29 Apr A Dance Mag #3 Touch
Surprise Subscription #4
Here it is, the fourth edition of our Surprise Subscription with a magazine about body movement and touch, in a time when we had so little of it.
The third issue of ‘A Dance Mag’ was created amidst the impact of the pandemic, and in the aftermath of the explosion that devastated Beirut in 2020. In a moment when it is much needed, the ‘Touch’ issue brings us unexpected stories of connection, transformation and playfulness. ‘A Dance Mag’ is not simply a magazine about dance. It is about political, social and cultural topics that are illuminated anew through body movement – a new way of looking at the world, confronting difficult issues with grace and nuance.
“The polarisation between right and left, rich and poor, light and dark, acceptance and aggression, rebellion and resignation has become too extreme to ignore,” wrote founders Jana Al-Obeidyine and Ibrahim Nehme in the opening letter of their first issue. We reached out to Jana, to know more about how dance can connect people by bringing together the conscious and unconscious, and uniting us on a level beyond the spoken word.
Jana, tell us, how did the idea for ‘A Dance Mag’ come about?
As a dancer and later a dance researcher, I noticed that many aspects that interest me in dance are rarely addressed in written texts. What I enjoy as a dancer is the dance experience itself. Every time I decide to quit dancing, I get a sense of unbearable thirst for those powerful moments. I am probably not the only person who dances for the sake of the experience, yet no one seems to talk or write about them. Texts relating to dance put too much effort into intellectualising movement. Performers and choreographers try to turn complex ideas into movement. What seemed more relevant to me was turning movement into words. Plus, I don’t think dance and movement are signifiers. They don’t represent thoughts; they are themselves meaningful propositions. Creative director Ibrahim Nehme gets his best ideas while dancing. Creating a platform for narratives that try to capture these fleeting yet rich experiences was the starting point of the magazine.
What do you think dance and body movement can tell that words can’t?
I will quote here existential anthropologist Michael Jackson, who in his essay ‘Knowledge of the Body’, says: “thinking and communicating through the body precede and to a great extent always remain beyond speech. This may be recognised in the way our earliest memories are usually sensations or direct impressions rather than words or ideas, and refer to situated yet not spoken events.” We experience life and respond to it bodily first; we rationalise and verbalise the experience afterward. So, yes, I think that some aspects of our experiences remain defiant to speech. But trying to verbalise them is an exciting and rewarding process.
Tell us about the layout. The tall, slim format stands out and seems far too particular to be not intentional. The same goes for the choice of not accompanying the essays by photos but instead with fluid graphic patterns. What were your thoughts behind these design decisions?
The credit for that goes to Max Weinland & Timo Durst, the art directors of the magazine. The Transcendence issue inspired the tall format; it was meant to leave the reader with a sense of vertical movement. But we decided from the beginning that this format would be that of the magazine. And since the magazine approaches dance as an experience, not as a representation, the design intends to make the reading experience immersive, evoking sensations and feelings of movement rather than mirroring the words.
The topic Touch for the third edition was already born in 2019. How did this theme emerge and change under the influence of a global pandemic that forced us all to be socially distant?
I will borrow the answer to this question from an editor of the magazine Zena Takieddine, who articulates it beautifully: “the Touch issue spans the pre-Covid and post-Covid reality pretty smoothly, even while addressing complicated personal, social, political and cultural experiences from all over the world. The pandemic is woven into a much larger and richer reality. I love how tangible pandemic is, but simply as a thread in the tapestry and not at all the focal point or the disrupter beyond which everything stops. There are far more intriguing stories to be discovered.”
You are based in Beirut, a city that got half-destroyed in the middle of the pandemic by an explosion. What changed for you after this preposterous, rage-inducing event?
In 2020, three unimaginable events happened to those of us based in Beirut: months of confinement, our savings getting stolen by those who are supposed to safeguard them, and the unspeakable port explosion. Those experiences transformed me in an unexpected way: I became much more relaxed. I understood and accepted the fact that I have no control over the future. What I can control is how I decide to handle the present. That doesn’t mean that I am no longer enraged because I still am. I am still waiting for justice.
Do you already have a topic for the next issue?
We are currently regrouping and throwing a retrospective look at the first three issues. We’ll come back with a renewed look, and we’ll launch what we are now calling: cycle 2 of the magazine.
In case you missed out on our fourth round, you can get hold of a copy of A Dance Mag’s the Touch issue here here or to be on the save side and never miss one of our handpicked surprise love letters from us to you – simply subscribe here!