Marianne Hraibi returns to LAU
Former LAU dance teacher and Martha Graham expert conducts a two-day movement workshop at the university.
“At the turn of the new century, countries were asked to name five geniuses. Martha Graham was the only woman among them,” Marianne Hraibi told LAU students gathered for her Movement for Actors and Dancers workshop organized by the Communication Arts department in the Gulbenkian theatre. “Shakespeare had words but Martha had movement. She believed a dancer needed a reason to move. The impulse had to come from the inside,” she added.
According to Hraibi, Martha Graham revolutionized dance in the 20th century, transforming it from something decorative and flowery into something true and reflective of modern times. “Dance in the 1920s and 30s wasn’t indicative of the tough reality in the world, of World War I and the Great Depression, for example,” said Hraibi to her audience. “It was all about stilts and swans and beautiful music. Graham and Picasso were among the artists who wanted to show the human condition as it was, rather than the fantasy.”
Hraibi studied with Graham herself and danced in New York City before coming to Beirut in the 1970s with her husband, where she taught composition and dancing technique at LAU when it was still known as Beirut University College (BUC). At the time, she also choreographed several theatre productions for the university. During the workshop, she could not hide her joy at being back in Gulbenkian. “Being at BUC was my life; whenever I leave Beirut, I feel like half a person,” she said.
The Graham Technique is now taught prolifically at drama schools across the U.S., including at the Yale Drama School, the St. Johnsbury Academy in Northern Vermont and Dartmouth College, where Hraibi currently teaches. Through the workshop she gave at LAU, she hopes to pass on some of this technique to the students. “The Graham Technique is taught to actors, not just dancers, because it was one of the finest ways to teach them to be motivated from inside,” she explained. “At this workshop, I wanted to teach the students some basic Graham ABCs and grammar in the hope that they can begin to build their own sentences.”
Hraibi opened the workshop with a historical background on Martha Graham before launching into the basic building blocks of the technique. Students were then given pieces of music and asked to perform their own improvisations in front of the group using the tools they had learned.
Communication Arts student Mohammad Khansa received praise from Hraibi for his improvisation on stage. “I had a very different conception of dance before I started this workshop,” Khansa said. “All I had to do was relax and let go, which is new for me. It made me realize that dance, like acting, is about an inner movement.”