The Arabic word for night, Layl is a dance concert from Ali Chahrour. It tells the cultural stories from the Levant, Mesopotamia, and other love stories through dance and song. The stage becomes a world in which Chahrour choreographs the performance to symbolize each chapter in the lovers’ story and accompanies them with live music throughout the show. What set the dance performance apart from others was the use of Arabic song and dialogue, and even Syriac poems. The program book contained a full text of the performance in English which wasn’t too difficult to follow alongside the Arabic live performance. I had the pleasure of watching the performance this past Saturday, February 12 at the Power Center in Ann Arbor.
In lieu of Valentine’s Day, this was a moving performance to attend. Chahrour develops a romantic aura throughout the room as the story progressed between two lovers with a tragic fate. The audience followed as the lovers dealt with societal challenges, religious systems, and even severe consequences for their love. Despite the foreign component of the dance performance, these are not new struggles. More importantly, love was clear in the show. It goes to show how such passion is a universal language with no barriers. Yet, this wasn’t the corny, bright pink kind of love you might find on drugstore shelves this week. This love was a lot more powerful. Each performer captured this raw form of love through their dramatic movements and vocal range. I particularly enjoyed each song and poem that sounded like a lullaby at times. The words, however, offer more :
My eyes will not look at another’s beauty / And thoughts of only you occupy my mind
When I asked heart to be patient / My heart responded I cannot wait
Oh the eyes that have made me suffer, Oh the eyelashes that have left me
And oh my heart be patient, wait for those who have deserted me
These specific lines struck me. They highlight the way love only allows us to see one person, even if that one person has left us. It seems like an illness at first, rather than something revered. It also reminds me of how love is never lost by a lover. Instead, it is always there and waiting for the object of their affection. Love is a moving, undying force and the patience required of waiting feels almost unbearable. Love itself can be unbearable. This performance shows how love is tumultuous, painful, and even everlasting across time, space, and more.
At the end of at all, Chahrour has me wondering why the night? Why layl?