A series of roundtable discussions, two film screenings and a weekend of dance performances are all part of the Euro-Arab Dance and Performance Meeting, a weeklong gathering organized by Ma'at Dance M.E.C.A (Movement for Egyptian Contemporary Art) and Danse Bassin Méditerranée (DBM).
The international get-together of contemporary dance and performing arts professionals will take place between 15 and 21 December, rolling out its main activities at Townhouse Gallery, Rawabat Theatre and Cairo Contemporary Dance Center (CCDC), a platform created under Ma'at Dance M.E.C.A.
“The aim of the meeting is to show and magnify that in spite of the difficulties facing contemporary dance, there are a lot of initiatives and talents that have been working for the past 15 years… surviving out of the institution,” Karima Mansour, director and founder of Ma'at Dance M.E.C.A., told Ahram Online.
On the first day of the meeting, two films exploring performance arts will be screened: Noise of Cairo, an exploration of art and the Egyptian revolution by German filmmaker Heiko Lange’s, and The Network, a film about the early days of BDM.
The schedule also includes visits to key Cairo-based contemporary art studios: Studio Emad Eddine, CCDC, Townhouse and Ezzat Ezzat Contemporary Dance Studio, culminating with a session on strategic planning for the Egyptian Independent Dance and Performance Arts Sector, which will be held at Rawabet.
On the evening of 19, 20 and 21 December, a number of performances by the students of CCDC's dance school, a three-year professional training program launched by Mansour, will be held at the center.
Meanwhile, roundtable discussions will bring to the limelight the position of artists in Egypt, performance art education and training, the politics of curating and foreign support to performing arts in Egypt.
Presently, the bulk of funding that fuels Egypt’s independent art scene comes from a range of foreign aid institutions. As civil society organisations prepare to face uncertainty under an NGO law that critics regard as stifling, Mansour sees a reason for concern, although CCDC is registered as a company.
“You never know what will happen,” she says, referring to a growing fear that the new law, which restricts the receipt of foreign funding, might extend to groups that are not registered as NGOs.
“The private sector needs to be much more involved in the art sector,” Mansour was quick to point out, a desire that has been roundly echoed in Egypt’s growing independent art scene.
Meanwhile, she rejected crowd funding as a sustainable alternative to the current situation.
“Crowd funding is very nice if you want to buy a couple of chairs, but it’s completely out of the question if you want to fund a long term project,” Mansour told Ahram Online.
She added that the limitations of the collective funding model stems from the fact that contributors are asked to pay online, a system that remains foreign to most Egyptians.
“How much can you ask for? $100,000? I don’t think so,” she proclaimed.
Although there has been a palpable increase in the frequency of contemporary dance performances in Egypt as of late, and a gradual increase in the sizes of audience that frequent them, the art form remains unfamiliar. Many attend these performances to support their friends or colleagues, often leaving the theatre with confused feelings about the experience.
“The audiences are misled due to the widespread presence of mediocre work… Those who work in the field must continue to be allowed to build and develop, and audiences should continue to see work as much as possible,” says Mansour.
She added that the inconsistency in support, funding and communication between the various stakeholders contribute to the seeming lack of understanding between performers and audiences.
“In the arts, it’s really about feeling, even if that is feeling anger,” explained Mansour, adding that there needs to be a constant dialogue between performers and their audiences.
“Dancers who label unfinished work as complete pieces instead works-in-progress and those who call an event a festival… these people are sabotaging the work,” she added, concluding that it is only a matter of time until consistency is established.
15 and 21 December
Townhouse Gallery, Rawabat Theatre and Cairo Contemporary Dance Center (CCDC), a platform created under Ma'at Dance M.E.C.A.
Complete programme will be provided soon