Joumana Mourad

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The body and technology, a fruitful fusion

The rhythmic movement of the human body dancing, and the hard-edged soulless computer don’t perhaps feel like natural allies. Yet Joumana Mourad has used the two together to create a new aesthetic. The work of IJAD Dance Company, founded by Mourad in 1995, redefines the boundaries between dance, space, film and technology. The work challenges the audience’s expectations of what dance can be, and by using the latest technology, multimedia experts have created computer generated graphics that respond and react to movement, so that not only the performers, but each audience member, is creating the work.
Mourad’s work comes under three different art forms: performance, film and installations, which can be displayed together under the format of dance installation. Her 2006 piece, Labyrinth of the Senses, was a site specific interactive digital performance, which took place in Taipei (Taiwan). She collaborated with multimedia experts Hsin Chien Huang and Jung Ting Lin to flood the space with two sets of multimedia projections; one a virtual city, and the other based on an interactive dialogue between the audience and the dancer.
Collaboration is a key process for Mourad, both between the audience and the performers, and between artists of different disciplines when creating the work. She’s worked closely with composer Ian Williams (on her 1998 works Chosen Lies and Delete the Bits); with costume designer Maggie Bakalarska; and with Stephan Silver and Paul Varity Smith who are both experts in digital art.
Mourad’s hybrid approach to her work may have come from her own mixed lineage: she’s part Argentinean, French and Lebanese, and has lived in England for the majority of her life. She also trained in both Beirut and London. The dance genres she uses are a mixed bunch too; she combines Raqs Sharqi (Arab dance tradition), contemporary dance, physical theatre, ballet and Butoh (a range of dance techniques that typically involves playful and grotesque imagery performed in white-body makeup). She has also worked extensively with professional circus performers.
There is an academic aspect to Mourad’s work, again, something not commonly connected with the very practical, active nature of a choreographers work. In 1999 she attended a workshop and symposium, virtual - physical bodies // the future synthesis, hosted by Rescen (research centre at Middlesex University). As part of this event, Mourad assisted with the introduction of the digital dance workshop. In November 2000 IJAD were offered a residency at the Media Centre at the Institute of Contemporary Arts. During this residency IJAD continued research into the three dimensional relationship between movement, defined spaces and virtual imagery. In 2004 Mourad worked with Karen Martin on researching interactive tools that would be more efficient in detecting the movement of larger audiences. The research does not remain academic, however, it all finds a place in her dances.
IJAD’s work is very concerned with dance itself – its potential, where it can take place, using technology to break the boundaries of conventional movement and cultivating new audiences (through their education programme). But what are Mourad’s themes, what is all this dance trying to say? Her themes surround and explore the confusing multiplicity of cultures, beliefs and traditions in today’s society, and their implications. IJAD’s dances ask questions such as “What is belonging?” In the UK most of Mourad’s work is inspired by the workshops she leads with refugees, or disaffected minorities. So the diverse approach she takes in creating her dances (different media, and different genres of dance) echoes her themes – finding an identity amongst all the movement and confusion. Finding somewhere to belong.
Place is another recurring theme – when IJAD does work abroad, it adapts its themes and approach to where it’s working. The White House and Little Red Riding Wolf (Nov-Dec 2006) were performed in Hualian, and Labyrinth of the Senses in Taipei (both in Taiwan). In Taiwan the work was developed from secrets that the citizens shared with Mourad, so the theme was cultural taboos and stigmas.
Mourad portrays ‘the self’ as a complex collection of contradictory emotions, feelings and energies. Her 2006 work Disculpen la Felicidad, a solo dance installation, approached this theme of the conflicts within human nature. The body becomes a labyrinth out of which emerge many different ‘selves’. Mourad’s 2004 work, Commas and Full Stops, explores the representation of the self on stage. Self representation is seen as a fictional narrative; the self is seen in relation to the society it inhabits. Mourad’s work, her use of the latest technology, and fusing it with the ancient form of dance, is a creative way to look at how our view of ourselves is subject to constant change.
W.icked W.orld W.ithin is a collaborative project which toured the UK in Spring 2005, and is representative of IJAD’s work in its fusion of dance, science and art. The interactive production is influenced by the audience, who are given the opportunity to be very close to the dancer. W.W.W. uses live and recorded video projections of microscopic human blood cells, viruses and other intricate images from inside our bodies and is choreographed in a way that mimics the actions of human body cells in the formulation of our immune system. In this piece, science is being moulded into art, and portrayed using both technology and the body. Mourad aims in her work to gain a greater understanding of the body, and how it communicates with its surroundings. Although technology can sometimes feel like it is alienating us from nature, making us more remote from our true selves, Mourad confronts this facile assumption, she embraces modern developments, and uses them to explore age-old issues. The 1997 work Delete the Bits covered similar territory, by using strong sculptural forms to take the body’s movement to its deepest internal and external level.
It is in the complexities of the modern world, and of the human spirit, that Mourad finds her subject, and it is embracing these that she finds her art.
Author: Alexandra Wood

Bio

Joumana Mourad is Artistic Director and Choreographer at Ijad Dance Company. Her early training began in Beirut and she has since trained at the Laban Centre, London and completed her MA in Dance and Choreography at Middlesex University in 1999. Mourad is also a filmmaker.

