AMMAN – Selective Amnesia brought contemporary dance performances featuring 13 dancers from MISK Dance Co. and The National Center for Culture and Arts (NCCA) to the Royal Cultural Center. Under the creative direction of Faisal AlMamun, the eight original dance pieces create the emotional journey of Selective Amnesia. “The convenient forgetfulness of particular events when it’s less painful not to remember the truth” said Mamun.

The narrative of the performance portrays the experience of a traumatic memory. The dancers’ movements take us through the emotions evolving from fear, to rage, to confrontation and finally to resolution. Through the unfolding of emotions that become more empowering, the choreography becomes more intimate. As audience members, we mimic the experience of losing a memory as we become lost in the harmony between grace and intensity of the performance. 

Still from Selective Amnesia performance, image courtesy of NCCA.

The first dance, Entrapment, introduces the audience to the traumatic memory. It comes in the form of a geometric cubed sculpture created by Hamada Shweini. The structure slowly descends to the stage as the dancers work together throughout the performance to free themselves of its memory. The sculpture becomes a large part of all of the performances. Especially as it is pulled apart, reassembled and eventually fades from the spotlight by the final act Release.

We spoke to Cynthia Tokajian, a dancer and a choreographer for Release and two other acts. Tokajian has been professionally dancing with MISK for 16 years and choreographing for 4 years. She says the concept of Selective Amnesia first came about in January of 2019, making its debut at Amman Contemporary Dance Festival in April of that year. When asked about the intention of the show, Tokajian explained: 

It’s more of a process, usually we try to address certain messages, we use ballet for stories and fairytales and contemporary dance to try and send a certain message to relate to other people.

Still from Selective Amnesia performance, image courtesy of NCCA.

This type of attention to detail and style is part of what makes these performances so memorable to the audience.

We asked dancer Luma Haddad what makes a performance memorable to a dancer and she told us that it is being able to relate the dances to her own memories, something she was able to do over time with Selective Amnesia. For future performances Haddad is hoping to see more controversial topics that push the envelope, “giving art a bigger platform and less restrictions”.

For Rabee Shrouf, the only male dancer in the performance, pushing the envelope to him means more male dancers. He explains that having a balance between the genders of dancers would positively affect the energy of the performance. He is already pushing to make this a reality in the near future through dance lessons with emerging young male dancers.

Still from Selective Amnesia performance, image courtesy of NCCA.

The show had audience members tearing up and still going back on other nights with its display of both vulnerability and strength. The performance explores how being strong does not always look like putting on a straight face and going through pain alone. While the show starts with a solo performance, the remainder of the performances are in groups. We see dancers collaborate to create beautiful formations and synchronization that remind us that we are not alone – even in our most traumatic moments. There are others who can relate. It is clear even from the expressions on the dancers’ faces that portraying this message required them to revisit their own experiences with trauma. In a society that is increasingly acknowledging mental health, Selective Amnesia is pushing us to connect with our own journeys of healing. 

Still from Selective Amnesia performance, image courtesy of NCCA.

Selective Amnesia proved to be a show that is emotional, relatable and full of impressive choreography, dancing, and production. Details like the lighting by NGI Events Production, highlighted the performers in a way that accentuated the emotional narrative and complemented the climactic musical arrangements. Selective Amnesia tells a story with an important message that pushes us to consider what we will see next from this incredible collection of creators. It is not just a performance, but a wholesome experience.

Read more from Sarena Khasawneh.
Image courtesy indicated in captions.