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Interview With Alexandre Paulikevitch: A Dancer Like No Other

It was with great pleasure that we attended the opening ceremony of L'Institut du monde arabe’s dance festival entitled Le Printemps de la danse arabe. From April 18 to June 23, 2018, the festival hosts performances of artists from different fields of dance along with round table discussions and film projections. And for its grande soirée, TAJWAL by Alexandre Paulikevitch was on the agenda.

TAJWAL is a Baladi (Oriental) dance show like no other. Not only because a male artist performs it, but because of the different boundaries it aims to transcend, break and reshape. A dance show that carries a multitude of social messages.

As a persona who is part of the new generation of artists leading a movement of change in the Arab world, we couldn't but request a sit-down interview with a trendsetter like Alexandre Paulikevitch.

AM: Tell us everything we need to know about Alexandre Paulikevitch
I am a Lebanese born and raised artist who was always passionate about the Baladi dance métier. And it was only in my 20s that I have decided to transform this into a career after an emotional breakdown. It all started when I took dance lessons in Paris as a form of outlet from the law degree I was pursuing. I eventually abandoned the latter to become a professional Baladi dancer.

AM: You seem to insist that you are a Baladi dancer rather than a Middle Eastern belly dancer. Why is that?
First of all, I am not fond of the term Middle East. It's a simple word that groups many rich and diverse cultures that happen to be neighbors. I prefer calling the things by the nation they belong to, and so, as a Lebanese artist I perform Baladi dance from my own Balad (country). I also feel angry about how belly dancing has become associated with cabarets and restaurants. It has become a background noise rather than the center show. We really deserve respect and to be hosted on international platforms like that of L'Institut du monde arabe.

AM: What are your main career highlights so far?
I have performed all over France and Europe in international institutes and festivals. But what makes me even prouder is my performances at local and rural festivals across Lebanon. There I feel closer to the real people. These people, that are normally stigmatized as being conservative, welcomed me with open arms.

AM: One can only wonder where do you get this strength and confidence from?
I think it comes from my mother. She was from the North of Lebanon. She had a close proximity to the land and nature, and hence I somehow inherited that kind of harshness and strong personality.

AM: Let’s talk about the story behind TAJWAL and its creative process
Well TAJWAL (walking around), is literally inspired from my life story. To fund my first show I had to sell my car. So I started walking around Beirut and receiving many negative comments and insults. Of course I am a provocative person by nature, so the words kept coming. Luckily I noted down every single comment and transformed them all into a dance routine that allowed me to interpret my experience all over the world.

AM: Where are you heading to after IMA, and what is your long-term career goal?
After Paris, I am heading to Tunisia and Istanbul. I will also start choreographing a show for an artist. I don't want my art to be focalized only on me. I want to help others and get out of my comfort zone. Eventually, I would love to contribute in establishing a syndicate for professional dancers in Lebanon, all for the ultimate aim of turning a page in the chapter of Baladi dance.

AM: Finally, what is a piece of advice you would give to Arab artists who are different and atypique?
Simply be yourself, love yourself and do what you want to do!

Alexandre‘s Favorites List:
  •     Favorite Arab designer: Elie Saab
  •     Favorite clothing brand: Christian Lacroix & Alexander McQueen
  •     Favorite fashion icon: Naomi Campbell
  •     Favorite city: Beirut
Everyday Alexandre:
  •     I can’t leave the house without: my Arabic Kohl
  •     On a typical day you will see me wearing: Flashy and poppy colors
  •     My current perfume is: Thé vert by Elizabeth Arden
  •     My guilty pleasure is: Shopping
  •     After a stressful week you will catch me: At home or at the beach

Click here to watch a dance performance by Alexandre in which he surprised the dancer (and his coach) Dina - one of the icons of Egyptian Baladi dancing.

About Le Printemps de la danse arabe:
Throughout the spring season, L'Institut du monde arabe in Paris will bring together various artists on renowned French theaters followed by lively discussions with industry experts. The common theme is the body as a vehicle of artistic expression in relation to the Arab world. For the full program and tickets click here.