Yaa Samar! Dance Theater: The Palestine and New York-based company subverting audience expectations 

 Yaa Samar! Dance Theater: The Palestine and New York-based company subverting audience expectations 
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Updated 17 March 2023
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Yaa Samar! Dance Theater: The Palestine and New York-based company subverting audience expectations 

 Yaa Samar! Dance Theater: The Palestine and New York-based company subverting audience expectations 

DUBAI: For the past few months, Yaa Samar! Dance Theater has been organizing a weekly online class for artists in Gaza. “Last week, it took us 52 minutes to get one group in Gaza a strong enough connection to start the class,” says Samar Haddad King, the company’s artistic and founding director, referencing the territory’s chronic electricity crisis. “You see the disappointment from the artists and the fatigue caused by just trying to do something small.” 

This is just one glitch among many. Haddad King, who is in Haifa when we talk, rattles off a series of stories related to the disruption and oppression caused by Israel’s occupation of the West Bank: People taking 16 hours to travel eight kilometers, delayed performances, missed shows, and artists hurrying dangerously through warmups.  

“Sometimes before these shows they go through severe trauma at the checkpoint, but I think there’s this ability to kind of push things down in order to accomplish something and then you deal with the repercussions,” she says. 




Zoe Rabinowitz by Chrissy Connors. (Supplied)

A transnational company based between New York and Palestine, Yaa Samar! Dance Theater puts a significant amount of time and effort into education and engagement programs, says Zoe Rabinowitz, the company’s executive director. But even developing and working with artists is a challenge. “One of our current teaching artists from Jerusalem is now in Denmark. This is a big thing,” she says. “Artists leave. It’s a very difficult place to live and work in and so we’re constantly investing in developing artists — and then that community shifts and changes. We’ve been lucky enough to work with a really solid core group of artists, but visas are not always approved to the US, we have to make last minute casting changes, and there have been years where up to 40 percent of our programming has been cancelled due to security issues, visa denials — the full gamut of things.” 

Can dance be anything but political in Palestine? Is dance a form of resistance? While the company’s work is not necessarily ideological, “there is something about raising your voice and our story being told, and maybe being told in a different way,” says Haddad King. “Just being seen, just screaming out, talking it out, dancing it out is political. We are politicized.” 




Palestinian actor Khalifa Natour in 'Last Ward' at NYUAD in February. (Supplied)

“I think doing contemporary work as a Palestinian-American company is a bit of a perspective shift for a lot of folks who, if you say ‘Palestinian,’ are expecting dabke or a more-cultural dance performance,” adds Rabinowitz. “So (by being) in this space that is melding a lot of different forms — we have folks that are dabke dancers, we have ballet dancers, we have hip-hop, we have circus, we have theater performers — we’re really making a hybrid form that’s dealing with contemporary themes, and it’s not life in the camp and the hardships of the Palestinian struggle. That’s not always at the forefront of a narrative. And that subverts the expectations sometimes of an audience, which I think is really important.” 

Formed in 2005, Yaa Samar! Dance Theater’s mission is to promote understanding through the arts. It does so through cross-cultural dialogue and social discourse, with its performers both formally trained and self-taught. By working with artists from across the Arab world, Asia and the US, all of whom are from a variety of dance and theatre backgrounds, the company has created this hybrid, global form of multimedia dance theatre that Rabinowitz talks about. 

Its most recent production is “Last Ward,” a performance that follows one man’s journey towards death in a hospital room. Written and directed by Amir Nizar Zuabi, with choreography and music by Haddad King, the work had its Arab world premiere at The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi in February and stars the Palestinian actor Khalifa Natour. As Natour’s character reflects on his life, relationships and connection to place, the ritual of doctor visits, family calls and nurses administering food and medicine transforms into an increasingly bizarre landscape of tragedy and humor. 




Wael Abu Jabal. (Supplied)

 “It’s interesting that Palestine is not in the show at all, and yet it’s an opportunity for people to see this man, who’s a Palestinian man, as a human,” says Rabinowitz. “And to really have compassion and empathy for his experience is a powerful thing.” 

“It’s perhaps our most political work because of that,” adds Haddad King. “We have more overt political themes in (works such as) ‘Against A Hard Surface,’ also created by Nizar and I. There are dancers bashing themselves against a wall and there’s a lot of nuance in that — a lot of story in that. But ‘Last Ward’ isn’t overtly political and yet it’s highly politicized because cancer can get everyone. There’s no wall.” 

