Ömer Faruk Erdemsel

Bursa Teachers Academy 1924

Murat Erdemsel.

Istanbul, 1982

Music, then art, then dance...

Beginning with Murat’s very first presentation on “modern art and music” given at Pera Palace’s Agatha Christy Hall for Young Presidents Organization (YPO) 1997, he has continued his interest in collecting and harvesting ideas on finding ways to connect fine arts with music. While still a young student at the academy of fine arts, he began teaching drawing classes at his small atelier. During that same year in 1997, and completely unforeseen to him, an interest in dance opened up new doors that reinforced and expanded his fascination with combining the languages of art and music. Since then Murat has been traveling and searching for new and creative ways to communicate his passion of music, dance and visual art through lectures and workshops. Following are some of his discoveries as an educator. This page will illustrate some of his findings as an educator.


”Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime” - author unknown

While traveling and teaching at numerous festivals worldwide, he meets hundreds of students over the course of just a weekend whom he is passionate about trying to help and inspire. From a student’s perspective at these events, there are often many lessons to be had from many different teachers, and the students sometimes receive a lesson without actually understanding the knowledge behind it. This simple idea inspired me to create a system for dancers who are capable of self regulating their learning experience. Let’s assume 5 irreducible components to the practice of dancing tango. Ingredients that bring everything together without missing anything important, These aspects are:


“I and my partner, listen to the music  and  move with our friends around us”

These aspects (in no order of importance) are the support columns of a bridge of information whereby. weakness in any column will create an imbalance in the overall structure or the traffic of learning, and the performing of the dance. Understanding and remembering these 5 Aspects can guide us in regulating and increasing our awareness during learning, dancing and demonstrating and can extend to organizing events and designing festival programs. They may even have application in our everyday lives.   >READ MORE...

  YVES-PIERRE SENN. Geneva Switzerland;

“For dancers, one of the greatest advantages of the 5-aspect view is probably that it enables us to maintain a balance between the different directions or specializations that we might otherwise get "stuck" in, during our learning process. It provides a framework for self-correcting and improving our dance, not only the "steps" (Which are just really one of the 5 aspects), but also in its other dimensions. It also provides a structure for meaningfulness, without which most of what we do loses a lot of interest. And finally, it serves also as a way to estimate and analyze performances and teachers; a way to distinguish between the simply amazing and the truly great. For teachers, I can imagine that this view enables us to "steer" the progress of students in a balanced way, making sure all aspects are covered, but without putting too much emphasis on any one of them. This view can also be used in other areas of performing; as in DJ-ing for tango events; this 5-aspects view is then very useful in understanding the various influences on an evening's unfolding, and the errors to avoid.”

Yves-Pierre Senn’s application of 5 aspects from his Tango DJing lecture;


Upon arriving at a Sunday morning tango workshop in December 2010, Michael shared his surfing experience inspired by the “5 aspects in dance” workshop from the previous day.

“Just after the workshop, I caught a beautiful wave at Kanaha Beach Park and rode it all the way across the reef...

1- Myself; my posture, attitude, presence as a surfer.
2- My partner; my partner is the wave. When I surf, I "dance" with the wave, and generally speaking, the wave leads.
3- The music; for surfing this would be the specific conditions of the tide, the swell, the wind, the time of day, etc. and the unique qualities of each wave.
4- The steps/figures of the dance; very similar in surfing, since there are a wide variety of moves we use to interact with the wave. Take-off, bottom turn, trimming, cutback, tube-riding, nose-riding, are just a few. Every surfer knows what these are, and has his or her favorites.
5- The community; this would be the community of surfers in the water with me on any given day. By the way, like any good tango leader, a wave also has a shoulder, and the moment-to-moment behavior of the shoulder of the wave is one of the key signals that tells a surfer how to dance with the wave.

For me the extraordinary thing about that wave was how the shoulder kept opening and opening, inviting me to go forward.”


