ALULA: A trio gave their art a voice, as music, dance and poetry took center stage at the AlUla Wellness Festival.
Raghad Fatahadeen sat on a raised platform reciting poetry in a soothing voice, while Mustafa Fahmi played music in the background. Up front, dancer Bilal Allaf performed an elaborate dance that encapsulated the emotions the poet was trying to convey.
Fatahadeen, 27, said of her work, “It’s not exactly poetry, and it’s almost like a guided meditation, like a speech. You don’t know what it is, so we call it spoken word poetry.
Allaf’s introduction to Fatahadeen came when he saw her reading his poetry at an open-mic night. He said, “I didn’t know what Raghad had written; it was not necessarily poetry but nature. So I approached her and asked her if there was a piece she would like to read while I improvised it, and she was understandably opposed to the idea at first. It took a bit of persuasion, and then finally we performed on stage for the first time.
They both said that the audience went completely silent during their first dance performance. Initially, they thought the assembled crowd was disapproving, but the applause that followed was loud enough to allay their doubts.
The duo then added Mustafa Fahmi to the mix to provide background music for the multi-sensory experience.
Allaf said, “I was maybe six or seven years old when I started getting interested in dance. I always wanted to be in the middle of a place and put on a show that would grab people’s attention.
As a child, when he moved to Germany, he was finally able to find something in the art world that he loved to do.
He said he was extremely committed because he wanted to learn as much as he could. Dancing did not come naturally to him and he had no training in music, dance or rhythm.
There were even times in his life when he would stop dancing, but he would slowly come back. After leaving him aside for three years, it was the COVID-19 pandemic that prompted him to return to his art.
He immersed himself in the world of dance again, this time on his own terms, and began to practice regularly.
He said: “I tried to understand its importance in my life, in society and the very nature of dance as a language.”
He began to explore improvisation instead of choreographed dances, and has continued this trend in his current performances.
He said: “With improvisation I feel like I can express my emotions better, I think it’s a pure art form of storytelling. I feel like it’s a form of non-verbal communication and as a performer it’s a very deep expression.
Fatahadeen has performed at many wellness retreats and is a passionate poet. She described the process of writing her first play as “receiving it”.
She added, “I didn’t sit down to write it, it just popped into my head and I wrote it down as fast as I could.” She shared it with her friend Allaf and then the couple started building their art.
She said the trio brought all three elements together to offer something for everyone. She added, “I think bringing all of these things together helps create a holistic experience where we not only play, but create space, inviting people to reach a state where they connect with us and receive.
“That’s how I would explain it, but people understand things differently,” Fatahadeen told Arab News.
Their performance combined three different pieces. The former was inspired by Fatahadeen’s upbringing and life experiences, the latter by Allaf’s life and the struggles he went through.
The third was described as a summary of everything in life and to ask people to stay optimistic.
Fatahadeen said, “We come to this life and it is chaotic. It’s overwhelming, and we’re going through it all. I just wanted to urge people not to hold on to anger and sadness and allow themselves to learn and grow.
The audience swayed to the lyrics during the performance; some even shed tears when the emotions touched them. Allaf said having this kind of reaction was very new for him, but it also imposed a great responsibility on him. He added, “I need to consider the feedback people give me and I also need to understand what art and storytelling can do and the power they hold.”
Fatahadeen had a different view of things. She said, “I don’t know if it’s my effect on people or if it’s people’s effect on themselves, what they’ve given themselves.
“I’m just a facilitator and I’m part of this journey. It’s really beautiful that I was able to deliver and that someone received it. I hope they carry it with them and let my words change them somehow.