In his show “Nostalgia and Tradition” performed recently at UNESCO Palace in Beirut, Lebanese choreographer Fahed al Abdullah combined authentic Lebanese folkdance and modern techniques with the identity and richness of oriental heritage.
“The art we introduce to the world expresses an Arab heritage, which lies deep in our subconscious,” Abdullah told The Daily Star. “The dancers are not only performers. They become magicians, who, through body movements, summon the spirits of the past, present and future.”
Choreographed by Abdullah and directed by Nicholas Daniel, the dance includes scenes that represent Lebanon’s various districts including Baalbek’s dabke, Beirut’s sailors’ songs, Tripoli’s brass market and Mount Lebanon’s poetry and saber and shield fighting. The show ends with a traditional Lebanese wedding ceremony, where the spectators are invited to share the joy of the event, clapping and singing along.
“The kind of art we create has a message to deliver to the world, and to the West in particular,” said Abdullah, “to eliminate misconceptions about Lebanese culture and history.”
According to the daily, the scenes reflect the origins of traditional Lebanese. Thus the Bekaa is symbolized with a dabke of the mijwiz, a double-piped flute, and the dabke of the aarja (which resembles a person limping). Scenes from ancient and modern Beirut show sailors and elegant ladies dancing along the Corniche.
The North is symbolized with a Sufi dance, followed by three types of traditional dabke from Akkar. Finally, the South is presented by a southern-style dabke, as well as a scene which shows the joy of the area’s liberation.
“I want Lebanese people to feel proud about the liberation. It’s my gift for the liberated land,” Abdullah explained.
“Whether the dance is formed as a story or as a series of impressions, the experience of the dance is essentially a journey,” Abdullah said.
“Whatever the dancer shows must be done in a sequence and bound to the music. Time may seem to speed up or slow down, move in pulses or smoothly, but the sequence is unavoidable,” Abdullah explained. He added, “what is seen is seen and what is missed is missed. The viewer is carried along this unavoidable sequence of time.”
Ever since he founded the group in 1978, Abdullah has focused on transmitting Lebanese dance to the world, “reshaping” folk dances and converting them from conventionalism to dynamic artistic achievements.
“All of my dancers are university graduates,” said Abdullah, “who are required to understand what they are presenting.”
Abdullah’s group, as an institution, seeks to give an identity to Lebanese art. He works to spread Lebanese tradition through innovation, to meet the demands and obligations of modern artistic appreciation – Albawaba.com