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Korhan Basaran and The Artists

'This is Not a Hamburger'

by Cecly Placenti

September 25, 2012 -- Ailey Citigroup Theatre, New York, NY

What do an evangelizing homeless man, a fallen angel, pigeons, high-heeled fashionistas, annoyed subway travelers, and self-important super-heros have in common? In Korhan Basaran’s “This is Not a Hamburger,” they come together to paint a humorous yet poignant picture of New York City life. Seemingly fascinated with the day to day aspects of NYC living- the energy, contradictions, people- Basaran translates his observations into an evening length piece that matches the fierce, demanding pace of New York City.

What started out as humorous and silly- a collage of many of NYC’s idiosyncratic stereotypes- soon turned serious as Basaran made comment on what can be seen as a society’s fall from grace. With quirky, almost animal like gestures, Mr. Basaran’s dancers performed short vignettes illuminating the sometime absurdity and self-involvement of life in this big city. Dancers pushing and shoving to occupy one small patch of stage space, jostling rudely for room on the subway, gossiping on cell phones, connecting in quick and superficial sexual encounters before bustling along, caught up in their own business, had the audience laughing loudly at what we at once recognized as true and silly. Each small section wove together seamlessly with the next, and scaffolded on the ones before it, leaving impressions that deepened slowly yet significantly. Basaran deconstructed and re-constructed his observations to paint a multi-faceted image of New York. No comment was superficial or one sided. By layering the vignettes in this way, Basaran made manifest the complexity of societal norms.

Mr. Basaran’s preferred movement style is quite quirky and weighted, and reads as something that can’t necessarily be taught, but rather that each individual dancer must find within him or herself. All 7 of his dancers commanded their gestures perfectly, creating a feel both unified and easily understood, yet maintained their individual characteristics and sigified a kinetic intelligence much needed for the type of work Mr. Basaran produces. His work is witty and thought provoking, layered and intelligent, funny and deeply touching.

The turning point of the piece came as each dancer, pushing his way to center stage, called out things such as “I’m a New Yorker therefore I hate Times Square!” One after the other dancers screamed out clichés associated with being a New Yorker. As this vocal orchestra built to a crescendo, all 7 dancers screamed out in unison “I am Amazing!” before falling down ‘dead.’ Mr. Basaran reappeared as the fallen angel from the opening of the piece, and called these lost New Yorkers back to life. Each in turn performed solos or short duets as if being born and finding their legs for the first time. Shaking, unsteady, searching, each dancer came into his own and then exited the stage, leaving Basaran, with his larger than life physique that stands over 6 feet tall, to captivate with his bird-like gestures, liquid torso, air grazing limbs. As his solo built and grew, frenetic and searching, feathers from his back and head flying around him, he appeared a frantic and desperate bird trying to take off and separate himself from the earth, elevate himself and his spirit beyond the superficiality that came before. Finally Basaran climbed above the stage on a panel of silk that descended from the sky. Twisting and twining himself to swing suspended above the earth, he was quiet, contemplative, weary, but in my opinion, hopeful.

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