The daughter of a Palestinian mother and American father, Haddad King grew up in Alabama before moving to New York and ultimately to Palestine, where she floats between cities and towns on both sides of the Green Line. “I feel like a constant Bedouin,” she says simply. To date, the company has created more than 30 original performances, including site-specific and durational, immersive works. Telling the stories of underrepresented communities and uplifting the voices of marginalized populations, the company’s work is inspired by personal histories – Haddad King’s included.  




Social Garage - NYU. (Supplied)

“When your name’s Samar and your name’s spelt as my name is in the deep south, there’s always a question attached to your name,” she says. “‘Oh, where are you from?’ So identity, from ever since I can remember, was a part of this constant question of where you are from. That obviously changed and morphed with age, with experience, with talking about where I’m from. Are you ‘from’ the place you grew up, or ‘from’ the place that your family was exiled from?”   

“The development of the company and the development of her voice as an artist has always been very linked to that identity and also a desire to tell stories rooted in that perspective,” adds Rabinowitz. “Because you could see a lack of that, in the US especially. Since Samar relocated (to Palestine) in 2010, it has been a real negotiation of ‘How do you have a transnational company, how do you straddle both places, how do you be from both places?’ So the company is sort of part of that negotiation as well.” 

The company is working on a new piece called “The Gathering,” which will premiere in New York next year, and Haddad King is writing a musical. The former is a participatory performance work inspired by her experience as a Palestinian of the diaspora. Part-staged work, part-improvisational score, the piece will utilize technology, storytelling, sound design and play to examine what brings people together in celebration, conflict, protest and sport. 

“It’s trying to break down the barriers between art and audience,” says Haddad King. “So that feels exciting — to keep trying to make art accessible. I would love to keep touring ‘Last Ward’ because I think it still has a big life and the message needs to get out there. But also doing work in public spaces and doing work that doesn’t require a certain level of technicality can get art to where art is not; can get it to people that don’t necessarily go to art. And that’s important. Just to give people an experience.” 


Art auction at London’s Dorchester Hotel raises over $200,000 for Palestine

Art auction at London’s Dorchester Hotel raises over $200,000 for Palestine
Updated 03 March 2024
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Art auction at London’s Dorchester Hotel raises over $200,000 for Palestine

Art auction at London’s Dorchester Hotel raises over $200,000 for Palestine
  • A miniature sculpture of Banksy’s “Flower Thrower” fetched the highest bid of £16,000

LONDON: A prestigious art auction in London has raised £165,000 ($208,800) for nonprofit organizations providing medical aid in Gaza and advocating for Palestinian human rights, its organizers said on Sunday. 

Voices of Palestine, which took place on Feb. 25 at the prestigious Dorchester Hotel, featured 15 pieces of Arab artwork, including a miniature sculpture of Banksy’s “Flower Thrower,” painted by Palestinian artists. This piece, originally sold at the Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem, fetched the highest bid of £16,000.

The proceeds from the auction are earmarked for two primary causes: supporting Fajr Scientific’s comprehensive healthcare initiative in Gaza, and the efforts of the International Centre of Justice for Palestinians.

The event hosted a panel discussion featuring a high-profile list of speakers. (AN Photo/Tamara Turki)

Egyptian activist and Editor-in-Chief of Scoop Empire Rahma Zein told Arab News: “These kinds of events are important to reiterate the message that we need to empower ourselves to have the right kinds of discussions as to how to do that, be it economically or politically.”

The 30-year-old went viral in a video confronting CNN’s Clarissa Ward for her reporting at the Rafah border. She was then invited to appear on Piers Morgan’s TalkTV show to discuss Palestinians’ suffering.

She added: “Right now there is a void; there is an empty space because the veil has fallen.

“We’ve seen that these institutions that we deemed as prestigious, these news outlets that we deemed as prestigious, are no longer the case; they’re duds.

“Now is the time to look inwards, and look regionally and see so that we’re not looking at token politicians that look like us but speak in the name of Zionism or appease the colonizers.

“We need to empower ourselves. We need to own back our narrative and these are the events to do so.”

Fajr Scientific CEO Dr. Mosab Nasser has detailed a $55 million post-war plan aiming to enhance Gaza's medical infrastructure by adding 120 hospital beds, numerous operating rooms, and intensive care units over the next three years.

Meanwhile, the ICJP focuses on strategic legal actions and advocacy to align foreign policy with the realities Palestinians face, guided by international law.

