Paris-based choreographer and performer Radhouane el Meddeb, born and raised in Tunisia, is on the way to Miami. This weekend, on April 13and 14, Miami Light Project will present his multi-sensory work I Dance and I Feed You.
Firmly rooted in the cultural traditions of his country, el Meddeb was trained by cultural pioneers in Tunisia and the Arabic world, where he was named the young hope of the Tunisian theater. He then relocated to France, and was further influenced by European performers. In 2008, he was invited by Burkina-Faso based choreographer Salia Sanou to produce a new project for the Sonorités et Corps d’Afrique, and I Dance and I Feed You was born.
In 2010, Miami Light’s Artistic and Executive Director Beth Boone met el Meddeb at the Bienniale de la Danse in Lyon and was captivated by his artistic mission. And so, two years later Miami will play host to I Dance and I Feed You, a truly international project that immerses audiences deep into North African culture.
This won’t be your average dance experience. El Meddeb describes the project as a “culinary and dance performance,” and he will be literally cooking couscous onstage. Culture happens most poignantly around the rituals of a communal meal, and our deepest memories are often tied to sounds, odors, and tastes. El Meddeb takes us home. “In my family I have always carefully observed my mother and my aunts preparing couscous,” he says. “Our national dish is served at every occasion: marriages, circumcisions, mourning.”
El Meddeb is a comically inclined storyteller: “I prepare a couscous and I dance with all the grandeur, generosity, and poetry of these two arts. Between tomato concentrate, courgettes, carrots and cinnamon: a leap, a glance, a suspension or a rupture. Between the semolina and a chassé croisé, the dish simmers.” He sometimes slips into North African and Arabic dance styles, with a traditional soundtrack in the background.
For this performance, Miami Light has rearranged the Lightbox performance space to create an intimate and open atmosphere. The seating has been restructured so the stage is fully in the round, and you can sit on the floor right next to him. Or you can sit in the back and watch from a distance.
“Seated here and there across the performance area,” El Maddeb says, “spectators find themselves seized by the perfumes drifting through the air. The deployment of my body follows the slow diffusion of the food’s perfumes; the length of the performance determined by the cooking time.”
Miami Light Project has long been a champion of groundbreaking performance, but this may well be the first time their stage is infiltrated by exotic spices. According to Managing Producer Rebekah Lengel, “we are realizing one of the goals we had in building the Lightbox: making audiences aware of how they can be integrated into a performance. We want to create experiences that are deeper than simply witnessing work.” Lengel continues, “he really finds a way to tear down the barriers that exist between audiences and artists. Everyone becomes a part of this communal table.”
Radhouane El Meddeb, I Dance and I Feed You,is presented by Miami Light Project, April 13-14 at 8:00 p.m.; the Light Box at Goldman Warehouse, 404 N.W. 26 St., Miami. Tickets cost $25; visit miamilightproject.com or call 866.811.4111.