Cut stress with "Med-ercize" .hurriyet2008-detailbox-newslink { font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size:13px; font-weight:bold; text-decoration:none; color:#000000;} .hurriyet2008-detailbox-newslink:hover { font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size:13px; font-weight:bold; text-decoration:underline; color:#990000;} ISTANBUL - A group of Turks performing a traditional Greek dance for an audience in Italy. Sound absurd? Well, just call it stress relief Mediterranean style.

There are plenty of books that describe various techniques to relieve stress, but using the traditional Greek dance of Sirtaki may be unique to the employees of this Turkish bank.

The Sirtaki dance, an important part of Greek culture, features all aspects of life in its movements. It has become quite popular of late, some attend dance courses to learn and others form small groups from their own social circles and take private lessons.

Melancholy, desperation and a dawdling soul, one side to the dance, meets bravado and a challenging life on the other. Dancers recover quickly, shout battle cries and wage war on difficulties by thumping their knees on the ground.

Employees at the Yapı Kredi Bank have a 13-member team that meets every Wednesday after work at a training hall in their workplace. They learn the soul and moves of Sirtaki from instructor Leda Aslanbaş, a fellow Yapı Kredi employee.

The team, with its full attention on the economy during work hours and dance in the evenings, has set itself a goal, just as it does with its work. Members of the team said their dreams are big. They want to mark the completion of the course with a dance show, but not an ordinary one. The team plans to put on a show for all the executives of Yapı Kredi, including those from their Italian partner UniCredito.
To top that, they then want to take the show to Italy.

The Sirtaki team consists of people from various departments, including the call center, the credit card department of research and risk analysis, branch services and the division of operational support and commercial credit. Sirtaki is just one of many activities the bank’s employees engage in outside work hours to strengthen team spirit. The company supports many personal development activities in its hobby department, such as sailing, photography, diving and dancing. The instructors are also employees of Yapı Kredi. Leda Altınbaş, who learned Sirtaki through private lessons, said dancing provided a more productive work tempo. "Everybody has an intense tempo in both their private and business lives. Through Sirtaki, we create a space in life and open a new window. Our team spirit, self reliance and our ability to deal with stress grows stronger. We produce together, both at work and with dance," she said. Aslanbaş said the hobby department received a lot of backing from executives.

İlker Bıyık, an instructor of folk dance in the hobby department, said dance courses improved brainpower and movement capabilities. Bıyık said they added the Sirtaki course to the folk dance club because of popular demand. "Dancing teaches you not to think you cannot do something. It completely eliminates the agitation a heavy workload and pressure creates through stress," he said.

Başak Çakır from the Sirtaki team works in risk analysis in the credit card department. Çakır said they had an intense work tempo. "We are here to get relief from stress and empty our heads. I reset everything when I come to the dance class. I recover, by forgetting all the problems in life, with the rhythm of dance and music."

Dilek Ongan, from the department of branch services who has been an employee of Yapı Kredi for 13 years, and mother of a 10-year-old boy, said, "We have found a chance to distance ourselves from problems at the office and at home. We spend two hours concentrating only on dancing. This relaxation also helps me concentrate on my job better."

Sibel Kızıldoğan, from the department of research for credit cards said dancing had changed her perspective on life. "After a nine-hour shift, everybody gets on the bus sleeping on the way home, while we dance here for two hours and leave more energetic." Kızıldoğan said planning the show has doubled her excitement.

Neslihan Özcan, from the call center, said, " I love to dance. Learning a dance from a different culture has been an interesting experience for me. My job is very stressful and dancing relaxes me." Ergül Cirik, from the operational support group, said, "My job is providing coordination between branches. We try to support the center by handling emergencies. We are constantly under stress. Working at a bank requires team spirit anyway. We all yearn for Wednesdays. You start the next day much more relaxed and peaceful.