After the blast

Khansa by Michele Imad
A star in Lebanon: the dancer Moa Khansa

Michele Imad

In Beirut on the eastern Mediterranean, nothing confronts you with reality as much as the dance, the Arab body, the unadorned, which after years of horror has shed its ornamental dress and speaks directly to you.

They warned about this trip to Lebanon. To the north and east is war-torn Syria, to the south are Hezbollah fighters, engaged against Israel in the war with Palestine. If something were to happen, there is not even a sea route to the West, because Europe fears it would be used by refugees. The only way to get in and out of Beirut is by air – and if that route is closed, you are caught up in this explosive mix of biblical space. We hadn’t yet made it in; the airspace was closed. And when it reopened, we entered this beautiful city of Beirut. Beautiful not because the legendary “Paris of the East” is still visible, but because it is a city that relentlessly shows its scars and is unwilling to apply enough make-up to paint over its own history, even in its most beautiful places – even in the luxury bazaar of the Central District. Not even the never-ending construction boom, the evidence of which juts into the sky like exclamation marks, can cover up the wounds of a society traumatized by war and civil war.


Jo Kassis

After the blast in August 2020

Jo Kassis

Instead, it dances as if it were breathing a sigh of relief for this moment, when no state is in power, no government is forming, no enemy is attacking, only threatening. Here, people have been dancing to avoid the beginning of a new era, ushered in by the world-shattering explosion of a silo in the port in the summer of 2020. Elsewhere, people count the time before, during and after Covid. Here people say: the time before and after the blast and also mean the time after the government and after the currency devaluation. It is a time of hope, when the old structures and infrastructures are on the ground and the next generation has the opportunity to do something more than just lick its wounds and talk about yesterday, when dancing still had to meet a decent standard.

Beirut ist der Ort in der arabischen Welt, der eine Toleranz ermöglicht, die es anderswo nicht gibt und Menschen wie magnetisch anzieht, um sich religiös begründeten Normen zu entziehen, ohne die Radikalen unter den Vorgestrigen zu provozieren, die es auch in Beirut gibt. Man ist nicht unter sich, nicht in einer Tanzszene, die mit Omar Rajeh und Mia Habis längst international vernetzt gerade ihr Bipod-Festival gefeiert hat, das seit genau zwanzig Jahren existiert als der sichtbarste Ausdruck einer Tanzbewegung, hinter deren Kulissen der arabische Körper verhandelt wird, sein Stolz vor allem. Es tut gerade gut, in Beirut zu erleben, wie der von Religion, Politik und Armut, Angst und Hunger malträtierte Körper wieder aufsteht, den Vorhang zur Seite zieht und dazu einlädt, alle Klischees, die den arabischen Raum umwehen, gründlich zu vergessen.

Shopping Mall in Central District

İrem Nur

In images and texts, this piece creates a panorama of Beirut’s dance scene that cannot be experienced anywhere else as a document of the times and as an adventure tale that can only be told through dance.

Read on …

Country without a state


Where there are no structures to make art possible, art throws itself a party. It does not need any structures; it creates its own in Beirut, in a deeply shaken city where everything has gone back to square one and anything seems possible again.

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