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Meet the artists : performing arts residency

Left to right: Alaa Minawi, Oussema Gaidi, Marah Haj Hussein, Abdellah M.Hassak, Loutje Hoekstra, Rym Hayouni, Eman Hussein, Nasrine Kheltent, Mayar Alexane
Left to right: Alaa Minawi, Oussema Gaidi, Marah Haj Hussein, Abdellah M.Hassak, Loutje Hoekstra, Rym Hayouni, Eman Hussein, Nasrine Kheltent, Mayar Alexane | Kamel Zebib, Céline Burnand, Cédric Nicolas

For six weeks, the Goethe-Institut Brüssel, Bozar-Centre for Fine Arts in Brussels and the curator and playwright Nedjma Hadj Benchelabi, in collaboration with the Marni Théâtre, La Bellone and in partnership with Studio 8 in Jordan, have set up a residency programme in the performing arts for artists from the Arab world.

The Halaqat residencies: a meeting of the performing arts with artists from Europe and the Arab world. 

For six weeks, the Goethe-Institut Brüssel, Bozar-Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels and the curator and dramaturge Nedjma Hadj Benchelabi, in collaboration with the Théâtre Marni and La Bellone and in partnership with Studio 8 in Jordan, have set up a programme of residencies in performing arts for artists from the Arab world. These residencies are organised within the framework of the Halaqat project, set up by the Goethe-Institut Brüssel and Bozar and co-financed by the European Commission.
Halaqat explores the cultural links between the Arab world and Europe. Halaqat proposes a contemporary journey into the artistic imaginaries shared by the Arab world and Europe and focuses on the diversity and richness of today's cultural collaborations in order to sustain and strengthen them in the future.  The project aims to bring together emerging artists from all these countries, giving them space, time and professional support to work on their projects.
The residency in performing arts is aimed in particular at artists with projects in the research phase, which fall within the theme of "Politics of space and bodies", a framework for developing imaginaries beyond geopolitical and societal limitations and constraints. What is the place of public and private space in the two regions and in the different countries? How will we soon experience physical and digital space? The notion of the body is linked to questions of gender, power, grammar of movement and representation on stage. Can we continue to collaborate and how is it possible to have exchanges of practice in this time of pandemic, of mobility restricted, and of invention of practice in connection with the world, the living in general?
During a jury chaired by the curator Nedjma Hadj Benchelabi and composed of the project partners (Théâtre Marni and La Bellone in Belgium, Studio 8 in Jordan), six project leaders were selected following a call for projects published online. Two solos, Eman Hussein (Cairo) and Marah Haj Hussein (Kfar Yasif / Antwerp) will be hosted at La Bellone from 4 to 16 July 2022.
A solo by Alaa Minawi (Beirut / Amsterdam) and three duos by Nasrine Kheltent and Abdellah M.Hassak (Brussels / Casablanca), Mayar Alexane and Louise Nora Hoekstra (Damascus / Amsterdam) and Rym Hayouni and Oussema Gaidi (Tunis) will be invited to the Théâtre Marni from 16 August to 3 September.
The six-week residency will be spread over two periods and all the artists will return to Brussels in the same places from 24 October to 10 November 2022.
The 9 artists are designers, choreographers and also performers within their creations. The dramaturge Nedjma Hadj Benchelabi will support them in their creation by associating mentors chosen according to the projects developed. Exchanges between the selected artists are also planned. The "works in progress" will be presented during a public event organised on 9 November 2022 at Théâtre Marni.

At La Bellone

  • Eman Hussein
Eman Hussein, born 1994, is an independent dancer, choreographer and dance filmmaker based in Cairo. She studied dance, street art, theatre and martial arts. Her works merge labourers’ daily movements and contemporary dance, amongst other arts. Working with individuals outside of art institutions is her main inspiration. She collaborates with craftsmen and workers and live with them to learn their movements inside their workshops. Her dance films combine aspects of public space and contemporary dance movement. They have been shown and awarded internationally.

