An eye-catching name at iDANS: Quraishi

We are almost halfway through the İstanbul International Contemporary Dance Festival (iDANS), which was recently added to İstanbul's crammed agenda of cultural events and festivals. The main theme of the festival, which brings together prominent performers and choreographers of the international contemporary dance scene, is "solo." 

An eye-catching name was featured last week in the festival -- which continues presenting choreographers from many countries, including France, Belgium, the United States, Israel, the Netherlands and Palestine -- Pakistani İbrahim Quraishi. The artist is famed for his "Saray -- Mozart Alla Turca," in which he refers to Mozart's celebrated opera "The Abduction from the Seraglio." The show Quraishi performed in Vienna in 2006 together with Turkish artists led to various discussions. 

Quraishi re-interpreted Mozart's masterpiece, altering the roles of the nations in the show, performed in both Turkish and German with Turkish musical instruments. Remarking that Mozart's opera is conservative and Orientalist, Quraishi says: "Despotism is not something particular to the East, it was actually born in the West. What is to be done is not to vilify figures, but rather to keep the facts undistorted."

Quraishi's performance at iDANS was the world premiere of his most recent work, "Afraid of I," a solo performance centering on the last remnants of cowboy-hood, criticizing violence and ideologies. "I love taking myself and others on journeys," remarks Quraishi, whose "Saray -- Mozart Alla Turca" has been staged 41 times in Vienna. Quraishi talks about the period during which he wrote the piece, asserting: "It was election time and there were political debates going on regarding Islam. Showing an Austrian father who imprisoned his daughter at home for eight years as an example, there were those who argued that Islam would lock us up just like this." 

Using these headlines in his play's text, Quraishi wanted to demonstrate for the audience what a Westerner can do. However Austrians did not like Quraishi's work at all and protested it. "What I did was refer to a fantasy in Mozart's opera," says Quraishi, adding that he would like to put the play onstage in İstanbul too, after receiving huge admiration from Turks who saw the performance abroad.

One of Edward W. Said's students, Quraishi says: "Said worked on the illusion of the West against the East. We can easily see at the moment that the West writes history with an illusionist perspective." Making use of holy texts and myths in his artwork, the artist finds İstanbul quite fruitful in this respect. "İstanbul is a vibrant and living city. Both people accepting history and rejecting history do exist where you can see the dominance of controversies. The city has problems as well. Many Turkish artists use this diversity in their works. However Americanization prevents the development of local aspects. I hope this negative situation, which mostly affected artists in Western Europe, is not experienced in Turkey," he explains.

In addition to dance performances and concerts, an international academic conference titled "Solo in contemporary dance" is also being held this weekend within the framework of the iDANS festival. Tickets for the festival, which runs until Oct. 20, can be purchased at the Garajistanbul box office and at

Musa İğrek, İstanbul
Today's Zaman