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Stories from Artists in Residence

Aly Khamees | Residency Experience 2020

I was chosen for the Residency in 2020 in Switzerland. When the Covid-19 hit, I was lucky to be in Europe right before my residency starts. It was easy to travel from Berlin to Lausanne to pursue the residency there, but the experience itself was not easy, due to the Covid-19 situation and the lockdown. It was different than the normal residency, even when I was physically present there.

It was the first time for me to work solo since I usually work with groups. It was also a brand new experience for me to start working at 8 AM because I am used to starting work at noon; that part of the experience I never thought I would enjoy, but I actually did.

Due to the lockdown restrictions, I used the first month of my residency to continue the research I started last year to develop my performance, which was really needed. I learned new skills; I bought some equipment and started filming my own rehearsals to see the development, spot the deficiencies and to develop my technique and performing style. I also started learning and experimenting with video editing and edited my own videos. In the second month, I started going to the studio at Theatre de L’Octagone where I usually met with their team and with my mentor Marco Cantalupo.

I am Egyptian, I call myself a performing artist, not a dancer; I do not only dance… I always try to create a state of mind, I use dance to deliver a message or a piece of information. I want my performances to be seen and celebrated by normal people, not only by artists and art organizations. The real happy moments for me are when I get random messages on Instagram from people asking about dates of my performances, about a technique I use, encouraging me or praising my work. I always want to do something that is close to my roots, and to where I come from.

I started the research in Egypt and filmed a number of video interviews with people convicted of felons. Building on what I have started, I am planning to work on a dance-documentary about the same topic, after developing the performance. I want to show the tough conditions they live in,  how they live after prison? How do they talk? Their way of dancing, the social stigma they live with, and the brotherhoods they form to protect themselves and to protect each other.

My project/performance is called “Naslah” a type of small knives frequently used in slum areas in Egypt for dancing and fighting as well. It is based on research I started about people convicted of felons in Egypt that we call in Arabic “Mosagaleen Khatar” literally translated as “registered as dangerous”. It is also connected with my own dance style that I call “Bullet & Knife” which explores and reflects street dance style in slum areas as well.

During my residency, I received huge support from my mentor, Marco Cantalupo, who gave me a lot of information about the dance scene in Switzerland and much constructive feedback on my work. The people of Le Becc were very friendly and the team was amazing. THÉÂTRE DE L’OCTOGONE’s team and director were very supportive as well.

Depending on the COVID-19 situation and the lockdown, I wish to perform in February 2021  in Zurich.

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