International Dance Day Festival Ushers in the Way Forward
The IDDFL makes a triumphant return to the LAU stage in an exhilarating fusion of movement, rhythm and artistic expression.
When strict lockdown measures and social distancing guidelines were implemented, dance studios and theaters fell silent, and the vibrance of movement was stilled. For the International Dance Day Festival in Lebanon (IDDFL), the solution was a makeshift stage.
In response to the new reality, the IDDFL launched virtual classes and performances, inviting globally acclaimed artists to participate in an initiative that aimed to blend the arts into the evolving norms of the digital era.
This year, the festival made a victorious comeback in its newest edition, This Way Forward: A Dance Performance, from March 27 to April 1. Over the course of the first four days, daily dance classes were held at the Byblos campus, taught by renowned IDDFL international guests.
The classes were delivered by Associate Professor of Dance Education at Teachers College Columbia University Matt Henley, Associate Professor of Dance at Drew University Kimani Fowlin and Associate Professor of Dance and Director of the Dance Graduate Program at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee Daniel Burkholder.
The culmination was a performance to a full house at the Gulbenkian Theater, Beirut campus, on March 31, an exhilarating fusion of movement, rhythm and artistic expression. Central to the festival’s essence was the highly anticipated return of dance performances and styles varying from classical and folklore to contemporary.
Associate Professor of Dance Nadra Assaf, as the founder and director of IDDFL, was hoping “to do something that reflected our need to move forward,” she said. “I mean, that’s what all of us want to do because we’ve gotten tired of staying in the same place. The idea that there wasn’t a tangible way forward back in 2019 was something that we wanted to not just address, but also negate, and we did that by reinventing ourselves.”
Dr. Assaf planted the seed of IDDFL at LAU when the university did not even offer dance courses. Throughout the years, as Dr. Assaf brought more dance performances and events to the LAU stage, the program blossomed into one of the many promising buds in the Performing Arts program.
“My main motivation was trying to get the university to understand the prevalence of dance as a form of expression and art,” she stated. “There is not a university in our region that has dance, and for LAU to offer the program and host this festival is a pride and honor for all students and enthusiasts out there.”
Followed by a community day on the Byblos campus, the festival featured a remarkable lineup of 28 guest professors, some of whom were hosted by the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, the Indian Embassy and UNESCO Lebanon.
Dr. Assaf was touched by the number of people who both attended and participated in the event, given that connecting people from manifold backgrounds has always been at the heart of her motivation to launch IDDFL, she added.
“I think the takeaway from this is that people did understand that, somehow, there will be a way forward regardless of what it may be,” she noted. “What I hope for the future is to stay on this kind of trajectory. I hope to have more and more parents coming up to me and telling me about their desire to enroll their children in our Performing Arts program. As long as I’m at LAU, I’ll make sure to continue showing the community what a worthwhile major it is.”