Palestinian Ambassador to the UK Husam Zomlot and South African High Commissioner to the UK Jeremiah Nyamane Mamabolo. (AN Photo/Tamara Turki)

The event hosted a panel discussion featuring a high-profile list of speakers including Rahma Zein and Nasser alongside Palestinian Ambassador to the UK Husam Zomlot, award-winning journalist Ahmed Eldin, surgeon Dr. Ghassan Abu-Sitta, and Israeli-British historian Avi Shlaim.

The panelists tackled a wide range of issues on Israel’s war in Gaza, which has killed over 30,000 people. Eldin spoke on the democratization of the media and its role in challenging Western narratives about Palestine, while Abu-Sitta shared harrowing experiences of treating patients under siege in Gaza, including Israel’s bombing of hospitals.

The event drew 450 attendees, with tickets sold at between £150 to £250.
 


Culture Summit Abu Dhabi kicks off with call to ‘create a world of understanding’

Culture Summit Abu Dhabi kicks off with call to ‘create a world of understanding’
Updated 03 March 2024
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Culture Summit Abu Dhabi kicks off with call to ‘create a world of understanding’

Culture Summit Abu Dhabi kicks off with call to ‘create a world of understanding’
  • World-renowned Syrian poet Adonis gave the first keynote speech of the summit
  • Mohamed Al-Mubarak, Chairman of the Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi, stressed his desire to ‘create a world of understanding’

ABU DHABI: Culture Summit Abu Dhabi kicked off its sixth edition in the UAE capital with a diverse program of keynote speeches, creative talks, panel discussions and cultural performances.

On the first day of the three-day event, held under the theme of “A Matter of Time,” the summit explored the role of culture in creating collective memories while looking at alternatives to the linear concept of time.

Mohamed Khalifa Al-Mubarak, chairman of the Department of Culture and Tourism, Abu Dhabi, at Culture Summit Abu Dhabi 2024. (Supplied)

In his opening remarks, Mohamed Al-Mubarak, Chairman of the Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi), said, “‘A Matter of Time’ is the theme for this year's Culture Summit Abu Dhabi, which serves as an invitation for us all to reflect and pause. Culture Summit is more than just words — issues will be discussed and tangible solutions will be found for global communities. Culture will allow us to understand each other, respect each other, accept and preserve each other’s culture. Once we attain this level of harmony, we will create a world of understanding.”

Al-Mubarak also made a call to attendees to make connections at the conference. “These are not just words in summits like this. Our job is to make sure we find platforms and other solutions to be a positive voice for our youth,” he said. “They will be the catalyst to make sure all of our actions and all of our fruits bear.”

Al-Mubarak then introduced world-renowned Syrian poet and philosopher Adonis, who gave the summit’s first keynote speech where he framed the relationship between people and time, exploring both in the context of technological advancements.

“Time is a creation and we are living in an era of technological advancements and modernism, enslaving us where it should have set us free. At the culture summit, we share one common goal with distinct yet similar views on culture, poetry and art. We are living in an era where nature and creativity are the need of the hour. Technology cannot be creative, cannot think, breathe or feel — technology is not the problem but relying too much on it is,” said Adonis.

"When man lives according to his creative nature, they will be a source of continuous innovation," he continued. "Understanding that is the key to a person's relationship with himself, to others and the world."

Emirati celebrity singer and Goodwill Ambassador at Large Hussain Al-Jassmi also took part in a conversation with Egyptian talk show host Mona Al-Shazly. “The UAE is a strong enabler for creative talents, including emerging artists. I personally received great support from the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan, who I believe was the first supporter of creative talents in the UAE. In addition, the UAE is the best example of coexistence and harmony, embracing residents of more than 200 nationalities — you can walk across any walkway in the UAE and come across five different dialects and languages.”

Nobel Prize in Literature winner, playwright, and professor of theater at NYU Abu Dhabi Wole Soyinka sat in conversation with Manthia Diawara, professor in the department of cinema studies at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts to discuss the intricacies of African culture as well as issues around identity, as well as his thoughts on restitution.

Culture Summit Abu Dhabi, which runs until March 5, is organised by DCT Abu Dhabi.


