Artistic encounters
in war and violent conflict

Mithkal Alzghair

Mithkal Alzghair Performing Artist

Mithkal Alzghair is a choreographer and dancer from Syria. His work and research focuses on the body as a concept of humanity, a space of awareness, of life, history, future, harmony, and peace, as well as a space for poetry, memory, and imagination.

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Mithkal Alzghair
France / Syria
Performing Artist

The artist

Mithkal Alzghair (b. 1981, Suweida, Syria) is specialised in classical and modern dance at the Higher Institute of Dramatic Arts in Damascus. From 2011-2013, he did the '' master's programme in choreography at the Centre Chorégraphique National de Montpellier in France. Mithkal has performed for various choreographers, such as Marie Brolin-Tani, May Svalholm, Xavier le Roy and Christophe Wavelet. He has collaborated with the Italian theater company In-Occula for the European project CRACK and participates in the '20 danseurs pur le 20ème siècle' by Boris Charmatz.

In 2016, he created Displacement. The performance won 1st prize in the 2016 Danse élargie, a competition organized by Théâtre de la Ville in Paris and the Musée de la danse / CCN in Rennes and Brittany. In 2017, he presented his performance-installation Transaction at the Center National de la Danse in Pantin, France. In 2019, he created We are not going back at the Montpellier Danse Festival.

Mithkal's work and research focuses on the body as a concept of humanity, the body as a worldview, as a space of awareness of life, history, future, harmony, and peace, and the body as a space for poetry, memory, and imagination. He pays particular attention to cases of violation of this space by authoritarianism, laws, and systems in power, when the body is deprived of its dignity, its freedom, and its right to live. He views the body as an energy capable of creation and rebirth, capable of rising, facing, resisting, and being sensitive to anything that strips the body of its concept of humanity. His work with the body can be understood as a space of sense, possibilities, and contradictions - a space for questioning, and an instrument of a revolution for peace.

In his work, Mithkal explores the concept of displacement – forced or voluntary – (...) the need to leave and the anxiety of not being able to come back.

Selected works

Displacement (2016)

In Displacement, Mithkal examines the specificity and identity of the Syrian body from his own reality, to make the human visible within the complicated context of revolution, migration, and wars, of rising ideologies, and a breath of freedom. The focus is on Syrian cultural heritage, its traditions and physicality, and its dynamics and repetitions. Trying to understand the sources from which these traditional dances come from, the process of impregnation and contagion are built, taking into consideration the social and political reality that has contributed to the creation of its heritage - the military heritage, the dictator heritage, the heritage of authoritarian regimes, the revolution, the war and displacement.

Mithkal tests physically the urgency of forced displacement, escaping, pending before departure, the exile. This contradiction between roots (a deeply rooted culture) and the displacement (the obligation of uprooting) is a problematic that reflects the reality of all Syrian refugees. From the paradox between anchorage and uprooting, Mithkal works with the concept of displacement, the urgency of the compulsion to move, the need to leave, and the anxiety of not being able to come back. The relationship between two spaces - the original space and the assigned space - produces a torn body.

What is the body that is forced to move, or sometimes to stay immobile? What would be the movement if it were not voluntary? How is the individual re-located after moving into a new context, being imposed to remodel and rebuild its territory, to recreate a new identity, for maybe having to leave this identity again? This is a process of permanent construction and deconstruction.

Transaction (2017)

Transaction is a dialogue between the images that are shown and the blurry reality. Obsessions. Between the media coverage that creates fog and illusion to give us a simple view. Transactions, an excess of images, conflict and peace. We look. Was it constructed to be destroyed? Before our very eyes? But also, the song of what we have killed. Transactions is the suspended moment of an explosion, of traces, of voices, bodies, cries, and movements in space.

'I carry a special attention to the images and representations of the body which is generated from the Syrian conflict. I began my research by questioning how to work with documented images and how to create a situation to make them visible. In fact, my work often begins with research from a small detail, a hypothesis, a question or an image that subsequently becomes and endless source of possibilities: possibilities of images, of movements, of time, of compositions. This leads me to think that what is important is not the subject itself but how I approach it; the path that I take, and how I use it for experimentation'.

We Are Not Going Back (2019)

We Are Not Going Back explores the political and social reality that surrounds and affects us, threatening our human existence. From resistance to utopia, from struggle to submission, from hope to despair, five bodies explores possibilities for another world on stage.

We live in a world that is divided into countries, nationalities, religions, skin colours, and origins. We are separated by frontiers formed of walls, barbed wire, and blockades, put up by the capitalist system to protect itself. The system enslaves people, uses them as its driving force and obliges them to live inside this closed system. Today, migrants, the people trying to reach these protected spaces, are used by governments as an excuse to increase political control of their citizens. As migrants travel to escape the political control of their bodies, they are confronted with other forms of surveillance. All the talk about integration and the importance of diversity carry little weight in the face of the actions perpetrated every day towards them.

We Are Not Going Back bears witness to people’s everyday lives, to everything that impacts our humanity and our existences. It is also a form of demonstration, struggle and protest against all the bodily ideologies that we accept and that threaten our integrity. Five dancers bring to life on stage apparitions of the body in the face of this system of control, and the resulting images will be transformed in a utopian attempt at freedom. The dancers adopt several forms, going from dancing bodies to everyday bodies, in a gestural and rhythmic performance that highlights this tension between educated corporeality and hoped for humanity. The performance examines the fragile boundaries between violence and caring for others, between submission and struggle, between conflict and harmony.

Read more

  • Interview of Mitkhal by the Syrian story-sharing platform Qisetna
  • Interview of Mitkhal in Guernica about Displacement
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