Openings and first tastes
We arrived in Amman the day before yesterday. In less than 2 hours, Rebecca Johnson, Lisa Bush and I are on our way to attend the opening night of the Amman Contemporary Dance Festival at the Al Hussein Cultural Centre in downtown Amman. Yoshiko Chuma has been in residence here for the past few weeks, and has put together a premiere with a two groups of young local dancers in tandem with members of her own company, The School of Hard Knocks.
Chuma’s piece, A Page Out of Order, was like a funny, provocative, delicate and surreal dream or diary. Lisa greets Yoshiko, having shared a program at Jacob’s Pillow when she was dancing with Wendy Perron back in the day. Small world, and a good thing too!
I am full of wonder at how Yoshiko Chuma employed so many elements in this new work (including at least 25 performers, 3 video projectors, extensive scenic elements akin to house frames that were assembled and disassembled by the performers, a live stage band, and more!) Some of the text directly addressed questions of how we know who we really are, when we’ve never been to the place that we come from. Here in Jordan there seems to be an ongoing dialogue – at least among the artists we meet – about a plurality of ethnicities, with an understanding that more than half the population of the country is composed of displaced Palestinians, among other cultures. Amman was built on 7 hills, and has been occupied and rebuilt since 1800 BC, with layers of artifacts and cultural memories interweaving after millenia of occupation by the Romans, Arabs, Ottomans and Hashemites.
We have our first performances today at the theatre. We share the stage with Siljeholm/Christophersen Company of Norway; we met the co-directors Helle and Sara (respectively) yesterday backstage over our first falafel lunch in the green room. Everyone here has been friendly, hospitable and on point. We had a terrific technical rehearsal, with Frank Shawl providing me invaluable assistance/coaching on how to design lights in a theatre I have barely seen….Mohammed our lighting designer is very talented, his crew spirited and at the ready: Abu Dosh, Tawfiq, Allas, Ahmed and others. For those of you who have run technical rehearsals, imagine me bellowing in English without a God-mic to the dancers onstage while Mohammed hollers in Arabic to his crew up in the grid and backstage, and they in turn holler back as they attempt to gang the lights we request for some basic cues for manual operation later. A rather cacaphonous creative polyglot! I will be way up in the booth tomorrow, calling cues during the show. I wish I could be down in the audience to see the show, but I am so happy to be part of this team. I have always secretly yearned to earn my wings as tech crew.
Rania Kamahawi is the festival director, as well as a choreographer who runs the school of young dancers we saw perform the other night. She has been the one I have emailed back and forth to arrange everything for our tour. Gracious, lovely and warm are just a few words to describe her. We will be teaching a master class for her students tomorrow, and I am thrilled to meet these young vibrant dancers and share a little of what we each do. I don’t know how Rania does it all, but then I remember that Krissy Keefer does it, and others…. I guess when dance is in your blood, you tap deeper wells of stamina?
We perform at 10am and 7:30pm Amman time (10 hours ahead of Pacific Coast Time). Think of us!