‘Dar Al Leil’ Tells About Dancer’s Suffering in Conservative Society
Tunisian choreographer and dancer Imed Jemaa’s performance Dar Al Leil (Night House), which showed last week at Monnot Theatre in Beirut, was inspired by the phenomenon of “cafichanta”, according to the daily Al Nahar.
“Cafichanta” is when people gather in Tunisian cafes during Ramadan to enjoy food, music and the belly dancing.
Jemaa tackles the ideas imposed by society and families on the dancers in those cafes: the idea of the woman being the temptress, and the notion that a belly dancer is not really an “artist.” He focuses on everyday acts and translates them into choreographed movements.
The act, the Daily Star said, opens with a scene depicting a sleepy man (played by Jamaa) who, in a cramped space, is trying to find the most comfortable position to sleep. In his efforts he discovers that the best position to sleep in is the one he started with. Thus the man exhausts himself yet changes nothing. This is a central motif in this performance, and is repeated in almost all of the scenes.
We are then introduced to a woman (Suad Ostarsvic), who is portrayed as a mildly vulgar character eating sunflower seeds. She gets up off her couch, located on the other side of the stage, and presents a short dance, gracefully twisting herself into visually unpleasant shapes. She dances to songs by Um Kulthoum as she tries to make her dance an artistic one, not the expected sensual one. She returns to her couch, and the lights are diminished.
Next the couches are placed together in an expected encounter between the man and the woman. The music becomes very mechanical, with a mixture of static and industrial sounds. Both the man and the woman perform a sequence of dances, the man more gracefully than the woman, who is repeating her previous routine. The man’s movements resemble those of break-dancers, balancing himself on his head or raising his legs into the air, while the woman’s resemble those of a performing artist developing a new act, or just improvising.
Although the set may appear simplistic at first, Jemaa takes advantage of the space this gives him to expose the battle for freedom and personal space. Personal and cultural space are expressed by the illuminated parts of the stage, which represent the space allotted for each character. When the entire stage is lit up, the characters race to claim the “extra” space.
In the final confrontation between the man and the woman their interactions become more sensual, as the woman assumes the role of temptress. She has returned to playing the part that society imposes on her. She has given in to being seductive, and thrown away her hope of creating a more artistic dance. The characters are now more violent with each other, grabbing and twisting, concerned with control over the other’s body.
The performance ends with the woman writing on the walls of the stage, “The woman of the night is the light of the night. A woman is a woman is a woman, forever.”
She has come to the final conclusion that she will never be free of the shackles her society holds her by: that she will always be regarded as a physical object, and no matter how well she dances, the deeper sense of her dance will never be understood – Albawaba.com
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