Ozgen is an internationally acclaimed Turkish dancer, teacher, choreographer and director.
Born in North Cyprus (TRNC), Ozgen’s introduction to dance came during primary school, where he was taught Turkish folk dancing. Quickly getting the dance bug, he practiced weekly and soon joined his local amateur group, which led to performances across the TRNC and in Turkey. Showing natural talent from an early age, he was courted by other local dance groups.
Following a star performance in the Turkish capital Ankara, where school children from all over the world came to perform for 23 April Children’s Day, Ozgen was asked to join a more established folk dance group in the TRNC. It enabled him to travel and perform more regularly in Turkey and although he was far younger than the other dancers, Ozgen continued to stand out.
Art played a prominent part throughout Ozgen’s early life. Both his uncles are painters and encouraged Ozgen to develop his artistic skills. Ozgen’s passions include drawing, photography and poetry, and he was torn on what to pursue when he left high school. While many expected him to enrol in a course to study art or music, in the end he decided to do neither, instead taking up a Media Studies degree at Eastern Mediterranean University (EMU) in Famagusta, TRNC.
Becoming close friends with Mustafa Aslanturk, now an upcoming fashion designer, the two students embarked on various university adventures, including running fashion clubs where Mustafa designed and Ozgen performed. A popular student, Ozgen went on to become President of EMU’s Dance Club, choreographing and performing in various amateur student shows. When he graduated, Ozgen knew he had found his vocation in life.
His then dance partner Esra found an advert from a newly formed Istanbul dance company needing dancers for a new Turkish musical, Hurrem Sultan. With little money and no place to stay, Ozgen travelled to Istanbul to try out at the auditions. Passing the tough first round of auditions, he was put through to a ‘dance boot camp’, where Ozgen’s attitude, as well as his dancing talents, was tested during the second month-long round of auditions.
While training at the boot camp, Ozgen came across a group of more established dancers, which had split off from Turkey’s most commercially successful contemporary dance troupe that had created Anadolu Atesi (Fire of Anatolia) and Sultans of the Dance. The new dance company wanted dancers for their new dance musical, Night of the Sultans. After a gruelling two months of auditions, Ozgen was selected for a role in this hip new dance show. His part led him to study and perform modern ballet and other forms of Turkish classical and modern dance, including Oriental.
After several years dancing in Night of the Sultans, Ozgen turned to Turkish dance legend Tolga Han for further development. As Turkey’s first Latin and modern dance performer, Han introduced Ozgen to many more contemporary and Oriental forms of dance, as well as coaching him through his professional dance teacher training course. Once fully qualified, Ozgen joined Tolga’s dance school full-time, giving lessons to a wide variety of students, including some well-known Turkish singers. His freestyle dance routines and celebrity contacts helped propel Ozgen into the Turkish mainstream – he was asked to choreograph and perform in music videos for Turkish pop stars, as well as appear on popular Turkish TV programmes.
Getting itchy feet, Ozgen felt it was time to try something new and travelled to Europe. He initially visited Holland before settling in the UK. Lacking British contacts, Ozgen didn’t do any dancing during his first year in the UK. He was introduced to Expressions Studios by a friend, where he started to give Oriental dance classes. Soon after, Ozgen was invited to perform at Planet Egypt, an important monthly London belly dance showcase featuring the UK’s leading performers. Having wowed the audience that night, news about this hot new talent quickly spread through the dance scene propelling Ozgen to instant Belly dancing fame.
Specialising in Turkish Oriental and Romany (Gypsy) dance, Ozgen is keen to promote the Turkish form of Belly dancing to global audiences, and to further establish himself as one of the best Oriental performers in the world. He is regularly invited to give workshops in Britain and abroad, and to perform at international dance events and Belly dance festivals across Europe, North and South America, and Asia. Ozgen also offers private tuition to people of all levels, from beginners to professional dancers, as well as choreographing dance routines for events and music videos.