Edinburgh Fringe 2017
“A double bill of contemporary dance brought to Edinburgh from Palestine and Egypt. Choreographers Shaymaa Shoukry and Yazan Iwidat are each bringing their own dance piece.”
The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is a melting pot of diversity, which is one of its huge attractions. At the Fringe, people come to see their favourite genres such as theatre, dance or comedy and they equally appreciate seeing new genres and discovering different cultures. The Arab Arts: Double Bill is one of these rich opportunities to see choreographers and dancers from Egypt and Palestine express themselves as artists.
Due to visa delays and injury, on the day I attended (4th August), some of the planned dancers were unavailable. However, the programme was adjusted with creative solutions and the show went on as usual. A wonderful addition to the programme that day was a twenty-minute piece with one dancer, Resilience of the Body, by Cairo based choreographer Shaymaa Shoukry. The title is apt because the dancer jogs while there is voice over of his inner thoughts. He runs silently, consistently keeping up the pace. As he breathes deeply we watch every fibre of his being. It is mesmeric and one cannot help but breathe with him and begin to understand the challenges he experiences in his life, and why he runs.
Complemented by a soundscape of construction sounds and city life, with some Middle Eastern tones near the end, the dancer passes through it and stays strong. This is not only a test of physical endurance but also a test of emotional endurance and the will to lead the life he sees for himself.
The next piece Mayhkomsh, also choreographed by Shaymaa Shoukry is performed by one dancer exploring social judgement and diversity. Her movement is rhythmic with a strong centre of gravity as she dances in and out of a red circle on the floor. Percussive music plays as she jumps and flicks her arms high. Sometimes she shakes staying in the circle boundary. This piece was shown via film on a large projection screen in a five-minute excerpt of the planned longer piece.
Finally, Running Away by Palestine based choreographer Yazan Iwidat, shown in its full length of approximately twenty minutes, as a film on the projection screen is a very powerful piece. One male dancer – wearing a white shirt and black shorts is surrounded by a black stage and backdrop – is tied by a thick cord around his waist. The end of the cord is off stage; this literally signifies the tie that binds him – to his present, past and future life. The movement choreography is very interesting and unusual. This dancer is very compelling to watch, also his facial expression stays neutral throughout as he deftly shifts his body and limbs in angular and flowing movement across the stage. His internal monologue is spoken by recorded voice-over in Arabic, with English surtitles. In all, this piece is moving, meaningful and beautifully choreographed and danced.
This programme is impactful and an insight into the lives of others. The company has made smart adjustments to the original programme that work well. Plus, the addition of video is a technology used more and more in dance and other performing arts – the thoughtful storytelling and tenacity of these artists is admirable.