Hoor Malas was part of the Dance Triple Play at Impact 19 Festival. The show featured three contemporary dance pieces by women. Malas’s piece reflects on her experience living in a country battered by war. Tess Martens spoke with Hoor Malas about her dance for #IMPACT19Festival. She spoke about the side of herself that came out during the war in Syria.
Martens: Tell me about little about your dance.
Malas: I made this piece almost four years ago. It’s the first choreography I did for myself. It was during the time where it was really really going crazy in Syria. We were facing violence in the country and in the media. Everywhere basically.
It’s about a certain phase I went through when I was feeling really aggressive. When I only had this aggression and this violent energy inside of me. I started reading a book by Freud ( “ Thoughts for the times of war and death”).
It’s about how people cope and feel during hard times. This is where the idea came from that basically we become more primitive when we are in danger. So all your instincts and all the more violent side of oneself comes out during this time. So this is kind of what I was feeling during this time. This is how I released this piece.
Martens: Thank you. How do you take care of yourself when you perform a piece that is heavy and you experience it through your body?
Malas: I think the best way for me at least is to just do it because the approach, the creation process and the performance is kind of a journey. I don’t want to call it recovery. You face something that really upsets you. After you do it, it’s kind of like you have closure with that phase. Just doing this piece makes it come to an end, kind of. And you can start something new. Work is the best way to cure myself. Being exposed in this way, it’s precious because you actually share it with a lot of people. You feel that there is something in common with you. This way you kind of get over it. You go to the next phase.
Martens: What have you learnt through performing the dance?
Malas: Oh my. This is a hard question because I think there is always something to learn because it never stops. There is no end to what you can learn even if I have been performing this piece for four years now. There is always something you haven’t noticed before. So while experiencing this violence within myself, I discovered the more fragile side of myself. Again, a stronger side of myself. Ah okay, this is how I feel now. I am in this phase now so there is the acknowledgement. It just develops with time even though it is such a short piece. All my work now that I do is longer. Also, you learn to accept what you feel. It is okay that you feel this way and that it will pass.
Martens: Can you talk more in detail about the feelings you address in your dance through your experience in the war?
Malas: I won’t go into details about the war in Syria. I will go into how I felt in that period. Before I go through that, how I choreograph this piece was the idea that I had a mirror in front of me and every time I look at it, I see a distorted image of me. It is kind of the way I was feeling inside. It was about confronting the part inside of you that you are not so proud of. It goes into relation into being in a country that is going through war. Makes this part come out through the surface because you don’t have any filtration anymore, you don’t care. Dealing with this because I was at that time, feeling really nervous all the time, I was feeling really upset and I was angry all the time that the tiniest detail in my life would get me really frustrated and really angry. This is when I felt , “Ugh, this is not normal, something is happening, what’s up?”. This was partly because of things happening in the country. Because I wasn’t dealing with my anger, I was angry all the time. So the anger in my piece transformed into a sort, not a monster but a distorted image of myself. This is what I think war does to you.
It changes how you feel and see life. It makes you more fragile and stronger in the same way because your priorities are different from what they used to be. Now you don’t really care about certain things that used to matter and visa versa. For example safety is something that sometimes we take for granted!
The thing is that there is this feeling that creeps in that you do not really recognize in the beginning. You notice all the time but you don’t know. You are more depressed. You don’t really recognize that until you hit a point. “Oh f***, why do I feel this way?”. It came out with me after a couple years actually. This is the thing that I was trying to tackle in this choreography. This creeping feeling that you don’t always recognize. The thing you do not want to see but you have to deal with it.
Martens: I have one more question, what is the relationship with the viewer?
Malas: I see the audience as a partner and not as a passive viewer. In the work that I am doing now and the work that I am doing in the last few years, the audience is part of the story. I always feel that I prefer it to be that way because they can relate more to my work and to find their own story inside my story and maybe after the show they leave with an impression , feeling or a question.
Martens: Thank you!
Malas: Thank you so much!