Born and living in Beirut. Locked down in Kobayat, Lebanon.
‘But trust me i am ready to dance in front of a room full of people wearing masks then to go online!!’
It would be an understatement to call Alexandre merely a dance artist or a choreographer or a Baladi dancer -although he excels in all. Not only his work but his whole persona is a figure of activism in its boldness and confrontation of personal and social issues, particularly gender. He is definitely a queer icon and inspiration in the Arab world and beyond.
After studying Theater and Dance in Paris, Alexandre went back to live in Lebanon where he currently works as a dancer, choreographer and teacher nationally and internationally. After hearing of him for years, I finally had the chance to meet him in 2018 when he was performing in Nancy Naous’ Dresse le Pour moi in A Corner in the World Festival 3: Earth is Flat? The following conversation took place in a difficult moment in Lebanon and Alexandre’s life, I believe, and I admire him for the light-hearted but unrelenting way with which he tackles everything coming his way.
From: Fatih Genckal
To: Alexandre Paulikevitch
Sent: April 29, 2020 13.12
Dear Alexandre,I want to start an interview experiment. I will ask you one question everyday and you will have 24 hours to respond to it. Then I will ask the next question based on your answers or my curiosities. You can also ask me questions in your answers and interview me in a way. It will be like a conversation.
If you answer quickly, I can ask the next question right away, so we don’t have to wait 24 hours. It can turn into texting each other too. Or not.
Please feel free to write as you are speaking. Think of this as a stream of consciousness writing. You don’t need to think much to find the right or most comprehensive answer. Follow the spark the question starts in you.
So here is the first question:
What do you see happening with you and around you since the beginning of home confinement?Alexandre Paulikevitch 29 Apr 2020 15:30
Hello Fatih, let’s start this seems interesting!
Since the beginning of home confinement I am facing myself, crying a lot and trying to face myself to be the most truthful about hard situation that happened with me in the near past.
Started a creation process that is turning out to be extremely tiring! Psychologically!
Around me all I. am seing is nature blooming… I am “confined almost at the doors of the forest!Fatih Genckal29 Apr 2020 16:36
Are you on your own at the moment? What is your typical day like?Alexandre Paulikevitch 29 Apr 2020 17:47
Yes I am!
I wake up when my body wants to wake up.
I drink my litre of water while in bed.
I check my social media, play a fishing game.
Shut the internet, put some traditional arabic music and start warming up while dancing.
Work on my new piece
Have lunch/Dinner depends
If I still have time go for a walk if not stay at home, watch Tv
Go to bed
Check social media
Play fishing game
unable to sleep (OF COURSE)
Pour an arak at 4AM smoke 2 to 3 cigarettes
go to sleep exhausted!!
Fatih Genckal 30 Apr 2020 01:35
It looks like you are on social media only when you are in bed and it comes with the fishing game. 🙂 What kind of stuff are you following in your online time? I am curious about the fishing game, too.
Alexandre Paulikevitch 30 Apr 2020 03:18
For now my dear Fatih it is about the revolution! Lebanon is boiling and crumbling! The future is uncertain rioting is must!
I search also for some poetry… we need poetry and we need to dream! Porn helos also!
The fishing game calms me… I just don’t think and fish!
Fatih Genckal 30 Apr 2020 13:05
I looked for news on Lebanon after reading your message. I didn’t know the riots were still going on since the autumn of last year, all my timelines have been flooding only with Corona-related news over the last month. Please tell me about it. What is going on, in your view? And how is corona affecting this?
Alexandre Paulikevitch 1 May 2020 11:31
Fatih the country is breaking down!!
There is an inflation of the Lebanese pound very hard days are in front of us, Corona is the least of our concerns!
The country may go into a civil war if the government keeps on putting the army in front of the people that are shooting with live ammunition on the protesters!
The people don’t have anything to lose anymore, they have lost everything already!!
The fucked up corona virus is helping the government and essentially the political class to maintain a control on the population to limit protesting!
Fatih Genckal 1 May 2020 14:33
What is the kind of change you desire and expect in Lebanon? The confirmed coronavirus cases seem to be relatively lower in Lebanon but do you think the pandemic is affecting the situation in any way?
Alexandre Paulikevitch 8 May 2020 12:06
The Pandemic is affecting the situation for sure I answered you in my last email on this point! I’ll copy paste it,
“The fucked up corona virus is helping the government and essentially the political class to maintain a control on the population to limit protesting!”
I aspire for a free Lebanon, free for different people to be able to live their differences.
I aspire for a country where you do not need to know someone in order to have a career, but hopefully one day our abilities and know how will make our achievements count!
I aspire for less corruption, less sectarianism, less confessionalism
I hope for a united population, a united country!
Fatih Genckal 8 May 2020 15:38
Good to have you back, my dear:)
You told me [on messenger] you were in Beirut and had some trouble there. Is everything ok now? Are you back in your sanctuary? 🙂
[You told me on messenger that you get easily bored when you talk politics.] I know politics is usually boring but it sometimes helps to try to articulate things for yourself. I think it’s much due time for all these to happen in Lebanon!
