cairo’s modern dance festival

Walid Aouni, the founder of Cairo Opera’s Modern Dance Theatre has just finished the fifth Festival of Modern Dance, which is loaded with local and international performances, and has just returned after a two year break. Naturally being contemporary dance, some the audience was not happy with the lack of tutus and no simple soap-opera narrative. Al-Ahram had an interview with the director on the festivals successes and failures,

“This happens because audiences don’t always understand the meaning or the message of the work performed,” Aouni explains. “Dance theatre is not ballet, a performance does not set out to tell a tale. Even when it does, as is the case in Joseph Nadj’s adaptation of Buchner’s Woyzeck, for example, it is neither a repetition nor a summary of the plot, but the individual vision of an artist.

“In 1993, the year our company was created, the local audiences had no knowledge whatsoever of modern dance; many identified it with tap-dance or any number of commercial or music-hall genres. In the last eight years they have come to understand the difference.” But do they always like what they see? “They don’t always have to like it, though one does expect them to appreciate the effort that goes into the work and the idea behind it. At first there was some confusion between modern dance and dance theatre, and the difference is in the theatrical part of the performance, which is absent in modern dance. Audiences today mostly understand these differences, especially the younger generation. They’ve learned to appreciate the work itself, however unique — ugly and repulsive, eccentric or beautiful…

“It doesn’t have to be entertaining or amusing, but it does have to be whole, with a strong impact. Its function is to bear a message, be it a positive or a negative one. While the purpose of music-hall dancing is to divert, and the purpose of ballet to fascinate, modern dance and dance theatre are meant to give audiences something to think about. The audiences can learn to appreciate even a disagreeable work intended as a mirror of ourselves or our times.