Learning to dance from the masters
LAU hosts Lebanon’s International Dance Day Festival on the Byblos campus.
The LAU Byblos campus is ready to become the theater of Lebanon’s International Dance Day Festival (IDDFL), a yearly appointment that brings together award-winning local and foreign performers. Starting next Friday, April 24, dance workshops will be given free of charge to participants of all ages and expertise. The disciplines range from salsa to dabke, including classical ballet, Zumba, yoga, oriental dance and more.
Hosted by LAU in partnership with the Byblos municipality, the festival will be an opportunity to exercise, learn and connect. “The purpose of the event is to benefit the community as well as provide a space where international dancers can learn new techniques from each other,” says Nadra Assaf, organizer of the festival and assistant professor of English and Dance at LAU. “As some genres are the flagships of particular countries, being taught directly from the masters of the art is a unique opportunity for both professionals and participants.”
While the first edition only dates back to 2011, the festival reached last year as many as 1,257 participants and 62 workshops. Many of the classes are conducted outdoors, against the backdrop of one of Lebanon’s most historical cities.
This year’s international guests include artists from the U.S. and Mexico, including Rain Ross, Renee Chevallier and Flako Rojas. As for the local guests, the festival will host Georgette Gebara, of the École Libanaise de Ballet, and Charles Makriss, of the Makriss Dance Ministry, as well as a number of affirmed and emergent performers. Martin Loyato, Argentinian composer and assistant professor at LAU, is the curator of the music for Lebanon’s ‘Dance Message’ to the world, consisting of a performance to be filmed at Byblos castle and then uploaded on YouTube.
The event will come to an end on May 2 with a gala ceremony, during which selected Lebanese dancers and choreographers will perform together with the foreign guests. While the ceremony is not open to all participants, this is an occasion for professional dancers to showcase both the choreographies they worked on together during the festival as well as their own, in a moment that represents the climax of their professional bonding.
The festival is organized to coincide with the International Dance Day, celebrated on April 29. The festivity was introduced by the UNESCO International Theater Institute in 1982 with the purpose of increasing awareness on the importance of preforming arts among the general public and encourage governments to introduce these disciplines as part of formal education.
“One of our goals is also to bring the Lebanese public closer to the art of dancing”, says Assaf, adding that Lebanon is not in the forefront when it comes to appreciating performing arts. “By bringing participants to the festival and encouraging ties among performers, both internationally and locally, we hope to build a stronger dance community that can spearhead a greater artistic sensitivity”.