Well, do you want to talk about what it’s like to be in the middle of a creative process during this time? I am curious what you are doing and how:)
Alexandre Paulikevitch 12 May 2020 11:32
Hello Fatih, sorry for the delay but had some friends that stay during the week end and couldn’t take 5mn alone to answer!
Politics fascinate me but politics in Lebanon make me go crazy, there is nothing to understand just a bunch of corrupted, feudal mafiosos ruling a country!
It makes me crazy and makes no sense, it is by defense mechanism and not to get angry that I try not to talk politics.
Was arrested few months back and released after demonstration outside the Police station, went all the way and don’t regret anything but now it is time to Dance, this is where I’ll make a difference, my activism has limits in this country, my Art No!
So creating in a crumbling country + confined!
It is not easy at all!!
My collaborators aren’t inspired, I can’t ask them to be efficient but the work must continue, I can’t wait for them and this is dangerous on the process so I am counting mainly on the movement it self, and I am around 25mn now, with just movement and sound that I will make, will be humming as music to dance too!
The show must go on! This is my mantra now!
Fatih Genckal 12 May 2020 16:42
So the collaborators actually left the project due to the pandemic and you will make a solo now? What is the material you are working on?
Alexandre Paulikevitch 13 May 2020 00:46
No actually because of the pandemic my collaborators (music composer and puppet maker) aren’t inspired and can’t have access to the material they need, the musician can’t have access to the piano and cello to compose!
It has been a very personal solo since the beginning.
My father died, my aunt too and the revolution has been the. constant fight since October, have been arrested and in my intimate life I have had some extremely hard situations to deal with essentially from a toxic relationship!
I need to get out all this, it is an urgency and a necessity!
Fatih Genckal 13 May 2020 15:46
I understand dear. I am sorry for your losses and all that you’ve been through. I am sure you will come out of this process renewed and stronger. Maybe what you are doing on your own just with your own body -with movement and humming- will help you get deeper with your material and find its essence.
In this regard, would you consider your work having a therapeutic dimension or purpose? And how does this relate to your audience? These are questions I ask myself a lot. And I am struggling with them even more in the pandemic times as questions of space and presence are burning.
Alexandre Paulikevitch 13 May 2020 19:43
I consider my work to have an exorcism effect on me!
This is my mark i always say something personal and the public gets it! I am not scared from emotions and i show it! I don’t care about neutrality trends in contemporary dance!
The public get always extremely emotional and projects easily in the work.
Fatih Genckal 14 May 2020 16:06
You are a piece of art my dear:)
You know, you make it sound so simple. I have been in processes where I’ve seen people have gone through a lot of trouble with sharing their stories and showing their emotions. Here I want to ask you something: You are speaking about a form of ritual as far as I can understand. On the other hand, when you put something on stage, it becomes a piece of work. So it is somehow a representation, no matter how real it is to you, as the nature of the performance (being watched, sharing it in a public setting etc.) dictates. In other words, you present it in a certain way, through artistic tools, so it is different than watching someone in public going through an emotional experience. How does this inform your work then? And how does your relationship to the material change as you make and perform it?
Alexandre Paulikevitch 17 May 2020 15:41
It doesn’t change dear Fatih, I stay the most true to my feelings and emotions and it flows from the stage to the public!
When on stage it is never about me, it is starting with me to reach for the universal!
My struggle is everyone struggle there is no ego in it just sharing emotions that the public have and they link to it… not to my proper experience!
Fatih Genckal 18 May 2020 21:16
It looks like it is going to be a while before we can gather in theaters for performances. Do you think about how this lack of physical contact with the audience can affect your work, which I feel is very much about this live connection? Are you interested in using the online space in some way?
Alexandre Paulikevitch 19 May 2020 09:26
This thought is haunting me!!
I am working on a new piece not knowing if i will be able to perform it live in front of a live audience!!
But trust me i am ready to dance in front of a room full of people wearing masks then to go online!!
I’ll do the online live streaming only from a live performance and never alone in front of a camera!
I am old school and need to feel the audience!
Fatih Genckal 19 May 2020 14:31
I understand this dear, but I still love the occasional dancing videos you share on Facebook!! 🙂 They still have an effect!
I realize that you are also quite interested in nature and cooking. Has this intensified with the lockdown or was it always there?
Alexandre Paulikevitch 19 May 2020 14:38
Always been there but nature definitely intensified during the “lockdown” but can I talk of a lockdown? Really didn’t loose much of my freedom! Rural areas are not as strict as Beirut!
As for cooking always been there always will be!!
Fatih Genckal 20 May 2020 13:13
Do you want to talk about your passion for cooking? What do you like to cook? What is the cooking experience like for you?
Alexandre Paulikevitch 22 May 2020 08:19
Oh!! Big subject!!
