Farah Saleh‘s interactive dance production, PAST-inuous, is a powerful exploration of family and memories through movement. The cast consists of 11 Palestinian performers – two of whom are present in the room and nine others who are live-streaming from around the world from locations including Gaza, Nablus, and Berlin.
The audience are asked to stand in the room, facing the screen and in-person performers as they are introduced to the piece. Prior to the performance, useful and pertinent context about the dancers and the show is provided: PAST-inuous is a reflection of the ongoing Palestinian refugee problem created in 1948 by the creation of Israel on Palestinian land and the expulsion of Palestinians all around the world, now estimated to be 5 million people.
The show opens with the performers introducing specific interactive actions that are tied to family memories, including acting out casting a fishing net as one dancer’s grandfather did and picking fruit from a tree. The audience are immediately immersed in the performance and are invited to be active participants. This creates an instant bond between the performers and audience, perfectly embodying the show’s aim of of “sharing living, bodily archives”.
As the dancers begin to perform, sometimes those in-person mirror those performing digitally, while at other times the dancers become the spectators. This creates a sense of fluidity that is enhanced by Lucas Chih-Peng Kao‘s skilful video editing and production and the dancers’ impressive abilities. The movements are repetitive and easy to follow, providing fully realised renditions of daily routines and family traits passed down through generations.
As the audience join in with certain actions, the result is staggeringly effective. A moving sense of connection is created through the shared bodily experiences, forming a bond across nations – between the Palestinian performers and Scottish audience.
PAST-inuous createsa safe and creative space to allow both its performers and spectators to express themselves. Once the dancers have performed their piece, the audience are invited to share their stories and movements that reflect their own living, bodily archive. Many come forward to share movements related to loved ones and childhood memories, with their actions now copied by the performers in a moving example of collaboration and understanding.
This is a truly moving, humbling, and bonding experience that lays bare the reality of the Palestinian refugee problem on a personal level. Transcending all boundaries, PAST-inuous represents the struggles of Palestinian people in a brilliantly creatively way, while also showing how we become unified through sharing our stories.