Making its Canadian premiere, World Stage welcomed this contemporary dance collective to the Harbourfront Centre this past week. Presented and created as a collaboration between KVS, les ballets C de la B and A.M. Qattan Foundation, Badke explores Palestinian dance like I’ve never seen before.
On Wednesday night, a pre-show tea discussion from World Stage’s Scholars-in-Residence introduced the experience of Badke and invited responses from the audience. The discussion was intelligent and thoughtful, and created an exciting environment as I took my seat at the Fleck Dance Theatre.
Badke is essentially the reversal of “dabke,” a Palestinian folk dance that exists as a social dance at weddings and as a style that can be crafted. Incorporating “dabke” with elements of contemporary hip hop and ballet, Badke weaves solo and group performances together in a celebratory fashion.
However, with these joyous dances comes performances and images of suffering and resistance in a tragically beautiful compilation. With no specific direction, Badke is invigorating in its freedom to dance. It is fascinating to observe the immense passion and stamina that its 10 Palestinian performers exude for 60 minutes straight.
Sifting through the programme, it becomes quite clear that each performer has their own diverse experience in dance. Without them, this production would simply lack appeal. It is the beautiful fusing of strong and liberating choreography with talented performers that is truly inspiring.
Badke is structured in a multilayered way, transitioning from showcasing solo performers to group dances to three or four separate dances occurring all at once. It is intricate and it leaves you with something new to discover in each performer and dance.
What I appreciate the most with this particular production is that the stage is left completely bare in order for the music and the performers’ energy to fill the space. The only exception to this is a single water cooler at the back of the stage where we catch glimpses of the performers catching their breath and gulping down cups of water. With the help of Naser Al-Fares’ vibrant and powerful soundtrack, Britt Angé’s simplistic costume design and Ralf Nonn’s soft multi-coloured lighting, Badke’s minimal set highlights its performers as the standout of the night.
Some notable moments highlighted:
In the complete darkness of Badke’s opening moments, the entire group of performers yell chants and powerfully stomp their feet as these sounds transmit to our ears. Solo performers, like Samaa Wakeem, break from the group and freely dance. She dons pink headphones through which the audience can minimally hear the blaring music within them; the music then fully erupts into the theatre.
A duet between Maali Maali and Samer Samahnah is spotlighted as Maali is physically manipulated by Samahnah’s movements. What results is a performance that is captivating in its stillness and intricacies of dance technique.
Even the slightest moments of huge group performances stand out. As Aseel Qupti is lifted extraordinarily into the air by the men so swiftly, Salma Ataya is left out on the outskirts of the stage as she watches on, wanting to belong. During a specific fast pace collective number, Ayman Safiah falls behind a few steps and attempts to keep up with the rest of the group’s pace and stamina.
One of the most powerful moments that caught me off guard is when Samaa Wakeem, with a strong force, animates gun-like movements by shooting all the performers one by one and then herself. The performers fall to the ground and the music is cut short. As the music begins to slowly trickle back in, they rise movement by movement into a collective force.
The final moments of Badke leave a lasting impression. As the group is lined up along the edges of the stage staring intently out into the audience, they move slowly but uniformly into a series of movements. They bend on their knees plugging their ears as the music muffles into an ominous sound. After this prolonged moment, they rise together and outstretch their hands as if in resistance towards the audience. We are left with this lasting image that concludes into darkness.
This show is an educational experience not only in adapting the form for a contemporary Canadian audience, but in showing what it means to have certain cultures represented on stage. Badke’s mixture of intense energy, storytelling and vivid imagery will resonate with you long after you have left the theatre.
For more information about Badke visit http://www.harbourfrontcentre.com/.