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Moments in movement
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 08 - 07 - 2010

Held in conjunction with the 11th International Egyptian Modern Dance Festival, a current photographic exhibition captures the art of modern dance, writes Ingrid Wassmann
The dancer is frozen for an instant in motion, his thigh muscles powerfully flexed as a result of the energy and strength of his movements, his stretched arms swung out from his body. His eyes stare out of his face into the audience, and the black, white and gold patterns painted onto his body glare against the brilliant red of his costume.
Such are the details of a moment of dance, frozen and captured in a high-definition colour image and one of the many stunning photographs shown at an exhibition currently on display at the Gomhuriya Theatre in Cairo and held in conjunction with the 11th International Egyptian Modern Dance Festival until 5 July.
"The purpose of the exhibition is to show the impact of dance photography and the power it can have," commented Walid Aouni, the initiator of the exhibition and artistic director of the dance festival. "It is time to discover dance photography as an art form," he added.
Aouni is an acclaimed Lebanese choreographer and is also the artistic director of the Cairo Opera House's Egyptian Modern Dance Company, which he founded in 1993.
The exhibition's collection of 68 photographs depicts scenes from various dance performances, such as moments from Scheherazade- Korsakov, Between Dusk and Dawn, The Smell of Ice, and, most recently, Women of Qassim Amin, all of which have been presented at the Cairo Opera House and Gomhuriya Theatre over the past five years.
Photographers include Bassam El-Zoghby, the winner of six photographic awards, Khaled Farid, who works professionally with the Middle East News Agency, Mohamed Mosaad, deputy head of the photography section of Al-Ahram, and Al-Ahram Weekly 's photographer Sherif Sonbol. All four are heavyweights in Egypt's professional dance photography world and pioneers of a genre in a country where photography is still sometimes not recognised as being a form of art.
"The photographer is the creator: he is the third eye," Aouni said. "Like a choreographer, he knows how to capture a moment, a movement, and movement is important because it's through movement that you reach the heart."
Colour, composition and light have been carefully selected in many of the photographs, and for Aouni they represent a form of art independent from the subjects depicted. "The world of dance photography has nothing to do with performance, because the photographer captures a moment and creates a form of art out of it, making his own performance," Aouni said.
In a photograph by Sonbol of Women of Qassim Amin, a performance directed by Aouni, the dancers' faces are trapped inside elongated pieces of black fabric suspended from above the stage, symbolising the veil. A slight blur around the moving bodies suggests attempts to break free. Whitish lighting behind the dark outlines of the dancers gives the photograph a particularly sombre tone.
"We should learn from those who give us art to make us happy," Walid Aouni once wrote. These words could easily apply to the current exhibition.

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