By John Owoo
(In Tunis – Tunisia)
Carthage International Dance Festival 2023
The 2023 edition of Carthage International Dance Festival, ended on June 17 with a brilliant performance of “May B” by the Syhem Belkhodja Dance Company at the Théatre des Réigions in Tunis, Tunisia.
Choreographed by the French director Maguy Marin with inspiration from the writings of the Irish novelist / dramatist Samuel Beckett, “May B” enchanted a capacity audience at the theatre, which is located in the vast expanse of the Cité de la Culture.
Accompanied by classical music, including those of the Austrian composer Franz Peter Schubert, this remarkable piece opened with a song as the dancers, whose bodies have been smeared with clay and powder, stood in a frozen state with no movement – as the audience sat at the edge of their seats awaiting the next move.
Navigating a thin line between dance and theatre, Marin managed to mix bits of both disciplines while shying away from creating a dance-theatre. This, she achieves through a rather unique and satire form that actually runs through her work as a choreographer.
The ten dancers, who looked like creatures from outer space, moved around the stage in rhythmic and repetitive hobbling with feet dragging back and forth. Highly noticeable was their distorted and recurring mumbles, which members of the audience tried to decipher.
Arms flayed in different directions, necks turned at varying degrees, feet dragged and moved in carefully planned steps, bodies stumbled, bags and suitcases are carried on stage and they jumped into arms while exuding defenseless loneliness – both in motion and stillness.
The performance emphasized the richness in diversity while sharing a sense of compassion and unity – indeed, they often engaged in solos with one following the other – and they eventually come together in unison albeit temporarily.
With over eight hundred performances in several countries, “May B” is undeniably is an allusion point for contemporary dance – and indeed dance theatre. Indeed, Beckett’s work, which deeply motivated Marin, has resulted in the creation of a classic that is bound to influence the dance world for years to come.
Partners of the festival include Théatre de l’Opera, Institut National du Patrimoine, Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et Dance de Paris, Archipel, Prohelvitia, Djerba, Institut Français, Institut Fraçais Tunisie, ODV and No’o Cultures.
Pictures – Courtesy of Carthage International Dance Festival