About

Nadra Assaf

Associate Professor of Dance

Dr. Nadra Majeed Assaf is the founder/artistic director of Al-Sarab Dance Foundation which houses Al-Sarab Dance School as well as Al-Sarab Dance Company. She is also a full-time academic at the Lebanese American University and well-known researcher in dance in the Middle East.

She received her MFA in Dance from Sarah Lawrence College, and a Doctorate of Education from Leicester University. In addition to those degrees she also has a BA in Theater and a BS in Finance. She is best known for her work in dance in the Middle East as she has lived in Lebanon for the past 30+ years.

Most of her dance productions are performed in different countries (Lebanon, Bahrain, USA, Sweden, Finland, and Croatia) include: Public Conflict, Private Scars (2019), Sawtee (2019, 2017), Our Bodies, Our Voices (2017), Am I Who I Am Who Are You Who (2017) Sawtee (2017). This Is How It Happened! (2016), INFLUX (2015), STS: Space-Time-Shape (2012), I Matter: An Audience Interactive Performance (2010), The Faces of EVE (2008-2009), and Majnoun Leila (2007).

In April 2011, she organized and implemented the first annual International Dance Day Festival in Lebanon which continues to exist to date. She is a member of DSA and NDEO and has been a Judge/Instructor on several TV programs concerning performing arts.

Dr. Assaf is an advocate for the arts in Lebanon and the Region. She is also an avid researcher; among her publications: Audience/performer re-action: an investigation into audience/performer reciprocity via a touring site-specific performance in Lebanon (2020) Not Without My Body: The Struggle of Dancers and Choreographers in the Middle East (2015) and “I Matter”: An Interactive Exploration of Audience-Performer Connections (2012).

Books in which she is mentioned: 

  • Women, Dance and Revolution: Performance and Protest in the Southern Mediterranean (2016)
  • Talking Dance: Contemporary Histories from the Southern Mediterranean (2014)

Creative Work

March 2021    

  • Manni L’Waheed (Music Video: Mike Massy) - Actress in primary role/Movement specialist

The video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VH5xnpowsj0

The making of video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iPYnbAknRfw

Jan-Dec 2021

September 2020         

  • After the Explosion: Repositioning Dance in Lebanon - Choreography and Direction by Nadra Assaf - Dancers: Al-Sarab Dance Company

Repositioning Performance: Dance in 2020 and Beyond at the Conference: ‘Moving offstage: Bodies, Sites and Situations’ Symposium / Sharing of Practice. University of Chichester, Bishop Otter Campus, College Lane, Chichester.                       

  • ÃH - El Dahdah, A. (Director). (2020). ÃH [Film]. Main Cast: Alex El Dahdah, Nadra Assaf, William Okaily, Teresa Kristi Abboud

Film Festival Screenings and Awards:

April 2020      

  • Materiality of Exile - Choreographer/Story-Teller/Performer

A virtual-movement based project in the series of works by Ana Sánchez-Colberg using prime numbers to generate compositional rules to create new forms of collaborative and participatory contemporary performance.  The works defy categorization as they bring together elements of fine and visual art, audio composition, movement, photography and film, live documentation to generate site-specific works that question the relationship between art institutions, the ‘art-object’ and the subjects involved in the creation and reception.

Links:

April 2020                  

  • Eleven Pieces of Me - Dancer/choreographer/dramaturg/scenographer/camera operator

The 2020 Lockdown in Lebanon and the world caused many issues for performers. This piece gives a look into how I dealt with some of it. This piece was also used in Materiality of Exile through the eyes of Ana Sanchez.

Editor: Sarah Fadel - https://vimeo.com/407464315           

  • IDDFL 2020 Lockdown Edition - Director/Creator/Choreographer

Due to COVID-19 and the worldwide pandemic, IDDFL’s 10th anniversary had to be held online. The week-long edition included classes from each of the international guests originally slotted for the festival, as well as a collective online performance which involved an online audition, online teaching of material and finally, the performance. https://www.facebook.com/internationalDancedayfestivallebanon/                                                                    

October 2019             

  • Sawtee ~ reprise (previously presented in March 2017) - Choreographer/Principal Dancer and Performer/Trainer

Sawtee is a multifaceted, multi-genre performance creation which highlights the female identity and is primarily guided by the songs of the artist Yolla Khalife and the choreography of Nadra Assaf and Souraya Baghdadi, artistically adapted to the stage and directed by Chadi Zein. The work explores different areas of gender, particular the female ones through movement, music, words, scenography, sound and lighting.

Sawtee is a tribute to females who manage to continue moving forward despite the pain and suffering inflicted on them psychologically, sociologically, historically by males. Sawtee is an artistic representation of the female mystic, poetic essence and presence. Sawtee takes the audience to the hyper reality of the core of what it means to be a female from pleasure and ecstasy to sorrow and pain.