Her project: 
«Body memory» and »working memory» in the context of space - working with the body goes beyond the idea of pain and sweat in physical labor. There are some precarious aspects that dancers have in common with construction workers. We too test out physical pain - we too work with repetition of movement. Another crucial moment we share is, of course, the constant movement of bodies in space.

  • Marah Haj Hussein
Marah Haj (1998) is Palestinian dancer and maker from Kofor Yassif - Occupied Palestine. She graduated in 2021 from the Royal Conservatory of Antwerp with a Bachelor's degree in dance and is studying for her Master's degree in drama in Belgium. She danced with Rimaz Dance Company - directed by Rabeah Morkus - where she participated in Sufi shows, performances with local Palestinian music groups, etc. After researching on the concept of mother tongue in her final year of the dance degree, Marah has created the duet Zait Zaytoun (2021) - in collaboration with Mokhallad Rasem and Kilma hilwa (a pretty word)#1  (2021)- a group piece performed by non-Arabic speaking dancers. This year, she decided to start a master's degree in theatre. She is mainly interested in exploring different ways of using language on stage, while questioning the difference between theatre making and choreography.

Her project:
Between Arabic, English, Hebrew and Dutch, Marah questions the place of the mother tongue in artistic practices that evolve in an environment where nobody speaks it. What is the link between mother tongue and identity? How do we define the term “foreign language”?
This project is an attempt to challenge the power of language and our habits of always wanting to understand the meaning. It looks for ways on how to use language for purposes other than communication, while examining constantly the relationship between one’s own mother tongue (language) and other languages that one speaks (anti-language). Since Arabic will rule the stage, she aims to create a dialogue of a common language between the performer and the spectator. She invites you to allow yourself to break the stereotypes and create new associations from what you hear, see and imagine. 

At Théâtre Marni
  • Alaa Minawi
Alaa A. Minawi studied computer science, communication arts and scenography in Beirut. He has an MA in Fine arts from HKU Univeristy in the Netherlands. He has been working for many years in the field of theatre as a lighting designer, set designer and installation artist. Since 2018, he started working in performing arts and did four performances. Socio-political contexts have always been at the heart of his work, both directly and indirectly. Being based in the Netherlands, he discovered that the subjects he wanted to deal with were somehow rarely addressed.
His project:
2048 - Dissolving Identities
In this project, Alaa examines visibility and invisibility, and the power that comes from absence. He takes the notion from its socio-political roots. He addresses the violence that resides in discrimination and racism, a violence that leads to disappearance. Invisibility becomes inevitable. However, in trying to be invisible, identity can dissolve.
Dissolve. The whole performance takes place in the physical absence of any performers, since they have become invisible, or at least cannot be visible. The performers try to find alternative ways of communicating with the spectator (WhatsApp, phone calls, etc.). The performer is absent and cannot be with the audience in the same room. He leaves a "trace" that guides the audience to a set of actions and questions that turn him into a spectator and performer for others and for the audience.
"2048 - identity in dissolution" is the fourth and final part of a series of performative installations that Alaa started in 2016. They all have the same name "2048" while the subtitles change. These "2048" series came out of an artistic research that addresses the notions of belonging and not belonging. In all the works there was an attempt to reshape the power structure between the viewer and the artist/creator/performer.

  • Rym Hayouni
Rym Hayouni, performance-artist and actress, currently pursing research studies in Cinema sciences. Her art practice started on the stage of theater at an early age, and since she went through a path from theater to theater dance to performance-art, exploring different mediums and materials to attain more freedom in her perpetual search for meaning.

Oussema Gaidi
« YnflX», is an activist of the Tunisian Electronic scene since 2004. Musician, composer and sound designer, he channeled his productions toward IDM, Rhythmic Noise, Experimental Electronics, following several years of diverse experimentations with acoustic and electronic music as well as diverse interdisciplinary works.

Their project : Frame of resonance
This performance is about the journey that rises through the interplay between what we see and what we don't see. It's a happening that puts together all the elements composing an autonomous space, distinguished from what is outside yet mirroring it. A sphere of interference waving with the movements that are indicated and imposed by the existence of the next step.

