Thursday, March 31, 2016

Egypt's Hafez and HaRaKa bring the future

Adham Hafez Dance Company in 2065 BC
at New York Live Arts
(photo: Ian Douglas)

Part political summit, part multi-media opera, part protest Hafez’s 2065 BC is a displaced and revisited re-enactment of the infamous ‘Berlin Conference’ of 1884 presenting a complex set of questions around the ethics of occupation in a manner that is dark, comic and politically ignited. In the year 2065, a conference of African scientists, politicians and diplomats gather in Berlin to announce the new world order. 2065 BC is the result of a two-year research process on politics and aesthetics, developed and directed by the Adham Hafez Company and the platform HaRaKa. The research took place in Cairo, Berlin and New York, and continues to unfold its many products in the form of a performance triptych and publications series.
--promotion for Adham Hafez's 2056 BC

In 1884, the colonial powers of Europe, invited by German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, met in Berlin to organize and step up their occupation and pillaging of the African continent. With 2065 BC, Egyptian choreographer Adham Hafez flips this history, envisioning sprawling realms of victorious African queens--"Her Majesty the Queen of Liberia and the American West Coast" is heralded, for instance--in the wake of World War III. In what must have been one hell of a systemic global collapse, shoes are now firmly on the other foot.

This week, 2065 BC is making its U.S. debut at New York Live Arts as part of Live Ideas 2016: MENA/Future–Cultural Transformations in the Middle East North Africa Region, an ambitious, multidisciplinary festival co-curated by NYLA's Tommy Kriegsmann and Hafez.

Four women actors portray the royalty, diplomats and scientists of this New World Order--Mona Gamil, Alaa Abdellateef, Salma Abdel Salam and Charlene Ibrahim, exacting in their roles. Inside their sterile-looking and echoey environment, whether sitting around a table strewn with thick legal documents, declaiming from a podium or performing frosty approximations of cabaret acts, they exude manipulative command. Assurances of safety and benevolence should not be taken seriously. Mockery comes easy and, everywhere, there's a current--calling it "undercurrent" would not be quite accurate--of sexuality firmly in women's control like weaponry. So who's the Venus Hottentot now? Listen and learn.

Hafez and 2065 BC's team have created an extraordinary look and sound; that sound--like rage compressed and parceled out with clinical accuracy-- can punish and takes its sweet time doing so. Despite a brief intermission, there's no let-up from this two-hour experience. It's difficult to receive and bear, yet brilliant in design and performance. Might as well pick up your "Arkisa passport" and enter.

2065 BC continues through Saturday, April 2 with performances at 7:30pm. For information and tickets, click here.

New York Live Arts
219 West 19th Street (between 7th and 8th Avenues), Manhattan
(map/directions)

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