Celebrating Magnificence: Murat Demirtas – Teacher, Coach & Cookie King
Murat comes across with an unassuming, almost humble, old-world air when you first meet him. Then you discover he’s actually outrageous, earnest… and a remarkably self-confident, fun-loving professional devoted to people’s fitness and self-esteem! This unusual combination of qualities allows him to cultivate his students’ and clients’ confidence – whether he’s teaching Turkish bellydance, Pilates, foam roller or he’s coaching personal fitness. He’s comfortable in his skin, and people simply look and feel their best when working with Murat. We celebrate his multi-faceted contributions to Still & Moving Center and his enthusiastic boost of camaraderie to the Honolulu bellydance community.
We applaud Murat for recently bringing his mentor, the internationally acclaimed dance teacher and Pilates instructor Roxy Menzies, to Still & Moving for 10 days of workshops and private bodywork. Murat has also served as a choreographer for Still & Moving upon request for private parties, and has now added personal fitness coaching and private bellydance to his offerings here.
Murat and his dance students appeared on Ala Moana Mall’s Center Stage this Spring in front of three stories of onlooking shoppers. Performing bellydance to slow-paced Korean music, Murat sought to break through typical stereotypes about bellydance with this message: You don’t have to shake and shimmy all the time, you can just DANCE. Not using traditional mid-eastern music, he bridged two cultures while emphasizing the quality of the dance itself.
At our 7 Year Re-Birthday Celebration in March, Murat with his bellydancers and Kumu Malia with her hula dancers joined artistic talents in a single musical piece! Murat sought to demonstrate his respect for the dance tradition of the native culture, as the two groups took turns dancing to the same Hawaiian song.
When the Middle East Dance Association of Hawaii (MEDAH) put on their Hafla this Spring with many bellydance teachers and their students performing, Murat was there cheering everyone on, with enthusiastic support for all.
When I asked Murat how he learned to bellydance, his learning seems to have been completely organic, as if through osmosis. His mother and especially his aunt were beautiful bellydancers in Turkey where he was born and raised. He loved watching them dance, and even though he did not actually dance with them, when the need arose later in life – as you shall read – he knew instinctively how to perform and teach bellydance.
For those not graced with learning bellydance through their mother’s milk, so to speak, Murat gives a systematic presentation of the basic elements of Turkish bellydance in his classes, assigning numbers to the various moves, so that students can progress as if in a school course. As of this year, Murat is in fact offering three levels of instruction: Turkish Bellydance for Beginners, for Fitness, and for Performers. His dream is to eventually offer instruction online to reach his students back in Turkey, as well as many others. He hopes to eventually offer international teacher training.
Few people here, perhaps, know Murat’s unique life story in Turkey. As a child and through college, Murat did gymnastics. People became so impressed by his gymnast physique, they eventually convinced him to start show dancing – not bellydance – to DJ music at the biggest, poshest nightclub in Istanbul when he was 20 years old. Soon he was dancing with European dance teams.
A high-end fitness studio in Istanbul then hired Murat to teach his own style of nightclub show dancing. Between his teaching and his performances, Murat became so popular he was featured on a magazine cover. He meanwhile became a personal trainer.
Up until that time, Murat still had never publicly bellydanced. One day, a well-known bellydance teacher at the sports club was suddenly absent and management begged Murat to sub for her. Suffice it to say that he was such a big hit with the students, they insisted that the club add Murat as a regular bellydance teacher.
Backtracking to another couple threads of Murat’s life story, we find that this guy has a bright mind to go with a beautiful body! About the same time he began show dancing in the nightclub, Murat also entered law school in Istanbul, which he successfully completed, and then passed his bar exam. Once he became national news as a dancer, the conservative Turkish bar said he had to either stop doing dance shows or stop being a lawyer. Murat is not one to be thwarted. He simply went underground with his dancing: no interviews, no videos, no social media postings.
As a lawyer, Murat specialized in branding and franchising, eventually deciding he needed his own brand. On vacation, Murat ate his first fortune cookie in San Francisco Chinatown – it was a completely new experience for him. So he opened a fortune cookie factory when he returned home, the first in Turkey, first in Middle East. He used the name he had already well branded for himself dancing, so everyone ordered cookies from him. He made a fortune with his fortune cookies, then sold the company.
Murat came to Hawaii in 2016. I recognized a talented teacher as soon as I met him at one of our Sunday Satsangs, and hired him instantly. He’s been a valued member of our faculty and community ever since, unsurprised by his classes’ ever-growing popularity. We love this guy!