Contemporary dance, as a genre of performing arts, is so loosely defined that fingering its vague, tortuous seams could only spell out in premature excitement or an untimely slap.
“Today, all kinds of arts are merging with each other. You can’t see a clear line between them. All you see is the merging. And in contemporary dance you see many things coming together like music, theatre and even painting,” says director Ezzat Ezzat, who gave Cairo 360 an exclusive front-row access to the general rehearsals of Contemporary Dance Night 2 at the Falaki Theatre at the AUC Downtown Campus.
Following last year’s success with Contemporary Dance Night, Contemporary Dance Night 2 showcases eight choreographed routines and four film screenings on an empty, black stage that underlines a genre up-for-interpretation.
Divided into two nights of performances, the event offers a mixed bag of quality dance and amateur attempts and repeats three times over a consecutive six-night engagement; so it's best to attend both.
The first night entertains the ‘traditional’ sense of contemporary dance and screens the better two of the short films. Expect a clichéd opening by a synchronized modern troupe that contrasts with a refreshing second act by a quirky foursome in a comic derive. The final two acts include a high-energy, combative play dubbed by a superb, on-stage drum-and-bass and vocal and a one-man show's poignant display of solitude.
Among the film screenings, Obscenitas by André Gingras and Shayma Shoukry is a memorable montage that questions what ‘obscenity’ means and why. The film relates the infinite potential of dance as an interpretive art form.
Dishing out a more experimental batch, the second night flirts with contemporary dance’s nefarious side and opens with an act that feeds a shameful fetish for the grotesque. Pulsing, disturbing, and borderline offensive, the first act is downright creepy but strikes a chord with its solid execution. The second act renders a fluid, solo performance that gyrates every inch of the human anatomy.
A show-stopping setting and a creative use of lighting add to the conceptually romantic and emotionally charged third act, but a garment or two could be ditched for full dramatic effect. Implementing a Brechtian use of stage, the finale is a contrived mess of plain-clothed spasmodic routines that verge on the absurd.
Slated as an annual event, the Contemporary Dance Night series is a refreshing addition to Cairo's performance arts scene. The efforts by the young Egyptian dancers, choreographers and designers are proof of an art form highly deserving of a stage and an audience.
Much to our surprise, admission is free. According to Ezzat, “Art should be free for everybody. It’s like an open door for everybody to see another dimension.”
Contemporary Dance Night 2 starts tonight and runs every night at 8pm until Tuesday, September 11.