October 30, 2008

Presentation focuses on Turkish Rromany culture

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- An upcoming presentation at Southern Illinois University Carbondale will debunk the myths and spotlight the realities of the Turkish Rroma, the ethnic group frequently but mistakenly called “gypsies.”

Elizabeth Artemis Mourat brings “Please Don’t Call Us Gypsies” to Browne Auditorium (Parkinson Hall Room 124) at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 7. The evening offers an authentic, accurate perspective on the Turkish Rromany culture. With music, poetry, rare videography and dance, Mourat will give insight into the Rromany life.

“Having personally studied with Artemis in the past, I have first-hand knowledge of her passions for Turkish culture, music and dance,” said Teddi L. Thomas. “Nile Breeze Dance Company and Middle Eastern Dance Enthusiasts (an SIUC registered student organization) have brought Artemis to town so that she can share these passions with the Carbondale and SIUC communities.”

Admission is free and open to the public for “Please Don’t Call Us Gypsies.” There’s even a question and answer time planned. It’s also a double sticker U-Card event.

That’s not all though. The following day, at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 8, “An Evening of Middle Eastern Dance” is coming to Furr Auditorium (Pulliam Hall Room 42) on the SIUC campus. Mourat will perform Turkish Rromany/Oriental fusion and pan Rromany fusion skirt dance. The Nile Breeze Dance Company, the Middle Eastern Dance Enthusiasts and other dancers from the region will perform too.

Ticket are $10 in advance for the general public or $8 for students. At the door, admission is $12 per person for the general public or $10 for students. It’s a double sticker U-Card event for SIUC students.

To learn more or purchase advance tickets, look online at www.nilebreezedance.com, call 618/924-7223 or contact any member of the Nile Breeze Dance Company or the Middle Eastern Dance Enthusiasts.

“The weekend starts with Artemis’ exciting multi-media presentation Friday night at Browne Auditorium on the Rromany people of Turkey,” Thomas said. “I am thrilled that, through co-sponsorships from so many generous campus units, this presentation can be provided to the community free of charge. Saturday during the day, Artemis will be teaching workshops on Turkish oriental dance to dancers from around the region. The weekend’s events will culminate in Saturday’s ‘Evening of Middle Eastern Dance’ at Furr Auditorium, which will delight young and old alike with vibrant dance styles originating from Turkey and Egypt.”

Thomas and Sedonia D. Sipes are co-directors of the Nile Breeze Dance Company and faculty co-advisers for the Middle Eastern Dance Enthusiasts. Sipes is an associate professor in the plant biology department while Thomas is student development office administrator with the anthropology department.

Mourat holds a master’s in psychology along with a master’s in social work with specialized studies in cross-cultural awareness. She has studied dance movement therapy and is internationally renowned as a dance instructor, historian and performer. Mourat’s studies haven’t just been in the classroom either. Traveling to 33 countries, she’s extensively researched expressions and customs of the East, women’s issues, ancient history, Asian and Rromany dance, dance ethnology and much more. She has traveled to Greece, Spain, the Czech Republic, Romania, England, France, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia and made 16 field research trips to Turkey.

Mourat has lectured, taught and/or performed at Cornell University, Princeton University, National Public Radio, Voice of America, Rromany Museum of Bruno in the Czech Republic and within 11 countries and 29 states in the U.S. She’s a member of the Society of Folk Dance Historians and is currently writing a book about her research. The goal of her lectures, dance performances and writings is bridging the gap between cultures, helping fight the racism existing against the Rroma and working to gather respect for Middle Eastern dance.

According to Mourat’s promotional materials, the Rroma originated in India and now live all over the world. She said they are a romanticized and misunderstood ethnic group that has withstood numerous attempts to eliminate or enslave them. She’ll present the story of the Rroma via a cultural and historical perspective.

The Nile Breeze Dance Company, Middle Eastern Dance Enthusiasts, Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, College of Liberal Arts, anthropology department, College of Mass Communication and Media Arts, School of Music, foreign languages and literatures department, history department, Women’s Studies, Global Studies in Culture and Power (an international journal) and Museum Consultants and Exhibit Development Firm are providing support for Mourat’s presentations.