On August 5th 2014, on the mythic stage of the Carthage roman theatre, Nawel Skandrani presented her last piece "EauSecours!/100%Water!"

After 19 years of absence of Tunisian contemporary dance in the official programming of the Carthage International Festival, Nawel’s last production was the only local and international company invited to celebrate the special edition for the 50th anniversary of the festival.

 

This production, which premiered in July 2013 for the 49th edition of the Hammamet International Festival, gathers together 13 young and talented dancers from Tunisia, Algeria, Palestine, Egypt, France and Brazil and 4 musicians from Tunisia, Lebanon, Belgium and U.S.A. Centered around the universal water issue, the piece  combines various arts - besides choreography - as live music (original score from the Tunisian composer Jawher Basti), video-scenographies (from the Italian video-artist Sergio Gazzo), songs, poetry and testimonies written and declaimed by the dancers themselves.

 

The critics and the audience of the festival acclaimed the performance as one of the best production of the season.

For the native girl of Carthage, reaching the top of her art in her own town for such a celebration, was a real gift.

 

But how did it start to begin with ?

• Step one:

It all started for Nawel Skandrani at the age of 5.

To follow her sister’s example, she discovers the world of ballet classes

and falls in love with this art. Passion is the first step. Encounter with pure magic. Many steps will come after.

• Step two :

she joins the Tunisian Conservatory of Music and Dance and fully engages herself in the world of a daily demanding discipline and practice while improving and strengthening her talent and skills. She is just 17 years old when she is awarded the first prize for choreography. 

• Step three :

After having been awarded the third Prix d’études pédagogiques from the French Dance Academy of Paris (AID), she starts her professional career, in Italy first, Paris next and then in the U.S.A. where she is recruited by the Berkeley Ballet Theater, California . 

She never thought returning to her native country, Tunisia : except for the Conservatory, there were no structures planned in the cultural landscape to allow her develop her carrier and concretize her passion.

At that time, choosing dance as a professional career was  a very unusual choice in a country such as Tunisia where dance was not considered as an Art on it’s own. By chance, Mohamed Driss, Director of the Tunisian National Theatre, encourages her to come back in 1988. She is just 30. During four years she sets in place within the National Theatre a team composed not only of dancers in  the framework of the “Theatre-Dance Studio” but also for actors still unaware of the vital role of physical work with their bodies.

• Step four :

In 1992, she is designated by the Ministry of Culture to create the Tunisian National Ballet (BNT) an Institution she will be heading until 1996. Under her direction, this Institution will produce during 4 years 13 creations by local and international choreographers as Ricardo Nunez, Thierry Malandain, David Brown, Reza Hammadi, Imed Jemaâ, Walid Aouni . She will also create three pieces for the BNT, “De la Porte à la Mer” (From the Gate to the Sea), “D’encre et de sang” (Of Ink and Blood), “Didon/Elyssa”(Dido/Alisa).

• Step five: In 1997, after leaving the TNB, she starts a carreer as an independant choreographer and trainer and creates  pieces as  “A la Recherche du Centre Perdu” (Searching for the Ever Centre),”Les gosses du quartier” (The Kids of the Neighborhood),  “Corps Complices” (Fellow Bodies), “Les étoiles filantes meurent en silence” (Shooting Stars die in Silence), “La Feuille de l’Olivier (The Leaf of the Olive Tree), “ARTcè/seuLement” (harassment@art.only), “EauSecours!” (100%Water!), "Recapitulatio", "Re-Existence" ...

In parallel, she develops and sustains an artistic collaboration with  major Tunisian theatre directors, participating actively to some of their best productions - Mohamed Driss – “Ismail Pacha”, “Vive Shakespeare!” (“Long live Shakespeare!”), “Le Compagnon des Coeurs” ( “The Companion of Hearts”) and Fadhel Jaibi & Jalila Baccar – “Soirée particulière” ( “A particular evening”), "Grand ménage", “Junun” (“Dementia”), “Khamsoun/Corps otages” (“Hostage Bodies”).

In 2010, when asked by a journalist about her engagement for and through dance, Nawel answered: “After an international professional career as a ballet dancer, witch was  a marvelous experience in my life, and when I started to choreograph, I realized very soon that my desire as a creator was to tell stories, to bring messages, to share emotions… For me, choreography is a system of signs in order  to think, to say, to name, to point, to denounce, to magnify… the dancer’s steps steaming on stage are like the sequence of words for the poet. Besides, I felt very soon the need to bring together on stage different art forms as live music, live painting, video, words… and I turned my back away from pure technical and abstract dance.”

The journalist concluded her article by writing: “Nawel Skandrani is today the only activist in the Tunisian and Arab dance scene. She uses her art in order to defend it and, at the same time, in order to fight for a democratic project for her country and the region. Nawel Skandrani: citizen artist”. It was  a month before the Revolution started.

CHOREOGRAPHER AND CITIZEN ARTIST

Nawel is a founding member of the International Theatre Institute (Tunis), of the Tunisian Union of Performing Arts, former member of the boards of the Young Arab Theatre Fund and of the Roberto Cimetta Fund.

She was president in 2014/15 of the Dance Production Fund at the ministry of Culture.

click on images to enlarge and download

Nawel Skandrani-01

Photo: Olivier Touron