Elie Saab unveils Fall/Winter 2024 line at Paris Fashion Week

Elie Saab unveils Fall/Winter 2024 line at Paris Fashion Week
Updated 03 March 2024
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Elie Saab unveils Fall/Winter 2024 line at Paris Fashion Week

Elie Saab unveils Fall/Winter 2024 line at Paris Fashion Week

DUBAI/PARIS: Lebanese designer Elie Saab unveiled his Fall/Winter ready-to-wear 2024-25 collection at Paris Fashion Week on Saturday, with a showcase of darker colors in a suitably wintery palette.

Figure-hugging olive green gowns were shown off on the runway, with deep purple and a muted dark blue also punctuating the new offering.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by ELIE SAAB (@eliesaabworld)

“The Elie Saab ready-to-wear Fall/ Winter 2024-25 collection is a never-ending song where the melodies of Graceland resound beyond Elvis (Presley),” the fashion house declared on Instagram.

Besides gowns, the designer also offered a variety of chic tailored separates, with a glittering coat with razor-sharp lapels contrasting well against the soft curves and floral elements of another all-white overcoat.

Guests included influencers such as Olivia Palermo, Nathalie Fanj and Tamara Kalinic.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by ELIE SAAB (@eliesaabworld)

Elsewhere at a rainy Paris Fashion Week on Saturday, luxury label Hermes explored the meaning of “quiet luxury.” This season the narrative took a darker, more introspective turn as creative head Nadege Vanhee-Cybulski offered brooding black leathers that evoked the deep, reflective tones of the late French painter Soulages.

Nipped buckles and gentle ribbing on skin-tight pants demonstrated Vanhee-Cybulski’s adeptness at blending Hermes’ storied craftsmanship with innovative design. Amidst this darker palette, muted flashes emerged, weaving poetically through the collection, The Associated Press reported.

Braving the persistent Parisian drizzle, K-Pop star Sandara Park led the pack at Andreas Kronthaler for Vivienne Westwood, captivating the audience in a punk-tinged corset adorned with pearls. The opening ensembles transported the audience back in time amid contemporary fusions, channeling the essence of a serf, the medieval agricultural laborer. The designs incorporated leggings, jockstraps resembling codpieces, mystical talismanic pendants, and tear-shaped cutouts on thick knit sweaters.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by ELIE SAAB (@eliesaabworld)

Meanwhile, elegant sophistication, minimalism, and a hint of nonchalance continued to define Carven. The storied house, originally founded by Marie Louise Carven in 1945, evolved under the guidance of various male creative directors since its reboot 2009 and 2018. Stepping into this lineage as the first female leader since its reboot, Louise Trotter presented her second collection Saturday, skillfully weaving together the brand’s 1950s origins with a minimalist aesthetic reminiscent of the 1990s.

The show opened with a statement piece: A brown round-shouldered coat that was both loose and indicative of the new direction Trotter is steering Carven towards.

This piece set the stage for a collection with dimensions and perceptions — for example, a striking dress featured a trompe l’oeil effect, cleverly designed to appear two-dimensional.


Art Dubai spotlights the Global South and art as healing

Art Dubai spotlights the Global South and art as healing
Updated 03 March 2024
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Art Dubai spotlights the Global South and art as healing

Art Dubai spotlights the Global South and art as healing

DUBAI: Long a crossroads for cultures from the Far East, South Asia, Europe and the Americas, Dubai’s strategic global location has made it a pivotal place for cultural exchange. Art Dubai’s 17th edition, which wraps up on March 3, further exemplifies the Gulf city’s unique location and cosmopolitan nature, particularly for artists and cultural platforms from the Global South.

The “Global South” has been a buzzword for some time, largely denoting various countries around the world that are sometimes described as “developing” with the majority, although by no means all, situated in the Southern Hemisphere, largely in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America.

Work by Saudi artist Abdulsattar Al-Mussa at Art Dubai. (Supplied)

Art Dubai this year welcomes more than 120 gallery presentations, drawn from more than 60 cities and over 40 countries across four sections: Contemporary, Bawwaba, Art Dubai Modern and Art Dubai Digital. Over 65 percent of the galleries hail from the regions that make up the Global South.

“Art Dubai has been focusing on the Global South for the last eight years,” Pablo del Val, Art Dubai’s artistic director, told Arab News. “We are trying to deepen the conversation about the Global South is as well as about issues regarding displacement and how the Global South is present in the outskirts of Paris and Los Angeles.