Performed for four days at Monnot Theater Achrafieh, Beirut-Lebanon on October 10-13, 2019. 

August 2019              

  • Private Scars Revealed - Choreographer/Performer/Director - The Opening ceremony of Mishkal Performance Festival, in collaboration with Al-Sarab Dance Company and Al-Madina Theater

July 2019                   

  • Public Conflict, Private Scars - Director/Choreographer/Performer, in collaboration with Heather Harrington

The conflict of possessing a female body in a society that deems this body as not warranting the same rights as a male body, has shaped both the movements and identities of Assaf and Harrington. They consider the body - its appearance and movement - as a site of political discussion. They reveal the personal, expanding their message out into the public, sparking a wider conversation of how women are treated, and ultimately crossing geographic and cultural borders.

Performed in Geneva NY at the 7th annual Somatic Dance Conference. https://ny6mediashare.ensemblevideo.com/hapi/v1/contents/permalinks/Kb29Pow5/view

June 2019                   

  • Seven to the Seventh:  A Global Dance in a Shared Virtual Stage - Director/Performer

Seven to the Seventh is the brainchild of Athens resident choreographer Ana Sánchez-Colberg in partnership with the Stavros Niarchos Foundation and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre.  The unprecedented event connected synchronically artists and their artistic communities, in multiple urban sites, across seven-time zones on the week of 24th-30th June 2019 as part of the summer’s Nostos Festival. https://www.snfestival.org/2019/

As for the Lebanon contribution:

Jimmy Bechara, in collaboration with Nadra Assaf and Al-Sarab Dance Company-Byblos, Lebanon journeyed through a structured movement improvisation which touches on the current concerns of spatial ownership and migration. Lebanon, currently being home to 1.8 million Syrian refugees, faces daily issues with space, environment and infrastructure. The participating movers highlighted awareness of these  issues through a seven-point historical based movement journey which started at the oldest existing Mosaic in the 7000 BC Old Souk (UNESCO World Heritage Site) and ended at one of the oldest religious spaces in the town and the UNESCO Cultural Square. The aim throughout the experience was to raise awareness of the historical educational significance of the land (being the spot from where the alphabet was launched to the world) as well as its current role of embodying both Lebanese and Syrians.

Links:

April 2019                  

  • IDDFL GALA - Director/Organizer/Performer                                

October 2018             

  • And Still She Persisted… - Choreographer/Dancer/Collaborator. In collaboration with Bill Evans and Bill Evans Dance and presented as a part of NDEO 2018 in San Diego USA. A new segment of Passing on the Legacy: Creation and performance of a multigenerational Dance Work.                                   

September 2018         

  • Reverberations: What will be left after we are gone? - Choreographer-Director-Performer - In collaboration with Al-Sarab Dance Company, Mishkal Performance Festival and Al-Madina Theater.

We live in a world where one small ripple can have a cascading effect. As dancers, movers, physical communicators, Al-Sarab Dance Company spent time investigating movement connection and inertia the result of this investigation led to a 20-minute performance piece.

Music collaborator: LAU Assistant Professor of Music Amr Selim

July 2018                   

  • Our Bodies, Our Voices: Virtual Meets Real - Choreographer-Director-Performer; in Collaboration with Heather Harrington

Assaf and Harrington, continents apart, talked through their differences and realized an underlying structure- the equality of their bodies- and found an ally in one another by moving together; a duet. They searched their bodies for past memories, excavated them, and brought them to life. They were able to witness and reframe those memories into a new, shared movement language. Their physical contact created empathy, bonding, and understanding on a deeper level than their written correspondences. They created in their dance a mirror of recognition; an intersection of nationalities, cultures, personal stories, bodies, and memories. Their work aims to show connections, not categories that define and divide individuals, and the ability to empathize with one another beyond borders; moving together, body to body in a shared space. https://vimeo.com/279192320/e8e8e0b857

Performed in Geneva NY at the 6th annual SOMATIC DANCE CONFERENCE Making Your Corner of the World a Better Place: Somatics, Science, Pedagogy and Performance.

NB: The performance won accolades by being selected to be performed at the GALA performance at the end of the event. https://vimeo.com/287673504/058e1bf161

  • Unraveling Embodied Terrains (UET) - Choreographer-Director-Performer - In Collaboration with Heather Harrington

UET extends from Assaf and Harrington’s previous works (NOFOD- NEXT) and highlights the conflict a female body faces in society and how that body protests the right to exist. Through their use of research, coupled with choreographed movement (dance) and rhythmic accompaniment (their voices and music) Assaf and Harrington take an active stand against the violence that hauntingly remains embodied in females internationally. Their presentation exhibits -through connections, resolutions, and the ability to empathize with one another beyond borders- an optimum reconciliation. It accentuates moving together in resistance against any conflict that strives to undermine the female body.