The story of Kiki and Bouba started from a psychological experiment, first conducted over 80 years ago by German researcher named  Wolfgang Köhler. He showed his subjects the pictures of two simple doodles – a star-shaped, angular contour and – a rounded, amoeba-like shape and then asked, which of the two words from “this Martian language” corresponded to each shape.Since that time the Köhler experiment has been repeated in numerous variations. It has been It has been performed with sample groups of people from many different languages and cultures, and with children of all different ages… It turns out that the words “Kiki” and “Bouba” have invariant meanings for virtually all of us. As you might guess, Kiki is the sharp-angled star-shape, and Bouba is the yin-yang-like rounded shape!

The human brain can easily extract abstract properties from shapes, colors and sounds and is also able to link them together.  While there is a very wide range of possibilities that we can imagine KIKI and BOUBA correspond to, in tango music, I feel they correspond well to two terms we are already familiar with; “staccato” and “legato”. Since we all seem to have an instinctive, fundamental understanding of Kiki and Bouba in music, why not bringing this in to our tango vocabulary by choosing simple physical gestures both in the embrace and in our footwork? Tango music offers a good balance of rhythmic and melodic elements. Even though there are no drums in tango, and most of the instruments being melodic instruments except piano, they are capable of executing both Kiki and bouba expressions. 

                        > READ MORE at “riowang.blogspot” where the article is translated to Spanish, Italian, Russian and Hungarian.


It’s true that our perception shapes our reality. Seeing, hearing and feeling only take on meaning when our brain correlates them to previous experiences. In other words, we actually “learn” to see, “learn” to hear, and of course each in our own way. With this premise, we must then accept that, we each bring our own unique interpretation to understanding, in this case, the music and the dance. This can be enriching. Everything we do is unique as how unique each of us. But also can take us away from seeing and hearing what the artist saw or heard executing his art. It is unavoidable that, very often it is simply “us” distracting our selves from learning some of the “must learned absolutes” Many of us dancers, do not have the chance of observing the music as it is during dancing. Some because of blindly practicing old fashion teachings, some being preoccupied with unrelated subjects and some being not present at all.

Murat Erdemsel lecturing Catania University Physiology Department on subject. Italy 2013

photo, Giannicola Lanzafame

CIRCLES OF “why? how? what?” IN DANCE

There is a commonly followed order of learning dancing. It is in fact similar to learning any other language. Students tend to want to first learn the WHATs of the dance which are the  “steps” in dance and correlate to the “words” in language. Later, if their interest continues, they learn the HOWs, which is the “technique” in dance and “grammar” in language. Finally, much later they learn the WHYs. In language, this is where one experiences writing freely without being limited by any lack of skills in communicating. In tango dancing this translates to being able to improvise in such an effortless way that “you do it without doing it”. This process reflects a fairly common to approach to new learning situations, which is analogous to the way one would peel an onion from the outside in. 

Many tango educators are people who answered the questions; “Why do I dance?”, “Why do I do what I do?” These are people who have discovered the heart of it in their own unique way and have been able to create their own way of looking at the entire experience of dancing from there. A curious shift happens when this occurs. Dancers comprehending the whole from inside out will first create their philosophy of dancing (WHY), then choose methods and techniques (HOW) from it, to finally be able to choose the specific vocabulary (WHAT) which truly reflects the beginning philosophy in the end. Why do we need to work so hard to reach the WHY to come back out, and why does the direction of learning shift from outside in to inside out at that moment of discovery?

Is this what it means to finally be a teacher after being a student? Is there such place that exists where you can turn back to say “I got it!” Most importantly, is there a way of inviting our students to the center (WHY) so they can build their dance from there without possibly getting lost.

photo, Yuriy Dybskiy                                                                                 photo, Jani Keinanen


One of the reasons why music is challenging for many of us to grasp is that physiologically our brain processes sound at a much slower rate than vision, e.g. Music takes place in real time and as we listen, our brain is decoding. A song can take up to 3 or 4 minutes to listen to, and most of the time, we will have to listen several times to a song we've never heard before to be able to comprehend it's entire structure.

