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(Un)Covered En Masse Performance. Photo Credit: Roy Campbell- Moore. 2017.
Volume 10

Dancing the Self: A Dance of Resistance from the MENA

In her book Choreographing Difference: The Body and Identity in Contemporary Dance (1997), Ann Cooper Albright situates dance “at the intersection of bodily experience and cultural representation” (Albright 119). However, Albright declares that dance studies and its practices are still, to a great extent, “undervalued,” “undertheorized” and “marginalized.” She proposes that since the body is always mediated by culture, thus, dance research can utilize the “lived experience into our discussions of representation and cultural constructions of the body.” Moreover, it can “further our understandings of how social identities are signaled, formed, and negotiated through bodily movement” (2). Albright also argues that contemporary dance can be extremely helpful in exploring how culture regulates the experiences of the body” (5).

With contemporary dance entering the cultural scene in the MENA (as is evident in the selected work in this paper in addition to the different contemporary art festivals in Egypt and across the MENA such as Contemporary Dance Night, D-CAF, Theatre is a Must, 2B Continued, and Breaking Walls) the need for dance research becomes very critical in the current time. In the aftermath of the Arab Spring Revolutions, the art scene in MENA has been drastically transformed, with intellectuals, artists, and activists, in their quest for bread, freedom and social justice, reclaiming public spaces as stages to declare their demands. Streets and public squares have become birthplaces of a new kind of activism through the use of arts. Thus, contemporary dancing has been utilized by young artists as a site of resistance to the different powers enacted upon their bodies in the MENA region as well as to the cultural legacies and social stereotypes discussed in Albright’s book.

In this paper, I intend to discuss one of these artivistic experiences in which I had the chance to be a participant to explore how dramaturgy and contemporary dancing can collaborate to create a space of resistance that empowers women. Discussed here are the Dancing the Self workshops that were facilitated by Zosia Jo Dowmunt, a dancer and choreographer from England, from September 2016 to April 2017 in collaboration with Studio Emad Eddin in Cairo, Egypt. One hundred and thirty-two women participated in these women-only workshops and twenty-six of them had the chance to participate in a performance workshop that led to a performance entitled (Un)Covered en Masse that took place in Al-Falki Theatre in Cairo on April 27, 2017.

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