Cooking is major!! It is an Art, a religion!!
Since I chose Dance as a way of life, i decided to start cooking!
I can cook all the time! For me? For friends!
It does bring people together and it is an act of live!
But i cook essentially to bring back somehow somewhere my mom!
I try to come close to the taste of her food, thus bringing back memories!
I cook a huge variety of food, you know we got ottomans here for 400 years? We perfected your food and got better at it!! Haha
I looooove meat and fish!!
Everything about food excites me!!
Hurray for food 🙂
Fatih Genckal 23 May 2020 00:43
You likened your dance to exorcism before. Now you are somehow linking your choice of dance as a way of life to cooking!
So: You cook to bring back people and memories and also bring them together. You dance to bring out memories and emotions and to spread them around. Would this be an accurate analogy? Would you like to say more about this relationship between dancing and cooking?
Alexandre Paulikevitch 23 May 2020 11:16
Yes Fatih a very accurate analogy!
I do believe that what we eat affects our mood, our energy and our psychology!
Science say that our stomach is. our first brain!! I give to food a very important role in my life almost sacred!!
Fatih Genckal 25 May 2020 12:56
I also like the Ayurvedic analogy that whatever you take into your body, you make it into yourself through digestion. I think this goes for other aspects of life, too.
It’s been almost a month since we started this conversation. What has changed for you during this time? And did the conversation affect you in any way?
Alexandre Paulikevitch 25 May 2020 21:03
Oh waw almost a month!! Didn’t feel it !
I am collaborating on several video dance this is the major change!
This said did you check my latest food video on facebook?
Our conversation have been a pleasure and pushed me may be to rethink a little bit my relation to virtual work through technology! A point that you insisted on!
Fatih Genckal26 May 2020 13:42
It’s been a pleasure for me too. Thanks for sharing it with me.
Maybe a final question: What is your hope and intention for the next few months?
Alexandre Paulikevitch 28 May 2020 10:27
Dear Fatih thank you for this conversation it was a pleasure to chat with you.
I really hope that life will treat us kindly in the coming months as all I see is darkness coming towards Lebanon with a beam of light shining brightly that is Dance luring at the end!
Continued on Messenger:
Fatih Genckal 24 Jul 2020 17.07
hey dear how are you? I know the situation in Lebanon is quite difficult these days. I hope you are safe and well. Please let me know you are ok when you can.
Alexandre Paulikevitch 25 Jul 2020 11.40
Habibi Fatih i have military court on tuesday!! I am fine. ❤️
Fatih Genckal 25 Jul 2020 11.45
Military court?? For what?
27 Jul 2020 13.00
Habibi, this military court sounds serious? I hope it’s not:)
I sent you an email with our correspondence. Is it ok I publish it like that this week?
Alexandre Paulikevitch 27 Jul 2020 13.25
It is serious but I am ready to face them! Didn’t have the time to check it sorry!! Things have been crazy lately!
If you transcripted our conversation of course I am ok! with pleasure habibi.
just tell me what are the modifications as I am not able to concentrate! ❤️️
Fatih Genckal 27 Jul 2020 13.30
I sent the transcription on your email, shall i send it again? I am ready to publish the conversation on our website here:https://conversations.acornerintheworld.com/
About the court, habibi, I send you my best! I am with you. Tell me if there is anything I can do to help you in this situation.
Alexandre Paulikevitch 27 Jul 2020 15.59
Good luck habibi. ❤️️
Fatih Genckal 27 Jul 2020 17.04
Shall i send u the transcript again? Is it ok to publish?
Alexandre Paulikevitch 27 Jul 2020 17.07
did you do major changes?
maybe a war with Israel is starting right now! I don’t have the energy to read the transcription habibi. 😗
Fatih Genckal 27 Jul 2020 17.09
I didnt do any change.
I thought so. Where the fuck did the İsrail thing Come from now? I Just read it in the news.
Stay safe habibi. So sorry to bother you with these.
Alexandre Paulikevitch 27 Jul 2020 17.11
Thank you dear! Good luck in your project! ❤️️
Fatih Genckal 27 Jul 2020 17.11
Thank u. Do u mind if i add this conversation here as well? About the military courst etc?
Alexandre Paulikevitch 27 Jul 2020 17.12
Fatih Genckal 27 Jul 2020 17.18
❤️️ But let me know u are ok. I dont want to end with the court and not know what happen and why. 🙈
Alexandre Paulikevitch 27 Jul 2020 17.19
They’ll put us in the same cell we’ll have fun!!
Fatih Genckal 27 Jul 2020 17.21
With whom?? What did u do? 😬️
Alexandre Paulikevitch 27 Jul 2020 17.22
hahaha I think you wrote your comment without a “you” I thought you where afraid that YOU end up in court hahaha
I am ready for them don’t worry habibi. 😗
Fatih Genckal 27 Jul 2020 17.27
Take care habibi, much love.