CCDC founder Karima Mansour - Photo courtesy of CCDC media office CCDC founder Karima Mansour - Photo courtesy of CCDC media office

Karima Mansour, an open window to contemporary dance

Wed, Feb. 14, 2018
CAIRO – 14 February 2018: An inspiring contemporary dancer, choreographer and dance teacher, Karima Mansour is the founder and artistic director of Cairo Contemporary Dance Center (CCDC). She spoke to Egypt Today about the unlimited pathway of contemporary dance, with hopes to boosting the scene in Egypt.

An independent space for contemporary dancers and artists, CCDC has been established in 2012, currently operating under the umbrella of MAAT for Contemporary Art. A choreographer to several dance works, Mansour emphasizes the efforts it takes to encourage rising artists through allowing them to understand their bodies, new movements, and a way of life that would pave way to their actual dreams.
Tell us briefly about yourself and the CCDC dance provision

I am a dancer, choreographer, teacher and performer, and I am the founder and artistic director of Cairo Contemporary Dance Center. I think Egypt is a big country and full of potential and talent, and I think this is the least you can expect from such a country. Culture is important, and I have a different outlook than people who think dance is not part of culture. Dance has existed since Ancient Egypt across all regions of the country and has continued to develop through time to include much later the renowned Mahmoud Reda and Ali Reda dance troupes, who have modernized traditional and folklore dance.

If we speak about when contemporary dance entered Egypt, it is an art form that still needs to be developed seriously in means of having spaces in which rising dancers can train and not always be obliged to leave the country to train and practise and come back. We have people who are trained to become dancers and future teachers, and/or choreographers; however, to do all that, you need a solid infrastructure and an environment for all of this to flourish, which is exactly CCDC’s vision and goals in creating a hub and space.

We are recognized by the UNESCO Dance Council; all our teachers are professionals and certified. The program, featuring theory and practice, in the center comprises rigorous training through three years, five days a week, five hours a day. It is also an international program — for example, we have visiting guest teachers and students from different parts of the world. The whole idea is becoming an international hub for dance through programs and artistic residencies that we offer. We have established international guest artists, who come here and teach and share their experience, but who also learn from us.


How did contemporary dance grow its roots in Egyptian society?

It is still growing its roots in Egyptian society; this is what we’re trying to do here. Dance, in all its forms, has existed since Ancient Egypt, but contemporary dance with these specifications is very young. We had an era of dance that was introduced at the Opera Modern Dance Theater, which existed in the early 1990s as another attempt to introduce this art form, but this is not enough when speaking of contemporary dance and what we try to do here. Contemporary dance will exist when there are more dance activities outside the opera, in which the independent scene and more youth can be involved to create a healthy dance scene. To apply such rhetoric, we need a place where people can research, rehearse and speak about dance and show their work. Only then can we actually say contemporary dance exists in Egypt.

Contemporary dance started in Egypt when people studied and shared their ideas and performed in other venues through individual initiatives. CCDC is a project that allows all this to happen and has witnessed the graduation of a whole generation from a dance program.

Where does Egypt stand on the contemporary dance map?

First of all, I don’t think we should be comparing ourselves to the world, because this is not a realistic comparison. Once a society understands the importance of art, it will then eventually support its upcoming generations in the process and then there would be a healthy environment that provides opportunities to these generations. Those would later graduate, some of which may become trainers or work on their choreography. This is how the whole infrastructure starts to build. Other countries built this infrastructure more than 50 years ago. Of course we’re on the way, but we can’t currently compare ourselves to countries that have already reached that phase. Despite the scene developing over the past 20 years, there are still a lot of things to do to enhance it.


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CCDC founder Karima Mansour - Photo courtesy of CCDC media office

What is the difference between contemporary dance and modern dance?
Modern dance started mainly in the U.S., while post-modernism and expression dance spread throughout Europe. Contemporary dance is a term that was coined later. The difference is in the historical phases and, later on, the techniques.

Tell us more about the educational curriculum provided here

It is a three-year program, and each year we work for 10 months. We try to create variety and consistency, which is really important, because there are usually different types of dance trainings. We try as much as possible to select forms of teaching regarding the quality and relevance; however, we also introduce ballet, which is important for students to know as a technique and as a form. Our curriculum includes African dance, Dervish dance, martial arts, yoga, biomechanics (a form of understanding body movement), anatomy, dance history and theory and vernacular forms, such as hip hop, among other aspects of the curriculum. The aim is to create versatile dancers.

In your opinion, what was the most important contemporary dance piece hosted by CCDC that you deem special?

Everything we do here is important. This whole project is special to my heart.

Tell us more about the Artistic Residency program, will it be carried out in the upcoming period?

The Artistic Residency Program is dedicated to both Egyptian and international artists who lack the resources and facilities, thus, we give them, in return, that space where they can do that, and we accompany them upon request. The program also gives a chance to the international community to be exposed to a different culture.

How has living in Egypt influenced your artistic work?

Whether I live in Egypt or not, at the end of the day, I am Egyptian, which means part of the culture and society is already in me, and I don’t need to force it to make it appear. On a side note, this is another issue that needs to be discussed: some people link dance to nationalism, obliging dance to their identity. I find this behavior very limiting to creativity and thought, and it prevents them from expanding their horizons. Dance is an expression of body and human state.

When I create my works, I don’t think of the nationality of my audience; however, I am aware that there will be different understandings of the work. An artist should be able to preserve their integrity by not creating art that targets one type of audience. I believe the power of art lies in opening up imagination, respecting the intelligence of the audience and universality of the form. Contemporary art implicates the spectator or audience to work and think during the performance, thus indirectly engaging in the production.

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CCDC founder Karima Mansour - Photo courtesy of CCDC media office


How would you assess the current contemporary art movement in Egypt?

It is very interesting, but there is more that needs to happen. There are so many talented people and incredible ideas, but the context is not allowing this to prevail. Egypt does not have enough logistics to support the movement in which to show their works. The country lacks space, finances and support, all of which are essential ingredients to expand the artistic platform. Development needs time and consistency that should go in parallel to proper work.

What were the choreography you created that were special to you?

I created over 20 pieces, and I worked crazy on each of them — and I see my artistic development in them; therefore, I consider all of them important to me.

Tell us about your special theater and film contributions

I participated in the creating process of these productions, which were exciting — and I am still open to more of these contributions. Sometimes, I train the actors working in the field of film because actors need to be aware of their body.



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