Kick-off for regional dance network during Arab Dance Platform

May 2009 -

"In the Arab region, attention for contemporary dance has rapidly grown in recent years," explains Omar Rajeb, director of the BIPOD international dance festival held in Beirut for the fifth time in 2009. "So my goal is to set up a network with choreographers and dancers from that region in order to stimulate artistic cooperation and knowledge sharing."


Arnica 9CH by Maud Liardon at BIPOD. Photo: Isabelle Meister

The first Arab Dance Platform, a four-day event that was part of this year’s BIPOD, was the kick-off for that network. More than one hundred international guests came to Beirut to see over twenty dance performances from North Africa and the Middle East. The quality varied from performances on the level of technical exercises to ones that combined dance-technical perfection with a strong personal artistic language. An example of the latter was Quelqu'un va danser by Radhouane El Meddeb from Tunisia.

Discussions during the morning panel sessions clearly showed how the possibilities for contemporary dance vary in terms of training and presentation. Usually there is no support from the local government. "Nevertheless, various alternative locations for dance have been established in recent years, and the general public is interested in new developments," commented Egyptian dancer and choreographer Karima Mansour. She is optimistic about developments in the area of culture, and believes that culture, political context and social developments are firmly linked. "That fact that I, a woman, dance is a political statement in itself."

Noura Murad, a Syrian choreographer, is critical of European culture funding. "Support from Western institutions is often linked to a political agenda. But why are we so focused on Europe? Why aren't we trying to concentrate on our own identity and cultural wealth?" The establishment of a network of dancers and choreographers from the region is a first, important step in that direction.

The first Arab Dance Platform took place in Beirut, 23 - 26 April 2009. It was supported by among others DOEN Foundation, the Danish Center for Culture and Development (DCCD), Pro Helvetia and the Norwegian Embassy in Beirut.