The Society of Folk Dance Historians (SFDH)
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Information: Ercüment Kılıç, teacher of Turkish dances.
Ercüment was born in Ankara, Turkey, to parents of Turkish-Azerbaijani background from the village of Iğdir, a town on the skirts of Mt. Ararat, near Kars. He comes from a large family of dancers and musicians. There he spent his summers with the grandparents and relatives of both sides of his parents families. At the age of four, he began dancing with his uncle, Selahattin Kılıç, one of the foremost authorities on Azerbaijani dance who had organized the first Azerbaizani-Turkish group and directed a number of others. This uncle started training Ercüment when he was four years old and soon Ercüment became a demonstrator performing at various functions, specially weddings and circumcisions which are the largest events in Moslem life. By the age of nine Ercüment had his own group. He inherited his musical talent from his father who was an outstanding accordionist. In addition, Ercüment spent his summers in Iğdir, better known as the town of one thousand and one weddings. There, everyone danced, including Ercüment.
Ercüment continued performing during his secondary and high school years; the high school group, of which he was a member, won second place in an annual all-Turkish high school competition.
Ercüment had early education and training in music (he played the accordion) and dance, was a member of the Turkish Folklore Ensemble of Ankara in 1976, and was a member of the Turkish National Ensemble. He came to the United States in 1977 to obtain a degree in engineering. Taking up residence in Texas, he graduateed from The University of Texas at Austin with a degree in Economics. He was invited for seminars and lectures during his university years to all fifty states of the U.S., and to Canada, England, Germany, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Japan. He has performed more than 100 times throughout the United States and formed a local performance group.
Through personal lectures, as well as numerous television and radio programs, he has promoted Turkish culture and discussed Turkish politics around the world. With his orchestra, he has also produced a number of musical recordings that have been made available to musicologists in many countries. He is known worldwide for his contributions to the promotion of Turkish culture and has written various cultural articles that have been published in a number of languages.
Ercüment was a long-time president of the Turkish association TURANT. He initiated many grassroots activities and projects that were later adopted by other Turkish-American organizations around the country. Among these activities was the participation of local Turkish Americans in PBS TV programs; Meals on Wheels type projects, such as Turkish Angels; and the foundation of Turkish Women's Leagues for the Republican and Democratic Parties in Dallas, Texas.
He also was instrumental in securing additional Congressional members to the then newly founded Turkish Caucus in the US Congress. He worked as a volunteer in the election campaigns of various American politicians and, in 1990, organized a fact-finding mission trip to Azerbaijan and Crimea during extremely turbulent times in the region for former Congressman Jim Moody of Wisconsin, the first American Congressman to visit Azerbaijan.
In 2002, Ercüment moved to Washington, D.C. to assume the post of president of the Assembly of Turkish American Associations (ATAA) and has subsequently initiated various new programs for the Turkish-American community of 300,000, such as internships at the US Congress for Turkish-American students and a national voter registration drive for Turkish-Americans.
Ercüment teaches Azerbaijni-Turkish line and couple dances and a selection of Turkish dances from central Anatolia and the Black Sea area. In addition to his teaching, Ercüment can include a performance in native costume, live music for dancing, a folk dance corner, instruction on men's and women's costumes, and song singing for weekend workshops.
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