Photo Credit:

Zahra Saleki

Jaberi Dance Theatre Explores Experience of Refugee Women

Conceived and directed by Roshanak Jaberi and created with a powerhouse artistic team and ensemble of seven performers, No Woman’s Land  is an interdisciplinary production that reveals the plight and resistance of refugee women. Here, we talk to Roshanak Jaberi about the Toronto premiere.

DANCEWORKS: No Woman’s Land has been developed in collaboration with Doris Rajan of the Institute for Research and Development on Inclusion and Society (IRIS) and Dr. Shahrzad Mojab. Can you talk about your reason for this collaboration?

ROSHANAK: Research is an integral part of my practice. I always collaborate with experts who can guide my process, ensuring that the stories are captured ethically and authentically before I attempt to interpret them artistically. In this work, both Doris Rajan and Dr. Shahrzad Mojab helped me navigate this complex subject matter, which included close collaboration with refugee women who are at the heart of this project.

DANCEWORKS:  Can you talk about the content of the work – real stories of women in refugee camps? Why did you decide to explore this topic?

ROSHANAK: According to the UNHCR, we are currently experiencing the highest levels of displacement on record, with over 68.5 million people around the world having been forced from their home. As someone who has lived experience both as a refugee and a survivor of war, I felt an urgency to use my platform to speak about this issue. I decided to focus on the experiences of racialized refugee women in particular because they face the highest level of violence and discrimination, especially during pre-migration.

DANCEWORKS:  The work is an interdisciplinary production integrating dance, theatre and multi-media elements. Why did you decide to use integrative elements?

ROSHANAK: As a creator, I don’t like to be limited to one artistic form. I allow myself to be responsive to the needs of each project, integrating elements that can best serve the storytelling. In this work I used dance as a point of entry, but I also took a lot of risk by working with elements that I’ve never worked with before.

For example, we’re working with aerial silks and a beautifully designed functional set that transforms and becomes a living breathing character in itself. The interactive visual design by the incredibly talented Montreal artist Jérôme Delapierre uses body mapping and intricate sensors to re-envision the space, stimulating the imagination and taking the audience on a visceral journey through migration.

The original sound design and composition of Thomas Ryder Payne, costumes created by veteran designer Cheryl Lalonde, as well as the verbatim text and live vocal composition shaped by vocal coach Fides Krucker heighten the audience experience. To make all of these elements seamless and fully integrated required a lot of experimentation, exploration and imagination. This has made the process challenging but artistically rewarding.

DANCEWORKS: Thank you, Roshanak.

DanceWorks presents Jaberi Dance Theatre’s No Woman’s Land March 14-16, 2019 at the Harbourfront Centre Theatre. Tickets are available at the Box Office online and by calling 416-973-4000.