  • Nasrine Kheltent and Abdellah M.Hassak
Nasrine Kheltent is a visual and performance artist based in Brussels. She holds a Master's degree in Visual and Spatial Arts from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Brussels (2017) and a Bachelor's degree in Arts and Choreography from the Institut Supérieur des Arts et Chorégraphies (ISAC 2015). She is involved in creative projects between cinema, performance and installation. Since 2019, she has been a member of the board of La Chambre de l'Art et de la Culture Euroméditéranéenne, and questions artistic and institutional problems linked to international cultural relations. Her work has been presented at numerous artistic events, festivals and exhibitions.

Abdellah M.Hassak is a sound artist, new media artist, music producer and artistic director. Abdellah has collaborated with many institutions and cultural spaces in Morocco and abroad on the practice of radio and sound and he develops a syncretic Afro Futurism music as a Producer/DJ. He has been referenced by several platforms such as Bandcamp, Resident Advisor, The Guardian, KEXP, Pitchfork and Mixmag, He is the co-founder and artistic director of 4S', a Moroccan NGO which carries the FeMENA project, dedicated to the professionalization of women in the electronic music and digital art sector.

Their project: Roque
The practice of chess is a well of legends in which different strata of perception are intertwined. « Castling » in chess is a unique and conditionally permitted move that secures the king’s defense. In a poetic and metaphorical register, by juxtaposing different media (body, video, sound, space), the expression of castling becomes the gestures I defend, the words I defend, the ideas I defend... As i move…
  • Mayar Alexane and Loutje Hoekstra
Mayar Alexane graduated from the Higher Institute of Dramatic Arts in Damascus-Syria in 2013 and has worked as an actor/performer on a variety of projects with different directors. In 2016, he directed his own productions. Building on his fascination with the body and movement, Mayar has been working on a series of performances that explore the places that occupy the human brain during disasters. In 2017, he established his theatre collective with choreographer Hoor Malas in the city of Damascus and manage to take their work internationally.In 2019, Mayar is pursuing his Master of Fine Arts in Amsterdam at the Netherlands Art Institute/ArtEZ where he is working on a series of questions around the representative image of the 'Arab artist' on European stages.

Loutje Hoekstra is a self-taught artist based in Amsterdam. Her style originated during her biology studies where she used to make quick sketches of fellow students and the animals and plants that came under her gaze. This practice evolved into a method of capturing the living emotional core of things and has since expanded from the embodiment of explicit portraits to deeper gestures and feelings.

Their project:
A multidisciplinary performance based on research into the landscape of the human brain and its collapse through Alzheimer's disease. It questions the series of information that lead humans to define themselves and their environment, and how this entity disintegrates and dissolves. This project reflects on the notion of home and the nostalgia of Alzheimer's patients for their first home, alongside the memory of the city of Damascus and its current relationship with its inhabitants.The performance is a collaboration between choreographer Hoor Malas, visual artist Nora Louis Hoekstra and theatre maker Mayar Alexane.

The curator Nedjma Hadj Benchelabi
Born in Algiers, Nedjma Hadj Benchelabi lives in Brussels. She is a member of the Brussels theatre company Dito'Dito and has worked on the artistic project with the Brussels City Theatre, the KVS. Since 2009, she has been a programmer at the Halles de Schaerbeek and has contributed to the visibility of contemporary artists from the Arab world. In 2012, she programmed the Moroccan contemporary art season, 'Daba Maroc'. Since 2014, she has been a programmer for the international contemporary dance festival in Marrakech, On Marche. She is also associated with D-CAF, multidisciplinary Festival in Cairo for the 'Arab Art Focus (2016-2018), and curator at the multidisciplinary festival, Tashweesh with the Goethe-Institut in Cairo, and at the Beurschouwburg in Brussels.  Nedjma is curator and dramaturge of the Halaqat and Un-Controlled Gesture project, initiated by the Goethe-Institut. She provides dramaturgical support to performing arts projects, and continues to document and publish as a dramaturg and programmer of contemporary dance.