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Lebanese festival blends experimental dance and musical improvisation - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Choreographer Hooman Sharifi (C) and his dancers at the Paris exhibition titled "Action 1" on May 10, 2014. (Miguel Medina/AFP/Getty Images)

Choreographer Hooman Sharifi (C) and his dancers at the Paris exhibition titled “Action 1” on May 10, 2014. (Miguel Medina/AFP/Getty Images)

Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—In spite of security fears a new festival is underway in Lebanon. The CO² Choreographers and Composers Festival kicked off on September 28, displaying a blend of experimental dance and musical improvisation. More than 35 artists from Lebanon, Spain, Norway, Belgium, Morocco and Japan, will participate in the event. The festival is the first fruit of cooperation between the Beirut International Platform of Dance (BIPOD), held annually in Beirut under the management of Omar Rajeh, and the Beirut International Festival for Experimental Music (IRTIJAL) under the management of Sharif Sehnaoui. CO² runs in partnership with the Norwegian Embassy in Beirut & the Performing Arts Hub Norway. The festival brings together many Norwegian and Lebanese artists.

Norwegian-Iranian choreographer Hooman Sharifi put together Every order eventually looses its Terror, a dance performance on the theme of self-sacrifice, which was staged on September 30. Electronic experimentalists Charles Cohen, Lebanese musician Rabih Beaini and duo NMO executed free-and improvised-jazz at alternative music venue Yukunkun in Beirut later on Tuesday night. Swedish-Norwegian band Atomic performed its individual jazz style last night in the capital’s Al-Madina

The remaining performances include some improvised elements. “Improvisation does not mean that artists will come to the theater unprepared or untrained, instead they have already worked together for weeks. Each team has formed its own sequence through rehearsals, yet a small margin will be allowed for free improvisation during the performance.” Sehnaoui told Asharq Al-Awsat.

“We have absolute faith in the artists we have chosen whom we gave freedom of innovation and we are willing to see the result of their work. We never intervened in their work,” Sehnaoui said. The choreography is being performed publicly for the first time.

Of the recent insecurity in Lebanon, Sehnaoui says: “There is no exceptional situation in Lebanon; not a single summer festival was cancelled and all cultural activities were carried out according to plan. We have had no difficulty in inviting 20 artists—though two were unable to come—which reflects the artists’ trust and interest in giving their performances in Lebanon.”

Choreographing double-act Heine Avdal and Yukiko Shinozaki in collaboration with Rabi Beaini opened the festival at St George Yacht Club & Marina. In 100 pas presque Moroccan dance sensation Taoufiq Izeddiou and NMO will take to the stage this evening. All other performances include Norwegian-Lebanese partnerships that mix dance with music and some impromptu variations.

The festival’s technical director Ahmad Ghossein said dancers will perform to both electronic music and jazz, he added that there will be a room for the artists to let their energies burst out in the way they think is appropriate.