Mes mains sont plus âgées que moi A Fragmentary Dance Experiment

Nélida Nassar   04.18.2016

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The Bipod festival (Beirut International Platform of Dance) is back with its twelve edition. This twenty-eight day event for dancers and dance lovers doesn’t only offer performances but also numerous workshops by well-known artists and critics. Presented at the festival is the forty-five minutes Mes mains sont plus âgées que moi aka “My hands are older than me,” choreographer Danya Hammoud shows us what happens when warm-blooded human beings are trapped in violence and madness’ bodies. Their strong sensitivity makes them afraid of the eyes that look at them. But who should be afraid of whom? Sitting in the front row, I found their silence, movements and staring looks pretty dismaying while not entirely convincing…

German dramaturge Karl Georg Büchner seminal written theatrical roles of Woyzeck and Lenz as well as Camille Claudel descent into madness reference the piece. Hammond’s work proposes snippets narrating tensions and intentions that precede the act of violence, madness or killing informed by the Lebanese civil war and its aftermath. She strives to make visible the seeds of lunacy that flow from and within our body, into the murderous society where the individual tries on his own to find reason to exist and continues to defend what still seems for him essential for his survival.

Hammoud and the two dancers performing with her Mounzer Baalbaki, and Khouloud Yassine are non beginners, well trained, they showed a nice level of dance. The viewer inquires Is the concept behind this piece ‘abstract or real?’ Can the absence of props reveal a deeper side of people’s mind? What’s the relationship between the dancers among themselves? What do they represent? The dance focuses on the strict necessity of the gestures, decrypting the set of laws that become our relationship to the other. Sounds – music composed on a theme by Franz Schubert – and movements accompany the gestures as well. At times what comes across is incongruity, bizarre – maybe odd or eccentric – although there is no conscious attempts at humor. The steps are everyday, ordinary, pedestrian movements, using a great deal of repetition within the dance frame. The image sometimes takes the form of a disorientated body in which one part doesn’t know what the other part is exactly doing.

This disembodiment reflects the endurance of the Lebanese society that is often living at the limit of a state of madness. It’s a back and forth between control of oneself and overflow to be outside oneself. It’s the juncture of the in-between perhaps the most fragile, the most vulnerable and the most critical moment that Hammoud attempts to portray and seize. She seems to be more interested in the madness’s containment as representation of the individual revealed through its multiple alienations rather than the collective madness at the point of excess.

As Merce Cunningham once said, dance “gives you nothing back, no manuscripts to store away, no paintings to show on walls and maybe hang in museums, no poems to be printed and sold, nothing but that single fleeting moment when you feel alive.” Without such tangible artifacts, the most authentic way to preserve the work is in its original medium: live performance. We are lucky Hammoud has committed to such an undertaking. This ‘search’ in Mes mains sont 
plus agées que moi is alluring and compelling, sadly it never manages to negotiate successfully the exploration it strives for in reducing the dance to the essentials. Its attempt to keep the spectator under its spell from the beginning until the end remains a tryout. It was exciting to see it, however that poetic moment “where you feel alive” is completely amiss from this postmodern dance experiment.

Choreography: Danya Hammoud
Performed by: Mounzer Baalbaki, Danya Hammoud, Khouloud Yassine
Music: Cynthia Zaven (composed on a theme by Franz Schubert)
Light Designer: Abigail Fowler
Costume Designer: Wafa Aoun
Production Office: Virginie Petit, Bureau Playtime, France
Coproduced by: Zoukak Theatre Company and Cultural Association., Beirut, Lebanon