13th Gwangju Biennale — Minds Rising Spirits Tuning

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What is dance outside the proscenium? With no audience present, what does dance look like, especially in the age of social distancing? Composed of the gymnastics- and martial arts-trained dancers Noura Seif Hassanein and Salma Abdel Salam, the choreographer duo nasa4nasa has engaged with similar questions since 2016. They have embraced Instagram as a medium not only to disseminate their work beyond Egypt but also as a showcase and studio to experiment with bodily practices of synchronicity, collaboration, symbiosis, and communal intelligence that interacts with and sometimes interrupts the channels of virtual mass consumption.

Drawing from diverse references like Merce Cunningham and John Cage, Lygia Clark, Trisha Brown, and Antonin Artaud, nasa4nasa consistently exceeds the frame of social media to reveal how physical and digital spaces shape their bodies and deepen their mastery of performance. They have staged movements and athletic sequences of leaps, chugs, and enveloppés in various filmed and photographed athletic facilities and consumer spaces, including performances at a squash court in red leotards à la Cunningham in SUASH (2018); an empty swimming pool in black swimsuits in Swimming Pool: Pool series (2017); the gymnastics hall where they trained as children in Gymnastics: Olympic (2018); and an IKEA storage room in large white t-shirts in Ikea: Indoor II (2017).

Their newly commissioned online series promises b2b (2021)  is a series of five duets in which two dancing bodies explore symmetrical traces as a mode of closeness.  In these series, nasa4nasa uses their own physical rehearsal room, their studio, and the Faiyum desert to the west of the Nile, as displaced stages, viewing this work as a progression to explore the distance between their bodies as a third party. Engaging aspects of togetherness, proximity and approximation, disjunction, continuity, and the ever-present gap between two bodies through repetition, nasa4nasa reveals a choreography in which body-to-body, limb-to-limb, and hip-to-hip intelligence is laid bare and experienced through a fluid movement language of in-betweenness.

The internet can still be a contentious territory in Egypt, and social media can act as a site of political confrontations between the forces of democratization and authoritarianism, especially ten years after the wave of protest and uprisings of the Arab Spring. However, nasa4nasa’s commitment to navigating the medium’s potential and exploring its relevance endures, rooted in a practice that troubles the algorithms that dictate the presence and absence of bodies.

Defne Ayas