Published in the July 2002 SAMEDA Papyrus
"A Turkish Delight"
Their melodious voices and smiling faces clearly evince their passion for music and life. Passengers soon become entranced with the magical music. To belly dance to the inspiring, rhythmic music is truly enchanting. To dance becomes amazingly effortless, and thrillingly surreal. The music becomes a window to your soul.
Was this a dream? No - it was one of many recent dance adventures in Turkey. In May, I traveled to Turkey for the first time. During the trip, I took Leyla Jouvana's two-week belly dance workshop in Fethiye. I encountered a country filled with beauty and peace, including gracious, friendly people.
At the workshop, Julie Thompson (a fellow Arab-Esque troupe member) and I were the only Americans. The other 30 dancers were European with experience levels ranging from students to professionals. For many, this was not their first time to the workshop. We discovered why - for $950, the workshop included a high-quality regimen of belly dance and music instruction, all-inclusive accommodations at a 5-Star (Letoonia) Resort, performing, making friends and experiencing the exotic Turkish culture.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Leyla Jouvana, she is a Yugoslavian born dancer with 15 years experience who yields a distinctive graceful style with dynamic shimmies. Her presence exudes happiness and energy. Leyla is famous throughout Europe, having performed in Europe, the Middle East and United States. She has over 3000 students throughout the world and within the last two years, taught workshops at the IAMED Hollywood Festival, with Nourhan Sharif in Boston and Amherst, and at Amaya's "Shake and Bake Festival" in New Mexico. Leyla's husband, Roland, is a musician and the two are on tour throughout the year. Despite their celebrity status, Leyla and Roland are genuine, gracious and warm people who are dedicated to maintaining professional standards in the art of oriental dance. They clearly enjoy the international language of dance and music, and sharing this with others.
At the workshop, we danced everyday for several hours to live music on a stage overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. Leyla taught 26 different types of shimmies, folkloric and oriental dance that included Egyptian, Lebanese, Turkish and African style dance moves. We performed at the resort, met with reporters and featured in Turkish magazines and newspapers.
The accommodations were fantastic - the Letoonia resort spans an expansive portion of Fethiye's coastline, which rests on ancient Telmessos. There are beautiful ancient Lycian temples, rock tombs and necropolis nearby. The exclusive resort has unlimited splendid food and drink buffets. Spa amenities, hamams (Turkish baths) dance classes (yoga, salsa, etc.), water sports, nightly shows and a discotheque are on the premises.
At the resort, and in town, we danced to Turkish music until the early morning hours. It was delightful to share the friendly locals' jubilant love of dance and music. During the workshop, we toured the "12 islands" and swam in Cleopatra's bath on Dockyard Island. Another trip included travel to Turtle Beach and Dalyan - Kounos where we took mud baths, and admired the beautiful countryside and Sea of Marmaris.
In town, we shopped and saw what appeared as an endless supply of Middle Eastern gold, rugs, spices and other Turkish specialties. Vendors negotiate taxi fares to belly dance costumes.
This was definitely a life changing experience. I returned with a refreshed inner peace and intense appreciation for life. My spirit and love of dance was enriched by the Turkish culture, the people and memories of a beautiful, breathtaking adventure. I hope others can have this opportunity, and share the joy. It is truly worth it.