Sunday,17 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1169, (24 - 30 October 2013)
Sunday,17 December, 2017
Issue 1169, (24 - 30 October 2013)

Ahram Weekly

Abstract

Cairo hosts dance nights again, Amira El-Naqeeb writes

Al-Ahram Weekly

Last month the Falaki Theatre in downtown Cairo hosted the Contemporary Dance Night (CDN) 2013. The event is the brainchild of dancer and choreographer Ezzat Ismail, who shared with the audience the fact that it was an uphill struggle for this event to see the light. This independent yearly event started in 2011. 

There was a warm and fuzzy atmosphere in the theatre even before the show began. It reflected how the Egyptian audience was thirsty for these cultural nights in Cairo, especially after the extension of curfew hours. The theatre was packed; the crowd was mostly young and eclectic.

The event encompassed three performances and one video. The first, called Encounter, was by Raafat Al-Baioumi, who is a dancer and has a BA in theatre. The show started with someone playing the flute in the dimly lit background, a girl standing next to him, who seems to be the vocalist but doesn’t say anything for maybe half the 15-20min show. Then we see the performer doing some choreographed moves that indicate suffering, though it is hard to say exactly what. Then another dancer appears, mimicking the main dancer exactly as if the latter is dancing in front of a mirror. At the end we see the main character separating from his shadow, leaving him to suffer alone, and holding a lantern with which he walks away. The whole show had an eery ambiance, without getting bogged down in intricate details — it reflected suffering and torment.

Al-Baioumi commented on his show saying that he wants to reflect the struggle and the conflict that goes on within the self, “There is an area inside each one of us like the black box; if you try opening it, it leads to pain and suffering. That is why at the end I was trying to go away, and find a new path.”

Circuit by choreographer Dalia Al-Abd was a four-minute solo dance by Mohamed Yousri (Shika). The performance showed the mastery of the dancer in controlling his body, but the show was cryptic and difficult to understand. Al-Abd said that Circuit is a work in progress that might or might not evolve: “I wanted to use the idea of circular motions as a personal ritual.” The idea came to her that everything orbits around itself, the earth around its axis, the sun around the earth, Muslims around the Kaaba, etc. There is a special energy to that.

Asked whether she thinks dancing should always deliver a message, Al-Abd said that this is not necessarily the case, though it must convey a state, or an emotion. Al-Baioumi agreed, saying that dancing is like a language or a tool, the artist can use it the way she likes, and the recipient is free to interpret it likewise.

Although the synopsis and the idea of Ezzat Ismail’s video-dance Forgotten Nature seemed interesting, the video was disappointing. He started by asking all the important questions: why are we here? what is our role on Earth? why here and not there? Then the video opened with music in the background and a still picture of a park. It is at this point that Ismail appears, moving between the bushes, followed by two or three of him in the same scene doing different moves. He moves like marionette, then the video ends, leaving us baffled with a lot of question marks.

Ismail had a reason for appearing as more than one person in the video. “Because this is me, I’m so many people. I think a person plays so many roles in his life, till he forgets who he really is.”

GEB, which was the most controversial show in the evening, is directed by the Egyptian Contemporary artist Hazem Haider. The performance is the second part of the Nut Trilogy. It tackles a subject hardly ever approached: “all that is feminine” in the Egyptian society. The artist says his research revealed to him that throughout the centuries Egypt has shifted from being a matriarchal to a patriarchal society. “At the time of the Pharaohs, women were the dominant and the most important element in society. That is why in my show the ratio between women and men is 8:6.”

The performance was intense and highly charged. The music in the background was close to trance music, and the tension kept escalating, to match the physical engagement between the dancers, which at times looked almost like a fight. The 14 dancers were all dressed in suits, and they were revolving around each other, falling to the ground, and then standing again, in what looked like a survival of the fittest struggle. Then there was a part in which all the dancers performed a high and intense heart beat, where you can see the chest throbbing, like drum beats. Although there were gaps of monotony and dullness in the show, because of repetition, the dancers, especially the men, showed a mastery of performance.

Ismail, who also participated as a dancer in the group, has an exuberant stage presence. He excelled and stood out among his fellow dancers with his smooth movements and skillful control over his muscles.

The celebration mode dominated the theatre again when the lights came back on, with a wave of cheering and applause. It felt more like a welcome for the return of this genre of art than appreciation for the show itself. “Thanks and congratulations, we need more of these events, because dancing is always trapped between the haram [religiously forbidden], and the eib [morally wrong]. It’s a cultural taboo,” one audience member was saying.

 

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