Lang'art, dancing space, living space
For some art is secondary, others couldn't live without it. Bahri Ben Yahmed belongs to the second category. As dancing is essential for him, he launched Lang'art project: a cultural space that gives dancing and street arts trainings to young people.
“In Tunisia, we make people believe that art is entertainment, that artists shouldn't share their ideals”, says Bahri Ben Yahmed, dancer, versatile artist and coordinator of Lang'art (https://www.facebook.com/LangArt-1451917185107136/) who takes his art seriously. If dancing remains a pleasure, his aim is to educate youth “who will be citizens of tomorrow”.
Bahri Ben Yahmed perceives dancing and art as educational tools for youth. © Sana Sbouai
For him, education means discipline. You just need to enter the room to notice it. His voice is strong, authoritative. It resonates in this huge space, a former beverage stockroom. He is beating time while a very concentrated group of young dancers tirelessly rehearse the choreography they will soon have to perform in front of his eyes.
Lang'art is a project carried by Danseurs citoyens (Citizen dancers) (https://www.facebook.com/Danseurscitoyens/), an association that offers professional training for Tunisian dancers. The cultural space opened its doors in May 2015, it proposes various activities including dancing, theatre and street arts. About fifty young people from 13 to 20 years old come regularly to the space, they all live in different neighborhoods of Tunis.
From a beverage stockroom to a rehearsal hall
Long gone are the days when Lang'art was a water bottles stockroom, when youngsters danced in these rough and simple premises, when they had this huge and empty space just for themselves. Lang'art is currently a Tunisian-African training center for street arts and performing arts. Bahri Beh Yahmed is both its artistic director and director of education.
Rehearsals and choreographies. © Sana Sbouai
“The group was united. We did everything: carpentry, cement, refurbishment … to be able to get a space for training young artists, for experimenting, for exchanging and performing”, says the director regarding the transformation of the space. Months of work were necessary to renovate it.
Lang'art is a cultural space open to many types of art and includes a space dedicated to graffiti. © Sana Sbouai
There is a 70m2 rehearsal studio with a stage and a public space: a café open to all. There is also another part called Tag store: “This is the sole welcoming space for graffiti artists in Tunisia”, says Beh Yahmed. Tag store has a partnership with the Art Solution association which promotes street art in Tunisia.
TheTag store - © Sana Sbouai
Lang'art: a space for life education
Young people who come here to rehearse, spend time, chat or play music are between 13 and 20 years old: “At this age, we can still bring them something, have an intellectual impact”, says Beh Yahmed. If at first sight, all of this just seems to be about dancing but attending trainings here is about many other things too. “How to enter the workplace? How to make a living from art? How to create an alternative system for art in Tunisia? This work starts now. Young people must understand that there is a purpose.”
Rehearsals and choreographies. © Sana Sbouai
At the end of each year, students showcase their work. In July 2016, around 40 were on the stage of Hamam Lif open theatre, a couple of kilometers from Algiers. They also performed in June 2017 in a cinema theater in Tunis. The programme includes film screenings, debates around artistic engagement and sustainability of cultural action, and most of all two shows performed by Lang'art young dancers: “Chaos” and “Le Noir est une valeur” (Black is a value).
Lang'art became a training center in 2016. Thanks to a partnership with Acts Danse – an art school based in Paris and specialized in contemporary dancing – a 2-year curriculum with a final degree is now proposed to Tunisians and other African students.
Many young dancers come from lower-class neighborhoods. © Sana Sbouai
“This is the first institution in Tunisia that trains professional artists and delivers a degree!” says Beh Yahmed. “This is rewarding for our work. The Acts Danse team observed our project and what we have done (ed: with Danseurs Citoyens) since the Revolution, some of our dancers successfully passed auditions abroad. Our training is valuable for young Tunisians coming from lower-class neighborhoods.” He then says, insisting: “Even if you are not good at school, you can be talented, get a training and a job. Our idea is to improve all talents, even if studies remain important.”
This course is one more step on the path that Bahri Beh Yahmed wants to build for dance in Tunisia: that this art, perceived as secondary for a long time, finds its true place.
This report belongs to the WAR project which is supported by Anna Lindh Foundation and Fondation de France.Tweet