Ya Beirut

5 min.         Premiere 04.12. 2020
After the 2020 Beirut explosion happened on the 4th of August, artists in Jordan are saddened by these events. We want to send our condolences for the loss of lives and our shared concern for the scale of material destruction. With the guidance of creative members of Jordanian deaf community and their supportive circle, after two-month intensive rehearsals, a dance performance is created as our statement to express that we will remain by the side of Lebanese people to continue our collective work during these challenging times.
Anas Nahleh, Sanad Abu Assaf, Aya Nabulsi, Obada Asse, Hasan Alresheq, Arthur Tainturier, Abd Al Hadi Abunahleh, Xiaoman Ren

This is a performance inspired by Laban Movement Study.

“After Beirut explosion, my co-creators who works closely with Jordanian deaf community and I experimented to combine contemporary dance with United Arabic Sign Language (Al Arabi Al Muwahad), into a performance set to a song which expresses our solidarity with the Lebanese people for the tragedy that has struck the city of Beirut.”

— Anas Nahleh (Choreographer)

Concept: Sanad Abu Assaf, Anas Nahleh, Aya Nabulsi
Producer: Studio 8 & Al Muthana
Choreographer: Anas Nahleh
Sign language interpretation: Al Muthana
Dance: Obada Asse, Hasan Alresheq
Movement consultant: Abd Al Hadi Abunahleh
Film maker: Arthur Tainturier
Photography: Xiaoman Ren, Reema Shatat, Arthur Tainturier
This production has been realized as part of “Choreography Creation Camp” (CCC) organized by Studio 8, with the support of Drosos Foundation, EUNIC Jordan and European Union in Jordan.
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Why Sign Language?

This production is initiated by Sanad Abu Assaf, founder of al Muthanna Project (dual in Arabic), which is a project working on the duality of the Arabic language and the Arabic Sign Language in the art and cultural scene.
The idea behind al Muthanna is making an accessible performances that respects both Arabic and Arabic Sign Language and shows the best in both in order to open new doors on how people see and perceive art projects dedicated to promote the right of engagement of people with disability in Jordan.
After Beirut explosion, Sanad Abu Assaf, together with Aya Nabulsi, the Executive director at Al Balad Theatre met with Abd Al Hadi Abunahleh, choreographer, co-founder of Studio 8, and discussed possibility of creating a dance piece which is inspired by the creation of sign language: the desire to communicate is the primal spark that drives people to sign language; the longing to seek to bring oneself out of the darkness that is imposed up by varies limitation.
Meanwhile, they are trying to push the boundaries of sign language and maximize its spatial and temporal qualities and create an outstanding choreography that bridges the gap between hearing and deaf audience members.

The Deaf Community

In Arab culture, disability has traditionally been seen as something shameful. It was considered an ordeal, not only for the disabled person him- or herself, but also for their family.
Although all disabilities have carried this stigma, some disabilities are less stigmatized than others. Because Islam puts great emphasis on the importance of the Arabic language as the language of the Holy Book, and essentially of God Himself, it is very important for an Arab to be well-versed in Arabic.
Thus, people with a disability that prevents them from learning and speaking Arabic well, such as the deaf. No accurate figures on the number of deaf or hard-of-hearing people in Jordan or the Middle East are available. For Jordan it would seem that a figure like that given for Lebanon, somewhere between 0.25% and 0.3% deaf people (that is, 15,000 to 20,000 people with severe to profound hearing loss), is likely to be realistic. This would mean that Jordan has a Deaf population which is comparable in size to that of a country like the Netherlands. In Jordan, the Ministry of Social Development is responsible for rehabilitation as well as educational services for the deaf, although the Ministry of Education also has an important say in the latter.
Because deaf people who have learned the local sign language can communicate freely with each other and will always have problems understanding those who do not know sign language, they tend to stick together and form a close-knit community of their own. Many Deaf people marry other Deaf and have Deaf friends. Thus, the Deaf form a sub-culture, with their own language, their own humour, their own values, traditions and their own problems.
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The Music

The chosen music of this production is Beirut Set El Donya (“Beirut is the Mistress of the World,” 2000) by Lebanese singer Majida El Roumi, which is described by many that its lyrics and melody remain immortal in the hearts of Lebanese people.

100 Hours Practice

Both of the performers of this piece, Obada Asse, Hasan Alresheq, are hearing, being the opposite of deaf. They memorize the signs used in this piece but they are not able to understand fully of meanings of each sign, nor could they tell the subtle difference of meaning, expression of communication with signs.
With the constant guidance of Sanad Abu Assaf, sign language interpreters, members of the deaf community, choreographer, Anas Nahleh, and the two performers went through a challenging yet most rewarding journey to try to understand the varied nuances of deaf community and their supporters, from an “outsider” view of the deaf cultural group of Jordan. While maintaining the recognizability of the signs and dance figures/phrases, they experimented, rehearsed, and practiced more than 100 hours intensively to create this 5 minutes dance work.
The production process was detailed explained to all “Choreography Creation Camp”(CCC) participants as a case study by Anas Nahleh. A series of exercises related to Anas’ conceptualization, movement experiment, movement composition are practiced among all CCC participants. On 25th of September, 2020, an-in-progress performance of this piece was presented to all CCC participants in Studio 8 dance lab. A dance manual in English and in Arabic will be developed at the end of “Choreography Creation Camp”(CCC) program in February 2021.
A special thanks to Al Shams Theatre which is a very special non-profit theatre which not only a cultural center that is accessible to all Jordanian people but also a pillar Jordanian performing arts eco-system. ​
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“Very much moved by the performance (and the song). On my way to Beirut! I'll have the song in my head!”

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“Thank you so much for this choreographic statement in support of Beirut! It is very touching. I am intrigued by sign language and to see it part of a dance movement is very powerful.”

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