Magharebia (Washington DC)

Algeria: Algiers Modern Dance Festival Sends Message of Hope

Algiers — Dancers from Africa, Europe, Asia and the Americas on Thursday (November 22nd) wrapped up a week of performances in Algiers that highlighted tolerance and acceptance of others.

Held under the banner "Freedom Movements", the 4th International Festival of Contemporary Dance was a dual celebration of Algeria's independence anniversary and the Arab Spring.

The arts event "confirms the trend of openness to the world, a changing world, a world that celebrates life, hence the presence this year of troops from four continents, Africa", Festival Commissioner Mébarka Kaddouri said.

Performers from 19 countries offered six days of memorable shows with an underlying message of peace and unity.

Inspired by on-going events in northern Mali, a six-member troupe from Bamako sent a strong message of hope for the future.

The "Mali Debout Danse" company put on a show, "Our Independence", that reflected the distress and anguish felt by many in Mali and other African countries. But it also revealed their dreams and aspirations, Malian dancer and choreographer Alou Cissé told Magharebia.

"It was very important for us to be in Algiers and paint a different picture of Mali," Cissé said. "Despite what's happening in the north, dance troupes must continue being creative. That's the message we want to send out," he said.

Their show received an enthusiastic response from the large audience.

Algiers resident Malik Lebib, who was among the crowd watching the Malian dancers, voiced surprise that they had even made the trip.

"There is talk of Mali being on the brink of war, with Islamists determined to introduce Sharia law. So you wouldn't expect choreographers to come here freely, engaging in dance. It's a message of tolerance and hope which makes me believe that a brighter future is possible," he said.

Dancers of the "Brotha From Another Motha" troupe from Tunisia were also determined to use their art to send a message. Led by choreographer and dancer Seïf Eddine Manai, they put on a performance designed to highlight the hopes and sorrows of their country's youth in the wake of the revolution.

Manai said he had encountered many difficulties at the start of his career in Tunisia, "due to people's prejudices".

Algerian Sabrina Mili described a similar situation in her country: "Being a dancer and choreographer in Algeria is a daily struggle, a way of resisting social taboos, fundamentalism and backward thinking."

There is cause for optimism, however. According to Mili, attitudes are gradually changing.

"When I see people of all ages in the audience applauding, I tell myself yes, you are allowed to hope," Mili said.

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