BEIRUT: “It’s difficult to sustain a cultural festival in this country,” observed Maqamat Dance Theatre’s Mia Habis Tuesday evening. At a news conference announcing the 10th BIPOD program, The Beirut International Platform of Dance, Habis and artistic director of Maqamat Omar Rajeh celebrated their achievement in organizing 10 uninterrupted editions of the festival in a country where many long-running annual cultural festivals have been forced to skip at least one year due to security concerns.
Organized by Maqamat, in partnership with Beiteddine Art Festival, the festival of contemporary dance has spent the last decade striving to promote cultural exchange locally while establishing itself as the premier platform for dance in the region.
To mark the festival’s 10th anniversary edition, which will be held on April 10-27, BIPOD will stage 10 performances by 10 companies, choreographed by internationally recognized figures from Norway, Belgium, Lebanon, the United Kingdom, Germany, Morocco, Australia, France, Spain, Japan and Switzerland.
This year’s opening performance, staged on April 10 and 11, will be “Still Current” by the British Russell Maliphant Company. A selection of duos and trios, the program includes award-winning choreographer Maliphant’s best-known works “Two” and “Afterlight (Part One),” integrating elements of contemporary dance, ballet and martial arts with dramatic lighting, costumes and animation.
Maqamat will present the Lebanese debut of their latest production “Hibr” (ink) on April 12 and 13, choreographed by Rajeh in collaboration with Swiss choreographer Marcel Leemann. Together seven dancers, some local, others members of the Marcel Leemann Physical Dance Theater, will explore what happens when words and bodies collide, communicating a story that language is unable to capture.
Award-winning Australian choreographer Shaun Parker will present “Happy as Larry” on April 15, a playful performance exploring the elusive nature of happiness. Set to an electro score and mixing ballet, break dance, roller skating and contemporary dance, the performance centers around nine characters, each of which represents a personality type: The Perfectionist, The Giver, The Performer, The Tragic Romantic, The Observer, The Devil’s Advocate, The Optimist, The Boss and The Mediator.
An experimental performance from Germany-based British choreographer Richard Siegal, “If/Then for Strings” presents a hybrid between live music and contemporary dance. The performance on April 17 will explore where these two art forms intersect and what happens when four musicians in a string quartet are choreographed, their physical gestures driving the composition, rather than the other way around.
Human evolution is the subject of “Erection,” French choreographer Pierre Rigal’s performance blending Odyssey, philosophy and science fiction on April 18. Aiming to follow the framework of human evolution, the performance uses live video projection to create elaborate visual effects as Rigal dances three aspects of humanity: the animal man, the individual man and the social man.
A Swiss/Belgian collaboration, “From B to B,” will explore language and physicality on April 19. Choreographed by Brussels-based Thomas Hauert and Catalan contemporary-dance pioneer Angels Margarit, this contemplative, humorous performance employs elements of improvisation in a visual word game, starting with the choreographers’ names and branching out to explore the connections between letters, language and dance.
Three choreographers will present their “miniatures” on April 22. “Danse Map,” consists of three short performances exploring the theme of love, each lasting less than 15 minutes. The performances were created as part of Marseille-based nonprofit L’Officina’s Miniatures Officinae, a five-year project involving artists from the Mediterranean basin. Morocco’s Taoufiq Izeddiou will present “Jadibia,” while French choreographers Yendi Nammour and Arnaud Saury will perform “Loups of Various Emotions” and “I’m a Love Result.”
With four performances taking place on April 22 and 23, Swiss choreographer Philippe Saire’s “Black Out” promises to stand out from the crowd. Weathering its 100th performance in Beirut, “Black Out” plays with Saire’s penchant for drawing to create an unusual production centered on materiality. Viewed from above, the dancers move on a stage covered in thousands of black granules, leaving traces that transform their movement into a work of fine art.
In “Nothing’s for Something” on April 24 Norwegian choreographer Heine Avdal will collaborate with Belgium’s Yukiko Shinozaki to explore the nature of space. How can it be made fluid, mutate or separate? Focused on the intersection between public and private spheres and often staged in semipublic spaces like hotel rooms and offices, the duo’s performances aim to make life’s hidden moments visible and have been described as fascinating and creepy.
The final performance in this year’s edition of BIPOD, “What the Body Does Not Remember,” is being staged on April 26 and 27. Belgian choreographer Wim Vandekeybus and his company Ultima Vez will revisit the veteran artist’s earliest production, first staged in 1987, which has been revived with an all-new cast. Pitting individuals or groups of dancers against each other, the performance balances attraction and repulsion through a physical explosion of aggression, fear and danger.
The 10th anniversary of the festival will also be marked by a retrospective exhibition at Hamra’s Masrah al-Madina, where most of the performances are being staged.
Old posters, photographs, behind-the-scenes video footage and documentaries will provide a glimpse into BIPOD’s evolution since its launch in 2004.
Maqamat will also be launching a book, “Ten years of BIPOD,” tracing the festival’s most memorable moments through pictures, notes and drawings from BIPOD’s Artist Book and letters from the international choreographers and dancers who have taken part in the festival over the years.
Two master classes are scheduled to give dance lovers a chance to participate as well as observe. Adam Kirkham and Carys Staton of the Russell Maliphant Company will lead a three-hour workshop on April 11, focusing on the relationship between movement, light and music using elements of classical ballet, contact improvisation, yoga, capoeira, tai chi and the martial arts.
Ultima Vez will offer a master class on April 27, exploring Vandekeybus’ vocabulary of movement through floor work, partner and contact work, touching on some elements of the company’s repertoire. A background in dance is not required, but participants should be in good shape and some physical training is requested.
BIPOD runs April 10-27 at various locations across Beirut. For more information, please visit www.maqamat.org.