A newcomer officially joins the thriving arts community in Beirut. After years of hard work and perseverance, contemporary dance company Maqamat just launched its largest cultural project yet, Citerne Beirut.
A mobile steel-structured center with reconfigured multi-purpose spaces, Citerne Beirut offers a new, unique venue for local and global contemporary cultural events. The center also aims to hold training classes and workshops for youngsters.
“What we’re trying to do is strengthen the infrastructure of dance and performing arts in Lebanon […] to have a voice and be engaged in the social and cultural environment in the city – not separated. At the same time, we aim to be present on the international map of arts and culture,” choreographer and founder of Maqamat and Citerne Beirut, Omar Rajeh tells Communicate Levant.
Perseverance in reforming performance
Citerne Beirut’s concept was started in 2017 out of the need for practical performance arts spaces in Lebanon. At first, the half-built structure was conceived as a demo aiming to attract financial support and donations. It hosted the 13th edition of the Beirut International Platform of Dance (BIPOD) festival to showcase its potential. Then, it went dormant.
“It’s a huge project, and we were doing it on our own; we did it in 2017 and we had to take it out and continue working and planning to build it again,” explains Rajeh.
In 2018, Citerne Beirut was selected and presented at the Berlin Round Table Symposium as a creative solution. This gathering brought together 19 international and German representatives to discuss “Concrete Utopias – Berlin’s Future Perspectives for Dance”.
The project was officially launched this year on April 4 with the celebration of the 15th edition of BIPOD. According to Rajeh, the 35% increase in attendance is linked to Citerne’s spatial flexibility. We can safely assume that the originality of the whole approach played a role too.
“We’re not here to create another building. Our objective is to create a dynamic within this building, supporting the artistic visions and voices; we don’t only need it in Beirut, we need it everywhere,” concludes Rajeh.