“Stark and powerful”
Knowing very little about Middle Eastern dance, I was delighted to get the chance to experience it for the first time. The Rooster and Partial Memory, brought to us by El-Funoun Dance Troupe from Palestine and SHAMS/Marhabtain from Lebanon is a real eye-opener culturally, and it’s wonderful to have them here on a global stage.
The Rooster interprets the idea of the male bird as many different things – not just ruler of the “roost” but disruptor of the peace, chauvinist, dictator, celebrity and general troublemaker. It fuses together Lebanese “dabke” folk dancing with contemporary styles to create a work that celebrates and shares traditional culture but which is also accessible to other audiences.
Much like a rooster first thing in the morning, it starts very slowly and calmly before waking up into an explosion of noise and energy. The role of “the rooster” switches between the dancers throughout the piece, allowing them to add their interpretation of what it means to them, while showing how any man become a rooster at any time.
Thematically, the rooster character generally remains physically separated from the rest of the pack to show their power and prowess over their fellow men, though there are interesting moments of unison depicting how, despite everything, equality sometimes wins through.
The piece creates many different moods and scenarios to demonstrate the different sides and interpretations of the rooster. At times it feels like an intimate solo contemporary piece with a chorus of four cowering behind the leading man, while at other times there’s a party atmosphere full of rhythm and energy.
With so many different interpretations, meanings and moods throughout, it can be a little tricky to follow what’s going on in this piece, especially for those unused to watching contemporary dance, so try not to read too much into it and enjoy it for what it is.
Partial Memory is much simpler to grasp, and also more emotive. It follows one man’s attempt to reconnect with his childhood through a series of projected photographs. With some spoken narrative to aid comprehension, we see him desperately struggle to understand his father’s absence with confused, incomplete sequences, followed be ferocious energy as he interprets his father’s desire to become a fighter.
As the projections speed up and he loses control, we seem him frantic and desperately trying to grasp the images – a feeling we’re all familiar with as something we try to recapture slips away. As the projections start to move around we really do feel his pain as he chases them and it’s a very stark and powerful end to the performance. It would be great to see this developed further.
Reviewer: Steve Griffin (Seen 6 August)