IDDFL 2020: Lockdown Edition

International Dance Day Festival in Lebanon launches virtual classes and performances for its 10th anniversary.

By Hanan Nasser

Organized by Dr. Assaf, the IDDFL Lockdown Edition is an innovative approach that seeks to integrate the arts into the new normal.

It is true that we couldn’t get together for our 10th Annual International Dance Day Festival in Lebanon (IDDFL) this year, but we still made it happen and came to you.

“Being in seclusion does not mean humanity cannot function,” said the organizer Dr. Nadra Assaf, associate chairperson of the Department of Communication Arts. “We decided to do something a bit unique to help connect our dance community with the intended guests for 2020, so we created the online version.”

As people around the world practice physical distanc­­ing and as fostering social connections becomes more vital, the IDDFL Lockdown Edition had internationally renowned performers join in virtually from New York, in an innovative approach that seeks to integrate the arts into the new normal.

Starting on March 29, they held daily dance classes over a course of five days. The classe­­s, which were broadcast on IDDFL’s social media platforms will culminate in a collective live online performance titled Dancing Together Online: Performing in the Era of COVID-19 on Friday, April 3 at 6:00 p.m.

For Rain Ross, director of the Rain Ross Dance Company, the class structure was all about “connecting with self, the space and then each other” in spite of physical distance.

“The arts are more important now than ever as the place of expression and connection, which will see us through this time of crisis,” she said.

Being part of the IDDFL virtual experience, added Ross, “warmed my heart. I could feel them dancing with me and each other, and connecting through our artistic voices.” The virtual edition of the festival, she is certain, will harness more creativity, as it “is helping to foster creative voices.”

The themes included meditative improvisation, warm-up techniques for small spaces, choreographing a dance while in confinement, composition basics, and composition from a Limon perspective – a dance technique.  

“People who attended the classes during that week will have learned the material needed for the final performance,” Dr. Assaf explained.

As LAU Performing Arts students participated in the classes, Dr. Assaf’s objective was for them to learn how performance “can survive on different levels and in different mediums.”

“Life has to go on, even in hard times,” she said. “No matter what, we cannot give up. We simply have to find new ways.”

The virtual experience of IDDFL was a chance for performing artists to prove what has been known all along. Art, in all its forms, is transcendental and will inevitably find its way into the homes and lives of people even in the most unusual of circumstances.

“Dancers all speak the same language, be it verbal or nonverbal. We are capable of practicing with each other through words just as much as by sight. It’s a new thing for us. Actually, a bit novel for the whole world. Sort of like this virus that has us all contained indoors,” Dr. Assaf said.

The classes were delivered by Ross, Beau Hancock, assistant professor of dance at Stockton University, Matt Henley, associate professor of dance at Colombia Teacher’s College NY, Jessie Levey, founder and director of Barefoot Dance Center in West Park, NY, and Maxine Steinman, associate professor at Mont Claire University and choreographer/artistic director of Maxine Steinman & Dancers Company.

The IDDFL is part of UNESCO’s chosen International Dance Day yearly celebration, which falls on April 29.

The final performance will be livestreamed Friday, April 3, at 6:00 p.m. on Facebook: International Dance Day Festival in Lebanon, Instagram: @iddfl.