Works

´A Blind Eye Turned´

Film / TV,
2007

´A Point of no Return´

Film / TV,
2007

Little riding wolf

Production / Performance,
2006
A site specific piece performed in a Japanese winery in Hualian (Taiwan). Choreography of cars, machines and dance. In this piece Time takes another form and space takes another meaning, both of them lose their habitual references and the derelict building becomes a breathing element with all the settings.

The white House

Exhibition / Installation,
2006
A thirty days installation in Hualian. The audience are invited to walk into a film projected onto 4 screens cube. Which they become a part of without realizing it after few minutes their image becomes manipulated and multiplied depending on where they are standing in the cube.

Disculpen la Felicidad

Production / Performance,
2006
A solo dance installation, lulling poetical assumptions of conflicting human nature.Within this work the body becomes a labyrinth out of which emerge a multitude of the self, contradictory emotions , feelings, energies and dynamics.

Labyrinth of the senses

Production / Performance,
2006
A site specific interactive digital performance promenade, based on the secrets told by the citizens of Taipei. We moved the city of Taipei into the rooms and spaces of Taipei Artist village that became alive. A close collaboration between Mourad and multimedia experts Hsin Chien Huang, from Storynest, and Jung Ting Lin from Blue Phoenix, has resulted in a new relationship between live performance and film. The site specific piece will be flooded with multimedia projections of two subjects a virtual city which provide more than a backdrop to the dancers and the audience. The second imagery will be based on a virtual, visual interactive dialogue between the audience and the dancer. Both of the multi media artists have created a computer generated graphics respond and react to their movement, in a true integration of technology, theatricality and raw physicality. Hence, the boundary between the audiences and performer no longer exist, every participant creates new history records in the performance

Collaboration

Production / Performance,
2005
with Fransisco Sanchez, Paul Webb, using an Opera sang By Esperansa Abad on a solo pilot “Disculpen la Felicidad” that has the potential of developing into a groupe piece. This piece looks the impulses that creates the dramatic text of the Greec Mythologie. Without creating the text, we explore the core vertigo from which classical text is created and use is as a point of departure to push the boundaries of the performer/s and spectator/s.

1001 night

Production / Performance,
2005
A co-production of Northern Stage, Nottingham Playhouse, and the Albany.

Wicked World Within

Production / Performance,
2005
IJAD dance Company was funded by London Arts and the Arts council of England to develop and produce A unique dance installation working closely with scientists, animators and Researchers. W.W.W. on Tour around the UK February –June 2005

Digi-lounge

Production / Performance,
2004
Research and development of interactive program. Joumana worked with Karen Martin on researching an interactive tools that would be more efficient in detecting the movement of audiences, when an Audience was made up of 30 people or more.

Solo –Roaming inner Land

Production / Performance,
2004
Alexandria season. Commissioned Solo performance: Comas and full Stop, exploring one of the issues of self representation on stage. The following concepts - living through war, the absurdity of war, attempting to find normality in the brutality of conflict, the daily visual intake of blood, the disapearance of loved ones - will be abstracted on stage in opposition to percieved histrorical facts. In this piece, I looked at self representation as a fictional narrative, looking at myself versus a factual , historical, socio-economical understanding of the period I was representing.

Move inside out

Production / Performance,
2002
Place Theatre - Research on a possible, collaboration between IJAD and Scientist Sophie Dauvois. It took place at The Place Theatre. During this period IJAD created 4 opportunities for scientists to work with artists. Together with The workshops the Company has given two informal sharings .

Requisitioned

Production / Performance,
2001
Final development of Pas De CinQ, which was taken on tour in the autumn of 2001. IJAD performed to sell out audiences at The ICA, London, The Junction, Cambridge and Tramway, Glasgow. Together with the tour IJAD offered dance/aerial and technology workshops at the ICA and The Junction

Boundless

Established,
2001
Performances took place in colleges, sharing creative and performance experience with young people and refugees from kosovo, Iraq, & Sirilanka.

Festival of light

Production / Performance,
2001
IJAD was commissioned to provide workshops to three schools in Barnet to and to produce a dance piece for them and to create an outdoor dance piece outdoors in Copthall stadium

Delete the Bits

Production / Performance,
1998
A Performance dealing with ‘body space’, using strong sculptural forms to take the body’s movement to its deepest internal and external level.

Chosen Lies

Production / Performance,
1998
A performance piece focusing on current world conflicts fusing dance, film and music, creating a new form of visual language

Fiefdom

Production / Performance,
1996
An examination of the individual in society, exploring contemporary dance techniques with ancient Arabic dance vocabulary and audio/visual imagery

Net

Production / Performance,
1995
An exploration of the emotional and political struggles in Beirut that combined movement and imagery through the use of masks, corde lisse work and slide projections

Projects

This artist took part in the following project(s) organized/funded by the culturebase.net partner institutions.

Taiwan - England Artists Fellowships Programme

2006

(25 January 06 - 14 May 06)

Www

The Ijad website

Mourad´s Taiwan Video Diary

A video diary made by Mourad during her 3 month residency at the Taipei Artist Village in Taiwan in 2006.