DIGITAL DANCE: INTERVIEW WITH JOUMANA MOURAD

ArtDubai09 © Vipul Sangoi_MG_3834

Image: Joumana Mourad

Joumana Mourad graduated from Trinity Laban 1994. Since leaving and setting up her own company, she delved into the world of digital technology, and is currently developing a new online platform which aims to revolutionise the way that artists and audiences can communicate and co-create online.

We caught up with Joumana back in July to talk about the project (interview 07 July 2016):

Tell us about your journey from studying at Trinity Laban to now. 

I didn’t know much about contemporary dance when I started my studies at Trinity Laban, so it completely opened my eyes to the style and to the concept of choreography. I didn’t know choreography was even a career option, so when I came here I thought, wow, I can create! The world of dance suddenly had new meaning with immense possibilities – it was about celebrating culture, concepts, and stories. The potential Trinity Laban gave me was huge.

As my curiosity about creation grew, I started asking more and more questions: how do I create work that is personal yet universal? How can I make work that is very engaging, in my own way? How do I position myself in relation to the audience? I wanted to experiment and have fun with different mediums of performances to bring some punctuation’s to the work: circus, abseiling, film, technology. As a consequence, using these methods of expressions meant that the presentation of work changed e.g. performing work in the round.

After graduating, I worked with a few different companies before founding my own (IJAD Dance Company), and started to create work with scientific themes at its core. My first few pieces were in-the-round; I would dress the walls with immense cloths and project films onto them to creative immersive experiences. I also tested out different environments in which to create; we even worked underwater, and with zero gravity. All the work was fun and experimental, inside out and upside down! It was thrilling and still is.

Six years after my graduation, the dance-digital work of Trinity Laban’s Professor of Choreography Wayne McGregor CBE inspired me to delve deeper into technology, and to ask what it could bring to dance. This was followed by invitations to collaborate in Taiwan, Italy, Germany, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Switzerland, Spain… and this interaction with new cultures made me aware of the role of the woman in each of these cultures, culminating in a project called Secrets.

It suddenly became quite significant to look into technology, and how we can help audiences to see more dance at this time of financial difficulty.

What kind of work does your company strive to produce? 

We are in the last stages of finalizing our new platform that will allow IJAD and other arts organisations to develop a new and dynamic relationship with their online audiences. To this end I have recently started exploring sensography, working across three platforms of choreography. I am enjoying collaborating with Andrew Newsam the Astrophysicist, Dr Pauline Brook whose speciality is telematics and transmedia. We are able to work with dancers on inner-body technology that can help them to produce meaningful work across physical, social and online platforms, going through different methodologies of embodiment. This is what drives me at the moment. I hope this kind of technology will allow me to collaborate with as many dancers as possible across the world.

You have a residency at FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology) at the moment. What are you working on?

FACT’s interest in my company’s Secrets project sparked meetings with them about technology and the way IJAD Dance Company wants to push the boundaries of dance, while challenging the concept of the ‘fourth wall’. We’ve discussed the possibility of creating a theatre online, and so at the moment we are working with a movement specialist and an astronomer to help us with the movement vocabulary – both from Liverpool John Moores University. We are also collaborating with an amazing studio called Citrus Suite on developing the platform host: the open access theatre.

What’s your aim for the end result?

The residency will finish with a performance – Walk Into Space – that we are hosting across two months and three platforms. Walk into Space will feature as part of the No Such Thing as Gravity season at FACT and will be promoted alongside all the associated events of that strand (talks, exhibition, workshops). This is challenging and unprecedented, but FACT is very keen to support us.

The aim of it all is threefold: firstly, to create a toolkit for performers and choreographers to be able to create work across platforms; secondly, to be able to create material or movement technology that we can help dancers or performers be able to be more aware of their expression while they are streamed; and thirdly, to be able to make a platform any artist can use, so it becomes a collaborative playground.

Will the web platform remain online after the residency finishes?

This online open theatre will be residing online from mid November 2016.

IJAD Dance Company’s collaborators at FACT are as follows: NITEcorp, Citrus Suite, Anton Hecht, Andrew Newsam Professor of Astrophysics, and Pauline Brooks PhD, MFA, Reader in Dance Performance & Pedagogy, both from Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU).

For more information on IJAD and the online open theatre, please visit http://ijaddancecompany.com/contact/

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