each group. "Zornitsa" was no. 5 so with hearts in our mouths we waited for our turn. The ten minute maximum timeslot allowed for the dance felt like one minute, so much build-up to this all important night and so quickly it was over. Our performance was a formation of dances from "Zornitsa" repertoire. It was sensational and faultless. Then the wait whilst the remaining groups performed. At the finish all dancers went onto the stage, it was an incredible sight with a kaleidoscope of colours.
A brief pause whilst the jury made a final decision. First the announcement for the best authentic costume - this award went to Indonesia.

Then the revelation for the dancing - 3rd award Colombia: 2nd award Martinique: 1st award BULGARIA! Shouts of joy, hugs, kisses, tears, all the emotions coming out, it was amazing. Congratulations to all countries for their excellent performances but especially to the choreographer, Emil Genov, dancers and musicians of our own "Zornitsa". First prize in the Golden Carnation competition was well deserved. This was the first time the same country won first prize, twice ("Zornitsa" took 1st in 2007) so it was extra special.

Our heartfelt thanks must go to all the organisers of TUFAG and especially to Ersin Haspolatli, General Secretary; to Cengiz Dereli, who has been associated with TUFAG since it was established and had a term as secretary. He and his wife Aynur were always at our side to ensure everything went smoothly; and to our guides, Ekin Kuloglu and Onur Soylan. Your hospitality and kindness will never be forgotten. 

Anna Travali

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Anna Travali

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