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North African contemporary dance at the Shubbak festival

Aug 17, 2015 “When the Arabs Used to Dance” was recently performed at the Shubbak Festival, London’s largest biennial showcase of contemporary Arab culture, by Tunisian Radhouance El Meddeb.

While excited about his showcase, the choreographer spared no time in pointing out that there is very little support for dancers across North Africa.

“The big problem is one of institutions. First of all it’s about the relationship between the ministry of culture and the art of dance. I think that the choreographers from these countries – those from the countries of North Africa – who live abroad need to get together to see how to create exchange programs that would promote the art of dance within these institutions,” said el Meddeb.

Renowned Algerian choreographer, Nacera Belaza also showcased her piece “Into the Night”; a form of poetry in motion combining various artistic genres composed of three distinct works: “The Birds”, “The Night” and “The Journey”.

Speaking after the performance, Belaza commented on her artistic influences

“First of all I was strongly influenced by literature, poetry, and cinema. They were, including music, of course what really impressed me. And contemporary dance in fact – well the little bit that I saw on TV or that sort of thing – it seemed like a foreign language. That means that for me – we lived in France through a sort of filter, that there were things that we could join in with and others not. And dance was part of the latter group of activities. At least I imagined it to be one of those things with which we couldn’t assimilate with,” said Belaza.

Algerian Dance Curator, Nedjma Hadj Benchelabi , said he believed that more can be done to encourage the development of the dance art form in North Africa, where young choreographers often have little or no formal training.

“These young people they don’t have school; they do not have possibility, opportunity to have an education in dance. Like a long term or mid-term education in dance. There are initiatives from choreographers in Morocco and Tunisia for the Maghreb that they do offer – give them workshops,” said Benchelabi

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