“Intense, impactful, and confronting.” This is how festival director Samuel Wuersten describes the work of choreographer and dancer Sahar Damoni. As a feminist raised in a traditional Arab-Palestinian society, through her art, she endeavors to unravel the frustrations and contradictions in her life, searching for the freedom that she was often denied.
Damoni is one of the three young Israeli and Palestinian creators selected through the Pitching Project, whose performances are showcased during this edition of the Holland Dance Festival. After presenting her work in Israel/Palastine, the United States, and frequently in Europe, she now makes her Dutch debut at our festival with NAWA.
Reflection on the inner self
NAWA is a multidisciplinary solo performance-installation in which Damoni continues her exploration of sexual freedom, bodily autonomy, and the impact of abortion on Arab women. While her previous production, Eat Banana and Drink Pills, focused on the individual and social consequences of her own abortion experience, in NAWA, Damoni shifts the focus to the physical and psychological effects of the surgical procedure and anesthesia. She particularly examines the phenomenon of being ‘awake’ or conscious during anesthesia, raising the questions such as ‘does the body remember?’ and ‘is the body ever truly free?’
Taboo themes on stage
Damoni’s work is not only physically challenging – she often pushes her bodily limits – but the choreographer doesn’t shy away from looking for the boundaries within the themes of her pieces. With courage, she addresses traditional Arab society’s customs and gender norms, and the political status quo of Israeli-Palestinian society, offering her critique. As access to abortion and female autonomy are at risk all over the world, and as speaking the truth of women’s bodies becomes more taboo and dangerous, the topic is all too relevant for each of us. As a Palestinian with Israeli citizenship, she often feels that her identity doesn’t align with society’s expectations of her. Therefore, as she puts it: “My only real home is my body; My identity, the artistic generator; My psyche, the laboratory.” This makes her work exceptionally genuine and truly intriguing.