27 June 2010
“Dance and let your heart dance” is the theme under which the Egyptian International Modern Dance Festival is now running every evening in Cairo and Alexandria and until it closes on 5 July.
The opening ceremony began on 16 June with a speech by Walid Aouni, the founder and director of the Egyptian Modern Dance Company, and the person who pioneered modern dance theatre in Egypt. Mr Aouni reviewed the history of the festival throughout the past ten years, pointing out that it is the first of its kind in Egypt and the Middle East. Along these years, he said, the festival attracted 52 international groups of modern dance-theatre. The 20th century, he explained, saw the flourishing of all kinds of theatre and dance—especially the experimental. “But it was left to the dance theatre to utilise all the body’s capabilities to express itself.”
The first modern dance group was established in Egypt in 1993 at the Cairo Opera House, Mr Aouni reminded. And when the first international dance festival was launched in 1999, it was heavily influenced by the experimental theatre festival that had been launched in 1988.
“Because of the rapid global leap in body language,” Mr Aouni said, “this year’s festival is exceptional, compared to previous ones, since the young performers have become more skilled at discovering the capabilities of their bodies and using them as instruments for expression. And hence the motto of the festival, which invites everyone to recognise their potential to stimulate their inner energy. “Music has the capacity to link the energies, the cosmic and the human” Mr Aouni noted.
The Women of Qassem Amin by the Modern Dance Company, choreographed and directed by Walid Aouni, opened the shows. Nine girls fight against the black shapes representing their body veils as they slowly free their shadows. Suddenly they appear, surrounded by men, showing a coloured and hidden reality. Through this work, Aouni took the way of Amin, the revolutionary feminist at the beginning of 20th century who called upon women—and the entire Egyptian community—to discard the then prevalent face veil and home-bound existence, and emerge into the fullness of life as partners equal to men.
The opening ceremony saw the honouring of a number of figures who contributed towards enriching the modern dance movement in Egypt. Among them were Ahmed Gomaa, the previous dean of the Ballet Institute, theatre critic Kariman Harak, conductor Sherif Mohieddin, and the playwright Fathiya al-Assal. Cultural Minister Farouq Hosni gave the honourees shields which carried the depiction of the Pharaonic “Ka”, the “soul”.
This year’s festival witnesses the participation of ten countries from three continents, including Chad, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, Sudan, Switzerland, Tunisia, Turkey, and the United States of America. They are presenting 25 performances, 15 of which are Egyptian shows including Adrenaline and The Black Balloon. France is presenting Second Souffle, Tunisia Chutt-Houma, Germany Cruel and Tender, Switzerland Florescencia, Greece Society Says, and Turkey Nigar.
On the sideline of the festival, a number of films of the greatest dances are being screened at the Cairo Opera House’s Creativity Centre. A photography exhibition is held at the art gallery of Gomhouriya theatre, showing 57 dance photographs by the Egyptian photographers Sherif Sonbol, Mohamed Mosaad, Bassam al-Zoghby and Khaled Farid. A number of choreographers are also conducting in workshops on the latest trends in the dance.
This year the festival administration has decided to grant an appreciation certificate for the best first-time performance, to be awarded during the closing ceremony.