“For us, the Global South is really a state of mind more than a state of geographic belonging,” added Del Val. “We are very interested in illustrating how this idea reflects the times in which we are living.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Art Dubai (@artdubai)

Of equal importance, stresses Del Val is this year’s Bawwaba gallery section curated by Emiliano Valdes under the theme “Sanación/Healing.” It will feature a series of new performances and activations focusing on ideas of spirituality, introspection, community and the power of art to help human beings navigate challenging times by embracing unity. 

Participating artists in this section include a number of names from the so-called Global South, including Argentinian artist, choreographer and dancer Cecilia Bengolea, Kerala-born Berlin-based artist Sajan Mani, Debashish Paul from West Bengal in India, Palestinian artist Mirna Bamieh, Indian artists Mithu Sen and Emirati creative Hashel Lamki.

Hailing from cities including Sao Paolo, Bogota, Tehran, Dubai and Mumbai, among others, participating galleries at Art Dubai further build on the fair’s commitment to representing and championing art from the Global South. These include the Aisha Alabbar Gallery, among the first galleries in Dubai focused on contemporary and modern art by Emirati, local and regional artists that is exhibiting a solo booth of works by Emirati artist Alia Hussain Lootah; Dastan Gallery from Tehran, Iran, dedicated to promoting Iranian contemporary art globally that is presenting a dynamic group showing of emerging and established artists from Iran, including Reza Aramesh, Fereydoun Ave, Farah Ossouli, Sahand Hesamiyan and the Ghasemi Brothers; Gallery One from Ramallah, Palestine, showcasing works by Libyan artist Samira Badran and Palestinian Manal Mahamid; and Galeria Espacio Continuo from Bogota, Colombia, a gallery that opened in 2020 dedicated to showcasing an exclusive program of local artists that highlights dynamic abstract works by Miler Lagos and Ana María Rueda.

The Global South is additionally representing strongly in the fair’s Modern section,curated by Dr. Christianna Bonin, which traces the emergence of new modernisms across the Global South through works of modernists from Syria, Egypt, Uganda and Sri Lanka who exhibited and studied in the Soviet Union in the 1960s.

Another talent from the Global South who is playing a major role at the event is Goa-based artist Sahil Naik who devised the the fourth edition of the A.R.M. Holding Children’s Program. It will be launched launching at the fair before expanding to over 100 schools and 15,000 students.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Art Dubai (@artdubai)

“He is going to be encouraging children to imagine little worlds and environments based on the ideas of their homes and the environment and how you actually constitute and lay out cities,” Art Dubai’s Executive Director Benedetta Ghione told Arab News. “He will ask them what makes a home, how do we imagine the future, etc... We these programs we try to encourage the children to think about the world through the lens of culture and creativity.”

“The children’s program continues to grow outside of the fair,” added Ghione. “For eight weeks after the fair, we are going into more than 100 schools and reaching over 15,000 children. This is a program that continues to grow and is now reaching all seven Emirates.”

 


UK beauty brand explains Bella Hadid contract termination

UK beauty brand explains Bella Hadid contract termination
Updated 02 March 2024
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UK beauty brand explains Bella Hadid contract termination

UK beauty brand explains Bella Hadid contract termination

DUBAI: British beauty brand Charlotte Tilbury this week responded to claims surrounding the termination of its contract with Bella Hadid, saying that the decision was not based on the US Dutch Palestinian model’s “personal views,” but because she is launching her own beauty brand.

A statement from the company, published in The Independent, said: “Bella Hadid and Charlotte Tilbury Beauty’s professional relationship has come to its end as Bella prepares to launch her own beauty brand.

“It is absolutely not the case that any personal views held by Bella impacted our contract or relationship with her.

“As a female-led business, Charlotte Tilbury Beauty continues to support Bella and looks forward to the exciting launch of Orebella later this year,” the statement added.

Last month, Hadid announced on Instagram that she is launching a brand called Orebella on May 2. 

While details about the brand and its offerings remain under wraps, WWD Magazine reported that Hadid’s trademark filing, dating back to 2022, hints at Orebella’s focus on scent-related products. These may include fragrances, incense, body lotions, oils, shampoo, conditioner and candles. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Bella (@bellahadid)

The model shared a 10-second teaser on Instagram showing a close-up of her face and culminating with the brand’s logo.

Hadid was named the face of Charlotte Tilbury in March 2023. 

Her debut campaign in June promoted the new Airbrush Flawless Lip Blur, a hydrating matte liquid lipstick formulated with hyaluronic acid to boost hydration. She joined a glittering roster that included actress Lily James, and models Jourdan Dunn and Kate Moss.