Performed in Valletta, Malta at The Dance Studies Association’s Conference, Contra: Dance and Conflict.

April and May 2018  

  • Just Like the Dust…. - Choreographer/Trainer/Director

The piece revolves around the concept of gender equality and how this is handled via Human Rights forums across the world. Performed in LAU’s Gulbenkian Theater on the Beirut campus as part of IDDFL 2018 and Festival NEXT 2018.

April 2018                  

  • From Peace to Hope With a Few In Betweens - Co-Choreographer-Director-Designer-Trainer-Organizer-Sciptwriter, in collaboration with Rain Ross

A Site Specific Audience Interactive Piece performed through the Byblos Souk. Seven stops along an 50 minute performance path. The tableaus depict several Human Rights issues. http://www.lau.edu.lb/news-events/news/archive/dance_for_hope_and_change/

Publications/Conference Papers

Conference Papers

  • Assaf, N. (2020) Dance Education in Lebanon. BiPOD 2020 online platform. https://www.citerne.live/people/nadra-assafhttps://www.citerne.live/events/dance-education-in-lebanon-with-nadra-assaf
  • Assaf, N. (2020). Repositioning Performance: Dance in 2020 and Beyond at the Conference: ‘Moving offstage: Bodies, Sites and Situations’ Symposium / Sharing of Practice. University of Chichester, Bishop Otter Campus, College Lane, Chichester.
  • Assaf, N. and H. Harrington. (2017). Embodying Feminism in the 21st Century: Perspectives from the East and the West at the 13th International NOFOD Conference titled DANCE AND DEMOCROCY hosted by the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. June 14-17, 2017.
  • Assaf, N. (2016).  Through the Lens Choreographing and Dancing: a Creative Process in a Shared Reality at Cognitive Futures in the Humanities hosted by University of Helsinki, June 13-15, Helsinki Finland.
  • Assaf, N. and Ross, R. (2015). Developing Community through Dance in Lebanon at Lines Between: Culture and Empire in the Eastern Mediterranean conference hosted by Stockton University and European University of Cyprus. June 2015, Nicosia Cyprus.
  • Assaf, N. and Tayara, R. (2015). The Passion That Moves Me: An Investigation into the Body-Mind Connection of Middle Eastern Dancers. at the Dance and Somatic Practices Conference. July 2015 Coventry University, UK.

Publications:

  • Assaf, N. et.al. (2020). Reinventing IDDFL: Implementing a Dance Festival in Lebanon during the COVID-19 Lockdown. The Dancer-Citizen: http://dancercitizen.org/Vol 10. Section 8.  http://dancercitizen.org/issue-10/nadra-assaf/
  • Assaf, N. and Selim, A. (Spring 2020). Audience/Performer Re-Action: An Investigation into Audience/Performer Reciprocity via a Touring Site-Specific Performance in Lebanon.  Research in Dance Education. Taylor & Francis.  DOI: 10.1080/14647893.2020.1746255 https://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/A5SD2NK6IBPF9PHTXSEM/full?target=10.1080/14647893.2020.1746255
  • Assaf, N. (2015). Not Without My Body: The Struggle of Dancers and Choreographers in the Middle East in Somatic Perspectives on Living in This World, edited by Natalie Garret Brown, Sarah Whatley and Kristy Alexander. Triarchy Press. https://www.triarchypress.net/nadra-assaf.html
  • Assaf, N. (2013) Dancing without My Body: Cultural Integration in the Middle East  in Popular Culture in the Middle East and North Africa: A Postcolonial Outlook, edited by Mounira Soliman and Walid El Hamamsy. Routledge Publications.
  • Assaf, N. (2013). “I Matter”: An Interactive Exploration of Audience-Performer Connections. Research in Dance Education. Taylor & Francis. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14647893.2012.712103
  • Assaf, N. (2011). “I Matter” A Closer Look at Performer-Audience Connections: Audience Perspective. A Dance Research Project in collaboration The ATTC, and several Arab and European partner organizations managing the Dance Refl-action project researching current dance pedagogies in the Arab Mediterranean region, financially supported by the Anna Lindh Foundation and the Swedish Theatre and Drama Institute.
  • Assaf, N. (2009). The Meanings of a Modern Dance: An Investigation into the Communicative Properties of a Non-Verbal Medium. VDM-Verlag.

Blogs

Reviewer

Academic Degrees

  • PhD in Education, Leicester University
  • MFA in Dance (with honors), Sarah Lawrence College
  • BS in Finance, Louisiana State University, USA
  • BA in Theater from Centenary College, Louisiana