Sufi whirling and Ketamine epiphanies: your guide to A Dance Mag

by Grace Wang in August 2018
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Though I am a fan of dance music, I’d be lost for words if asked to describe just what it is I enjoy about the act of dancing. All I know is that sharing the oscillating rhythm with a room filled with people can leave one feeling viscerally resplendent. That’s why reading A Dance Mag was so gratifying — spanning philosophy, identity and history, the Beirut-based magazine is giving our moving bodies a voice.

Their launch issue looks at the way dance transcends differences, distances and disciplines, with contributors around the world offering their own interpretations on movement. On their long, narrow pages, you’ll find swirling graphics and melting gradients, courtesy of art directors Max Weinland and Timo Durst. The magazine was born out of a collaboration between founder and editor-in-chief Jana Al-Obeidyine and Ibrahim Nehme, who Stack subscribers might know from The Outpost. Read on for Jana’s definitive guide to issue one…

1. A self-explanatory name, but not quite

A Dance Mag is a ‘dance magazine’. The title may sound straightforward and self-explanatory, but this one is different. A Dance Mag was born to redefine and expand the preconceived notion of dance. So, the content may come across as a bit surprising, but hopefully in delightful way.

2. Ketamine, techno and Derrida

“Do you really think that death is the end? Death is the end of language, the stabilisation of the chaos of signs. But the movement… feel it. The movement is infinite.”

This quote is part of the epiphany Gabriel Semerene had on the dance floor of an underground party in Berlin while on Ketamine. His piece depicts smartly why dance and perhaps even why writing about dance is crucial today more than ever, if we wish to break the venomous circle we are stuck in. (Also, to those who like Derrida’s thought, this article is a must read!)

3. Camille Helminski is a whirler in California

The first issue of the magazine was initially inspired by the Sufi whirling dervishes. As part of his creative process, Ibrahim, our creative director, arranged a meeting with Camille Hemlinski in California. Helminski is a whirler who has been practicing and preaching about the Sufi way for more than 40 years. She is also the first woman to translate substantive portions of the Quran to English. This interview is timely, informative, thought-provoking and inspirational.

4. A portrait of an exceptionally ordinary dancer from South Lebanon

‘Finding Pina’ is an illustration of the power of dance. In this piece, Zena Takieddine, our editor, captures beautifully the portrait of Rima, a brilliant woman from a conservative village in the South of Lebanon, who found in dancing her ultimate expression and best ally. Rima is an inspiring person, who manages to overcome daily the roughness of her reality and influences other women around her to do the same. Having Rima’s story in A Dance Mag gives the magazine a stronger purpose, because such stories are rarely heard.

5. A wandering experience

This transcendence issue of A Dance Mag is about seeking through and with the body. Inevitably, its stories take us on a trip. They start somewhere in Iceland, go to Morocco, swing by Turkey, climb Everest, return to Beirut, then Pakistan, California, Ghana, Sweden, India, Berlin, Brussels, Iran, Netherlands, and finally land in South Lebanon.

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