FETHİYE, Muğla - The fifth Culture Festival in Fethiye staged a usual folklore dance performance from an unusual group. Formed by a group of English expatriates in the town, the Ölüdeniz Folklore Group delivered a Zeybek perfomance and was hailed with a standing ovation by the audience

In a unique example of expat integration into Turkish culture, a group of English residents of Fethiye formed a folkloric dance group to perform the traditional Aegean Zeybek in a local festival last weekend.

Wearing local costumes at the fifth edition of the Culture Festival, which is organized by the Fethiye Municipality, the English men and women danced to the famous Turkish folkloric songs "Kara Üzüm Habbesi," "Zeybek" and "Hadi Gari Sende Gel," which were sung by Englishman David Groom. At the end of their show, they were hailed by a standing ovation from the Turkish audience.

The unlikely band of Zeybek performers was founded three years ago by Coşkun Karabulut, the head of the Ölüdeniz Municipality Art Branch. Members David Groom, Stuart Arthur James, Pat Temiz, Vanessa McKalfe, Genny Levington and Shirley Vaughan are all retired English people living in the Ölüdeniz area of Fethiye.

Turkish culture

Their motivation was to learn Turkish culture better, one member declared. "We have been living here for a long time, and we wanted to learn Turkish culture better," said Temiz, the leader of the Ölüdeniz Folklore Group. "There is not a folkloric dance culture in England, but that was something we saw here and loved very much."

Temiz said that there were many other expatriates trying to learn about folkloric dances in Turkey, and that the Ölüdeniz group aims to provide more than a cultural contribution. "We want to perform shows to contribute to Fethiye economically," Temiz said.

Fethiye Mayor Behçet Saatcı, who attended the performance at the festival last weekend, praised the group, saying the municipality will continue to support them.

The Ölüdeniz Folklore Group will continue to represent Turkish culture abroad over the next few months, as they are already booked to perform in a couple of festivals in different countries, including England.

Halay in the church yard

Though the halay, a Turkish folkloric dance, can be seen in many places, it is not usually performed in churches. But a group of Christians living in the İskenderun district of Hatay welcomed the coming of spring by performing the halay in the yard of St. George Church. "We have celebrated the coming of spring that way since the 1950s," said Corc Boğazoğlu, the chairman of the Orthodox Church Foundation. "It is a symbol of unity."