Friday, 7 June 2013

Dancing at the Bakirkoy Mental Hospital

When my friend Cabbar invited me to come to the annual party at Turkey's largest and most famous psychiatric hospital, I wasn't sure if I would go.  Cabbar is a musician who had been invited to come and play music with his group for the party.  Knowing how much I love to dance, he asked if I wanted to come along.

Always trying to be open to new and potentially uplifting experiences, I decided to accompany this group of young, alternative Turkish musicians to their gig at the mental hospital gardens.
The hospital sent one of their vans to Beyoglu to pick us up, and twenty musicians, jugglers, and myself climbed in along with musical instruments, amplifiers, hula hoops, and red clown noses. The sky was filled with dark ominous rain clouds when we left.  The smell of rain was in the air.

By the time we arrived, the sun was shining.

My musician friends took the stage and set up their equipment as the clowns/jugglers donned their red noses and gay apparel and juggled, hula hooped, and circulated through the throng of patients, visitors, nurses, orderlies, young, old and everything in-between inviting people to join the festivities.

When the music started everyone took seats in front of the stage, sat and listened.  But to my mind, music is made for dancing.  It has always seemed a cosmic wrong not to dance when good music is playing.  And so I began to shake and shimmy, swirl and twirl, inviting people to join me.  Soon the people were on their feet, patients' faces lit up in huge, joyful smiles.  Nurses and patients, orderlies and visitors, clowns and children all dancing together.    

At one point, the musicians broke into a lively, well-known Turkish song.  The patients formed a huge circle, holding onto each other like a long conga line.  A bit out of rhythm.  A bit clumsy.  But one hundred percent joyful they danced around in the sunshine in front of the stage, then broke away to dance with other visitors, clowns, jugglers, and me.

All of us celebrating the music and the moment and life.

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