"The unexpected always happens" (Toujours l’inattendu arrive) is a French proverb that André Maurois used as a title for a short stories collection published in the United States in 1943. The proverb also served as inspiration for Monadel Antar, director and choreographer, in creating a new performance with the Cairo Opera's Modern Dance Theatre Company, on stage at the Gomhoreya Theatre 14-16 May.
The performace will be presented to Alexandria audiences at the Alexandria Opera House between 18 and 20 June.
"It is the truth that one faces, from the morning untill evening. Do not expect that guardian angels will protect our children, or save us from an accident while crossing the road," Monadel Antar states when introducing the show. "Neither did we expect to find ourselves in the current situation, after the revolution," he adds with irony.
On stage, Antar places dancers between Egypt's past and its present. As a backdrop, we see a screen showing beautiful shots in black and white from the "good old days." Contrasting this nostalgic mood, on the other side of the stage we find people hung and tortured — symbols of repression.
The scenography depicts the urban city: buildings to the sides, a bus station, a street. The dancers are nothing more than tools manipulated by external forces. A silhouette that seems to pull the strings remains present throughout the show, watching all that is happening. Between the past and the present, we ask questions about Egypt, where it has come from, and where it is going.
From the beginning, the dancers dance to a repetitive rhythm, simulating scenes of daily life. Office workers are manipulated by their bosses, or so it appears, while others queue at a bus stop. They suffer, while the police observe and sometimes incite terror.
Despite the rapid movements and choreography drawn from real life, scenes become routine and everyday images multiply through dance: quarrels, rivalries, love stories, harassment, and violence against women. African rhythms dominate the show for more than half an hour, accentuating the feeling of monotony.
"Those rhythms are part of our culture and Egyptian identity. I like going back to origins," Antar comments.
To infuse the show with a fresh spirit, Antar uses Ravel's Bolero, to which he creates a more vivid choreography. As the music grows, the dancers repeat their movements but in a multiplied form, only to protest at the end.
The looping movements remind the viewer of the revolution soon to arrive: a reaction to the police state and the corruption reigning over daily life.
"The Unexpected Always Happens" by Monadel Antar will also be performed on 18, 19 and 20 June at 8pm at Alexandria Opera House (Sayed Darwish Theatre), Mansheya, Alexandria.