The 12th edition of BIPOD gathered artists from around the world who gave spectacular performances at the Madina Theatre.
Dance as Robert Frost would say is the vertical expression of a horizontal desire. It is a moment of creativity where music acts as the catalyst for bodily liberation in which you can express feelings and emotions. Avid contemporary dancers Omar Rajjeh and Mia Habis return this year with their 12th edition of the annual dance marathon known as BIPOD. This year the grand festival gathered over 62 artists, some of which were from Lebanon and other Arab countries such as Egypt, Palestine, Tunisia and Syria. Some were from Iran; others were international performers diversifying from France, Italy, Germany, Tunisia and more.
BIPOD is the by-product of contemporary dance company Maqamat Dance Theatre which was founded by Omar Rajeh.
The company aims to create change and innovation through the explanation of dance in Lebanon and the Arab region. Since its launch in 2002, the dance group has been successful in broadening horizons by touring locally and internationally, conducting workshops and performing under the guide of Omar Rajjeh who is on a mission himself.
“His artistic work deals with social and political issues inspired by the everyday life of the city of Beirut where he lives. It is very significant that within his work he continuously questions the individual presence and the physicality of ‘the body within a socio-political and human context.” (Maqamat Dance Theatre)
Omar Rajjeh has a history of working with artistic expression. As a youngster he completed his studies in Theatrical Arts at the Lebanese University after which he further enhanced his skills by doing a master’s degree in Dance Studies at the University of Surrey in the United Kingdom. Upon his return to Lebanon in 2002, he began collaborating with many artists in the region.
Questioning social limitations and boundaries was the first theme we encountered at the premiere performance of this year’s BIPOD festival. “Beytna” is a show which aims to promote unity through dancers emerging from various backgrounds such as Omar Rajjeh, Koen Augustijnen, Hiroaki Umeda, Anani Sanouvi and Youssef Hbeisch. The performance was accompanied by the smoothest music conducted by LeTrio Joubran who excelled in simplicity and skillfulness. As soon as you entered the Madina Theatre, the sweet aromas of Lebanese cooking from baked bread to freshly cut tomatoes seeped in and added an unusual sense to explore in the theatre.
The spectacle comprised of a projection of a 60 second countdown and a long table filled with all the ingredients to make traditional Lebanese food, mainly “Fattoush”. The dish symbolizes the unity and harmony that humanity can achieve when we work together. The dancers would take turns in performing a solo or as a duet then continue to prepare the meal.
By the end of the performance, a lovely sentiment was bestowed on the entire audience who were asked to join the group on stage and share the home-made meals thus completing their mission of establishing unity and co-existence.
Having the fourth wall broken between audience and performers symbolized the lack of distinction between the two, as peace was invited through the breaking of bread.
Usually when the fourth wall is broken during theatrical performances, one or two members of the audience are invited on stage but to have the entire audience switching places in the theatre was quiet interesting.
The theme of unity extends to the entire festival as nationalities cross countries and boundaries to collaborate and create something new. The festival continues to intrigue large crowds and persists in achieving higher standards for dancing and a dance program every year.