TransDance 2012: Contemporary dance meets history in Cairo
At an informal press conference at the Sufi Bookstore in Zamalek Adham Hafez, director of the TransDance festival, talked about its fifth edition, which is shaping up to be the biggest –and most rebellious - one yet.
TransDance is more than a festival of contemporary local and international dance; it is a movement that continually pushes dance outside the confines of what people believe dance is. With a revolutionary vision, director Adham Hafez keeps renegotiating the shape and form of contemporary dance through this annual festival.
Adamant on wrenching dance out of the limited architecture of the theatre, Hafez curates a line-up that presents dance to the audience in unorthodox ways: on screen, on streets, in short, wherever you would not expect dance to be.
Preparing for this festival, Hafez decides to retackle the questions about the art form that the community perhaps disregards as "too passé" or even common knowledge, such as what does it mean, after all, for dance to be contemporary?
Waving his hands in an almost choreographed manner as he speaks, Hafez explains fervently that the purpose of TransDance is to generate reflections about the meaning of contemporary dance.
“For the Egyptian and for the Arab context regionally, there are so many questions that need to be asked again,” he says, “such as the relationship between traditional and contemporary.”
Hafez believes that diverse types of art are slowly seeping into one another and soon it will be quite difficult to separate art forms into clear-cut categories.
There are no rules here. This edition of TransDance is extensive, mimicking the intersecting nature of different forms of artistic expression, including installations through offering performances, films, installations, talks, and public performances to an unassuming audience.
The ambitious TransDance director is still faced with logistical difficulties with regards to public space performances. Despite the widespread narrative of post-revolutionary streets in Cairo embracing change and hosting artistic endeavours, Adham Hafez believes that the reality of performing in public spaces in Cairo is still very limited.
Dance, for one, is still far from being "assimilated into the fabric of the street."
The theme for this year’s TransDance festival, aside from its inherently rebellious ethos, is presenting human bodies as documents of reality.
"We’re living in a hyper-documented world," says Hafez. He believes that human bodies have the potential to tell stories of change and conflict, and he intends to present, for this chapter of TransDance, documenting contemporary history as dance’s raison d’être.
"Can we start looking at bodies as documents?" is the question on the table here.
TransDance 2012 presents the body as a document of history: the festival proposes this notion of physical documents through which artists re-enact context in both traditional video-documentaries, and more unconventional performances.
Following the January 25 revolution and the Arab Spring at large, the art world has adopted a new direction: resistance is in fashion. Artwork that deviates from what is acceptable and that flirts with the realm of activism has become very much the vogue.
TransDance is no exception. This year’s edition of the contemporary and international dance festival resists ideas of what "contemporary" should be.
Jumping in, project coordinator Ismail Fayed explains that people’s definition of what is contemporary has become very codified and rather limiting. While in fact, Fayed believes, "everything that happens in the here and now, is contemporary."
"Maybe our way of political resistance is resisting certain ideas about what contemporary dance is," says Fayed.
Currently the only international dance festival held in Egypt, after the suspension of the Cairo Opera House’s version, is this fifth edition of TransDance, which is supported by the British Council, the Goethe Institute, and a host of Cairo venues.
Held over three months across three continents, this year’s TransDance festival will be held in Cairo from 2-18 October, before moving on to Alexandria, Minya, Marseilles, Brussels and New York.