Nélida Nassar 02.20.2016
The exquisitely physical art and life of Things I’m Not is the source for a new performance by Nada Kano. As a Lebanese choreographer, her sensibility is so speedy, so physical, so entirely 21st-century. Yet some chemistry sparked between her dancers and made her work the most surprising, exhilarating piece of dance I saw all year.
The roles were performed by Cindy Germany, luminously expressive, and the work’s essential centre of gravity. Her ferocity of concentration was revelatory of a great talent. Her companion Chadi Aoun with careful grace assumed his many characters in the muscle memory of his body that crashes and quivers in the throes of passion. The other star was lighting designer Hagop Derghougasian, whose shifts of atmosphere and color perfectly mirrored Kano’s own obsession with capturing the ways in which light falls on people, objects and places.
Things I’m Not was more of a diptych than a written-through performance, each of the two acts, freely inspired by a different sets of questions and each taking a different stylistic route while preserving a unity. The first act was the most narrative-based, shifting between parallel stories of union, attachment, wholeness transformed into uncertainty, Arab singularity, shell-shocked global individuality, and maladjustment. Enveloped by a boundless bright yellow cloth wrap the dancers movements molded, mutated, reconstructed and metamorphosed. The duo’s dance expressed a spectrum of emotions that came across nuanced with lyrical tenderness, or lingering eroticism. Kano’s own choreography was exemplary in its supple humanity and simplicity – implying but never forcing its themes of love, memory and madness.
By contrast, the second act was a blast of passion, time-bending fantasy. Light beams dissected the stage as the two hyperkinetic dancers embodied the stylistic rush of the switched identities, and its narrative conceit of a time traveling love affair. Now, Germany’s yellow dress and Aoun’s grey pants and white shirt were exchanged then shared between the two performers to become the identifiers of each one’s connection and rejection of the other. The second act was both bolder and more daring, with cross dressing, searching, doubting, changing, colliding identities evoked in a flood of movement that embodied the moments of inner struggles.
It was typical of Kano’s integrity that her program of short classical extracts was a masterclass in buoyant, beautiful dancing: her lead characters’ fine feathered footwork, effortless jumps, delicate épaulement and joyfully democratic stage manners presenting style as the beating heart of their art form. Kano, the founder of the school Beirut Dance Studio, the Beirut Dance Company and the non-profit Beirut Dance project exuded and radiated a stirring passion for dance and perfection.
Tatiana Lati astounding set design consisting of one monumental frame from which ropes crossed over its surface created beautiful patterns, there evolving from minimalist abstraction. During the second act it pivoted to create a 30 degrees angle configuration. Patrick Farah’s costumes were equally creative and astonishing in their malleable transformation through dance movements.
Kano made a marvelous virtue of her own modest resources, using her two dancers Aoun and Germany to stage a compassionate, humane meditation on identities and gender, love and youth, madness and reality, genius and delusion. A world of human intimacy conjured from the simplest of means. If the performance at certain moments suffered from momentary lapses of focus, and odd awkwardness, it was pure stimulation – a work that inspired me and left me elated all over again by what dance as an art form can do.
Marsha Al Madina Theatre
February 13 to 20, 2016 at 8.30 p.m.
Choreography and Artistic Direction: Nada Kano
Dancers/Performers: Chadi Aoun, Cindy Germany
Lighting: Hagop Derghougassian
Costumes: Patrick Farrah
Set Design: Tatiana Lati
Communication: Janine Younes
Graphic Design: Lara Captan
Photography: Dimitri Haddad