A dilapidated neighborhood in the city’s center, Tarlabasi boulevard runs parallel to the Istiklal Prospect, Istanbul’s bustling tourist and shopping artery. In spite of its run-down looks and reputation for widespread crime, Tarlabasi is a multi-layered neighborhood - populated by migrant workers from Anatolia, Roma, African immigrants, transgender sex workers and religious conservatives along with a few remaining original inhabitants Greeks and Armenians. But this diverse social fabric is being torn apart, since in 2011 the Beyoglu municipality began a series of forced evictions - following the government’s plan for urban development and beautification. As a result, many of the current Tarlabasi residents are being “bought out” and ordered to leave, as their homes are demolished to accommodate the construction of upscale residences. Entire building blocks in Tarlabasi have already been sold off to private companies, transforming the streets into ghostly barracks, pending reconstruction. However, many of the neighborhood’s residents, their faces and lifestyles do not fit in with the new, “modern”, mandated look of Tarlabasi.
Last Dance of Tarlabasi is a visual tale of this neighborhood as it struggles to survive the ruthless pace of Istanbul’s urban change. In a Roma wedding - Mukattes, a 17-year old bride who was born and raised in Tarlabasi, is devastated at the prospect of leaving her home and her family behind. “Wipe your tears and dance - the most beautiful girl of Tarlabasi! Soon you will not be here!” – her relatives chant as they pour onto a small alley of the Gypsy quarter in jubilation.