  Seeing is believing. What about hearing? Is it also? Indeed, it's not fair to compare one sense with another. Our senses operate and serve us in very different ways. Even though our brain processes scents more slowly than some of our other senses, a particular scent can still evoke a strong emotional reaction. The lingering smell of something we remember from our childhood can sometimes evoke new associations and meaning  in our present day life.  On the other hand, as shown in the image, we process vision with impressive speed, which comes in very handy for survival. We use sight for balance and guidance during all our waking hours. Can we use vision as a tool to help clarify nebulous subjects, such as understanding music?  I have found it to be so.


Visualization of a tango song Poema. Inspired by Francisco Canaro song.

  Every piece of tango music, regardless sung or purely instrumental, contains a structure which it’s components are placed in a well organized composition. Known as “form”, this aspect of music allows us to hear the music in sections. Musicians create their compositions by arranging these sections which we tango dancers get to organize our dance in each of these sections. Just like every story is made of chapters, each chapter made of paragraphs, then sentences and so on, every piece of tango music is made with in this similar fashion. Singer sings his part in certain sections, bandoneon or violin play solo and most likely the head of the orchestra will play the short bridges to tie sections to the upcoming ones. Having said that, it is not very difficult to actually visualize the entire song made of these sections. As you can see in the images below, a map like template of a tango piece can be designed.  During the lectures, students are invited to do simple drawings on these templates with a goal of identifying which sections in the composition of the song they hear are legato or staccato. Also to identify which instruments play in the particular moment in music. Exercise gets repeated a few times and each time attendees exchange their papers with others to review the way their neighbors heard the music.


Visit the website for the music paintings.


My desire to find an effective way to explain the structure of tango music during lectures by utilizing visual images has given birth to a series of acrylic paintings. These are painted on 60 inch wide, panoramic scale canvases and represent some of the classic tango songs from the 1930s. By projecting polar coordinated version of the paintings onto the dance floor and dancing within the images to the music they portray, the viewer is invited to experience the trinity of fine art, dance and music in a performance setting.

photo, MicMac       photo, Giannicola Lanzafame


  Why is our timing often uneven when we do tuns in tango? A dancer may ask herself “why can’t I always step evenly in time while turning?” Answer: Because you have two legs and one will always be in the way of the other. One can wish, she had a single leg with a rolling ball attached to it, so that she could move perfectly smoothly or she had 40 caterpillar legs that allowed for continuous motion.
We only have two legs, and they can not go through each other. They need to travel from either side of the standing leg. During molinete (tango turn), in relation to her partner, the follower’s traveling foot will either pass inside or outside the partnership. While the placement of the traveling feet remain the same, their route will be shorter or longer. The side and back steps will have longer routes and will naturally accelerate the two following steps, namely side and forward, which will travel on shorter routes, side and forward steps. This is a natural way for dancers to turn around each other. As a follower, ignoring this simple fact and trying hard to equalize the timing of these turning steps will only cause discomfort. This rule of irregularity should be accepted as natural for more comfortable results. See the image below.



This is the most recent version of the lecture. It has most recently been presented in Stuttgart and  Dresden in Germany, Cambridge in UK and Tarbes, La Frayssinette and Toulouse in France. And in the States, San Francisco Tango Marathon.


As a child, Murat was curious but also stubborn. He was raised as the second son of two teachers. His father taught photography at the Academy of Fine Arts. His mother traveled nationally to teach arts and crafts for art institutes and also appeared on arts and crafts programs on TV. His grandfather, (pictured on the left) was yet another teacher in the family where the principle; “Learn, so you can teach” was fundamental.

ed·uc·a·tor (ɛdjʊˌkeɪtə)  -noun