Take the lead
Hundreds join LAU to celebrate the International Dance Day Festival in Lebanon.
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For the third year in a row, hundreds of local and international dancers and dance enthusiasts flocked to LAU Byblos, celebrating the International Dance Day Festival in Lebanon.
The seven-day festival, which was inaugurated on April 25, aims to foster a lusty understanding of the cultural and historical significance of dance by providing a sound, scientific and aesthetic foundation for the professional education and training of young dancers. It also intends to broaden Lebanese dancers and choreographers’ exposure to international dancing prowess by holding practical and lecture based workshops delivered by artists and performers from Europe, the United States, Canada and Russia.
“[Dance] is a universal language. It’s the common denominator among performers,” says lecturer of English and dance at LAU Dr. Nadra Assaf. “No matter where they come from, no matter what language they speak, they can communicate through dance.”
Her words closely echo those of American modern dancer and choreographer Martha Graham, who, in a 1985 interview with the dance critics of The New York Times, was quoted as saying, “Dance is the hidden language of the soul, of the body. To me, the body says what words cannot.”
International Dance Day is celebrated worldwide on April 29 and was introduced for the very first time in 1982 by the International Dance Committee of the UNESCO International Theatre Institute.
Propelled by her amaranthine fervor for dancing, and disheartened by the lack of dance and cultural awareness in the country, Assaf launched the International Dance Day Festival in Lebanon in 2011. A tailored form of its 1982 precursor, the event aims to encourage and support the creation of new artistic endeavors by both established and emerging choreographers in the region, and to preserve the Lebanese dance heritage through the continuous reproduction of classic performances.
This year’s eclectic workshop selection ranged from jazz, hip-hop and salsa to dabkeh, ballet and tap dance.
“These workshops are open to dancers and non-dancers alike — anyone who appreciates this form of art, or is simply curious to see what the festival is about,” says Assaf. “People are often insecure about their own dancing skills, but it’s important to stress that anyone can dance. Passion is the only thing you should worry about bringing to the table.”
Paula Peters, a dance instructor at the University of Washington, gave multiple jazz dance workshops at the festival, one of which was attended by over 90 people. “It was such a remarkable sight,” said Peters. “Some participants knew very little about jazz prior to the workshop, but the energy and enthusiasm that filled the auditorium were palpable. As a dance teacher, this can be very encouraging. It makes me want to give my all.”
Maya Saleh, a student at the University of Balamand, was delighted to have participated in one of Peters’ workshops. “I’ve always admired jazz, but I never quite had the time to take up dance classes,” she said. “When the workshop was over, I felt like my body suddenly came to life, like it had been sleeping all my life.”