Interview with Omar Rajeh and Mia Habis of Bipod Festival (Lebanon)
Interview with Omar Rajeh and Mia Habis of Bipod Festival (Lebanon)

The concept of the curator has become more and more influential in recent years.

Therefore, apap decided to put more focus on the curators involved in the network and initiate a discussion about their views on the role of contemporary performance in art, society and economy.

We have already discussed this topic with Sven Åge Birkeland, artistic director of BIT Teatergarasjen, Barbara Boninsegna, artistic director of Centrale Fies in Dro / Italy and with Angela Glechner, artistic director of SZENE Salzburg / Austria. As part of Beirut International Platform Of Dance - BIPOD 2018 we now continue this short Q&A and with Omar Rajeh and Mia Habis, artistic directors of our associated partner Maqamat/Beit El Raqs and BIPOD Festival in Lebanon, Beirut.

BIPOD is an annual contemporary dance platform and is reviving its already established reputation as one of the most important dance festivals in the region. For its 14th edition from April 11th to April 27th, BIPOD offers a very special programme that will celebrate dance continuously throughout the event: performances, in addition to workshops, master classes, exhibitions , discussion panels  and talks with the artists. Maqamat will also organize the 7th edition of Moultaqa Leymoun within BIPOD 2018, hosting 17 dancers and choreographers from different Arab Countries.


"As performing arts curators, what does it mean to program a festival on contemporary dance & performance in Lebanon?“ 

BIPOD is the only contemporary dance platform in Lebanon, and since its beginning has made a profound impact on the creative scene both within the country and across the region. By bringing high profile international dance companies in addition to supporting emerging local artists, and providing a diverse program of performances, debates, screenings, talks, exhibitions and workshops BIPOD has created a significant presence and space for contemporary dance. BIPOD has developed as a festival with its audience, and has come to be one of the most anticipated cultural events of the year. Our audiences now expect to be challenged, and we have managed to maintain the integrity of the festival through pushing boundaries within the programming to present creative work that resonates new propositions of culture, society and art in the region. The groundswell of support that we have had and continue to have from the Lebanese community reflects the importance of this event, and the transformative role that it plays for both audiences and performers.  For a festival that operates without any financial support from the government, this support has been crucial.



"How is contemporary art connected to the political reality, society and economy in Beirut?“

BIPOD has always been a vehicle for the vision of Maqamat - to introduce new ideas and concepts of dance and the body, and by doing so, stimulating artistic and social productivity, creativity, modernization and free expression. In many ways, BIPOD in itself has been an act of resistance against all forms of ignorance, extremism and fanaticism and a recognition of the importance of the festival to value the presence of art and culture in our daily life.  In 2017, the focus of BIPOD evolved as a response to the reality of geopolitics both within the region and internationally. This edition highlighted ideas around ‘collective responsibility’ and the choices that exist for all participants in securing the progress of artistic and cultural initiatives. In 2018, we continue on this path, shifting the focus towards the contributions of female choreographers and artists who are uniquely pioneering within their craft. 


„Should audiences be more engaged?  If yes, would it change anything for artists, the society?“

For BIPOD, our most fervent supporter has always been our audience.  From the beginning, BIPOD was created out of a dire need for creative platforms to introduce new and different languages. What we have witnessed through this process has been audience members being exposed for the first time to this art form, and engaging more and more with each edition. As much as we like to challenge and propose new ideas through the festival, we are very much held to account by the audiences who have grown to expect diverse and unique programming.  The engagement of our audiences has created spaces for younger emerging artists to present their work, although there is always more that can be done to support artists particularly within this region where there is very little infrastructure that exists for professional training and development.


„Is Europe the place to look about for young artists from arabic countries?“

Through Moultaqa Leymoun, the Arab Dance Platform which takes place each year within BIPOD, we have witnessed an increasing number of opportunities for participating artists to present in Europe and further afield.  Importantly, the quality of these artistic works and the strength of their proposals help to counter any tendency towards exoticism that can sometimes happen when artists from this region are presented internationally.  As presenters ourselves, we always look for artists with unique offerings that challenge this paradigm of the ‘exotic’.


"How does the context of Performing Europe 2020 produce an added value for your work?"

The apap network, within the frame of Performing Europe 2020, provides unique access to an excellent network of artists, cultural operators and creative thinkers. Being based in Lebanon, this network extends the boundaries of possibility for our work through real possibilities of exchange and collaboration. Importantly for the artists that we work with, these possibilities have already resulted in residencies and exchange projects where they have been given the opportunity to explore and investigate their creative work. From an organisational perspective, the opportunity to meet with network partners in person at regular intervals has been an invaluable resource for us to sound out ideas, projects and strategic approaches.




Omar Rajeh is a choreographer, dancer, and artistic director of Maqamat Dance Theatre. His work, intense and powerful, has made an essential and significant contribution to the establishment of a contemporary dance scene in Lebanon. He established his company in Beirut in 2002 and since then he has toured throughout the Arab World and Europe, in addition to Canada and Korea. His artistic work deals with social and political issues inspired by the everyday life of the city of Beirut where he lives. It is very significant in his work that he is continuously questioning the individual presence and the physicality of ‘the body’ within a socio-political and human context. Rajeh is also the founder of BIPOD-Beirut International Platform of Dance, one of the richest and most important contemporary dance festivals in the Arab World. He is also a co-founder of Masahat Dance Network, a regional contemporary dance network across Lebanon, Syria, Palestine and Jordan. In addition, he is the founder of Moultaqa Leymoun, a platform to showcase and develop the work of young and established Arab artists.


Mia Habis is dancer, performance maker, and artistic airector of BIPOD-Beirut International Platform of Dance, She comes from a classical ballet background and has more than twenty years of experience and training. Performing locally and internationally, Mia Habis has worked with many choreographers including Omar Rajeh, Eszter Salamon, Marcel Leemann, and Luc Dunberry. In addition to her work as a performer, she has been invited to a number of residencies, including a recent collaboration with Sasha Waltz & guests in Berlin. Having presented several times within BIPOD, Mia Habis has most recently toured her solo dance performance ‘ROOM’ created in collaboration with pianist Cynthia Zaven and Drummer Øyvind Skarbø. As artistic director of BIPOD and co-director of Maqamat, Mia Habis has made a significant contribution to the development and progress of the festival and the company and strengthened the foundations of contemporary dance across the Arab region.