Tanju Tuzer, founder of Tuzer Ballet in Richardson, died on Saturday. He was 73. For more than 30 years, Tuzer Dance School has trained many of North Texas’ professional dancers.
The company issued a release:
“As a man, he was a craftsman, an adventurer, an avid fisherman, a gardener, a bee keeper, and a lover of the human spirit. As an artistic director and a teacher, he was the maestro, a brilliant oracle of dance who had a passion for connecting the body to the soul while teaching the art form to his students, whom he loved dearly.”
He was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2014.
“It surprised me, because I truly treasure my health, because my profession, dancing, is very physical” he told Art&Seek’s Jerome Weeks at the time. “So to get most out of my body I have to be top shape all the time.”
He was defiant when Jerome interviewed him: “One way or another, cancer will die. If I survive, cancer is done. Or we go together,” he says with a laugh.
More from Jerome’s 2014 piece on Tuzer:
Born in Turkey, he received classical training at the Royal Ballet in London. He’s danced in Germany, France and in New York City with the Harkness Ballet. It was there he met Patricia, a fellow dancer, who became his wife. Amid all their touring, the couple wanted a family.
“We got tired of the stage life,” he says, “that demanded performances every night. You don’t really have a balanced life.”
So they moved to North Texas, where Patricia is from. (They now have two grown daughters.) In 1977, the Tuzers opened what may be their greatest influence on the area — the Tuzer Dance School. They established it in the first purpose-built dance center in the Southwest, a 6,000-square-foot studio with a true, old-fashioned dance floor, built on five layers of wood to give it the right response.
Over the years, the Tuzers have trained many of North Texas’ professional dancers. Kimi Nikaido is the acting artistic director of the Bruce Wood Dance Company. She took classes from Tuzer on and off for ten years – starting when she was only eight.
“Oh, we were all really scared of him,” she recalls with a laugh. “I think I felt all at once terrified and exhilarated by his presence in the room. And that was motivating for me.”
Tuzer brought Old World traditions and discipline to the dance studio. “I was firm believer of that: strict discipline and work, work, repeat. But that’s what I did to myself. I’m milder now and more accepting. But I don’t regret anything.”
The company hopes to establish a foundation in Tanju Tuzer’s name; for those who wish to contribute to the company, here’s the link.