TQW Magazin
Rabea Grand on Ayur by Radouan Mriziga

Ayur – the circle of life keeps turning


Ayur – the circle of life keeps turning

Birdsong. A dome made of long cardboard tubes. A woman with silver-grey curly hair. She calls a character from a childhood dream to mind, difficult to say how old she is. Everything about her sparkles with youthful energy, but she’s not a young woman, is she? She has silver curls, as mentioned in one of the poems featured in the piece. And she moves her body in fine lines, the same patterns over and over again. This woman’s body, neither old nor young, full of strength and yet fragile, strange and at the same time familiar, radiates an incredible amount of calm and confidence. Just like that, without forcing anything, effortless. I want to hold her hand, the hand of the Punic moon goddess Tanit. I want to feel her, her hand, her strength, her confidence and calm. I want to be part of her.

As soon as I enter the theatre, I instantly feel I’m in good hands. Six pages of poems and rap lyrics are handed out in German translation. On the first page, choreographer Radouan Mriziga addresses the audience directly in a short paragraph. He invites them to look at the work as a choreographic object. The poems and rap lyrics, that are later recited by dancer Sondos Belhassen in Tunisian Arabic, should be understood as scores. The words and phrases are not intended to explain the movements or create a linear narrative, they are tools carrying symbolic, rhythmic and compositional meaning.

I feel invited! And I’m touched by the sensitivity contained in these sentences. Not didactic in the least, a sincere offer that supports me in opening myself up to this choreographic object with all my senses and letting the linguistic/intellectual level recede into the background. I like to claim that I have a very intuitive approach to art. From the gut rather than cerebral. That’s probably only half true, if at all. Being socialised in the Eurocentric conception of art and the associated historiography has left its mark. But this evening I feel less constricted than usual. The choreographer has done without a simultaneous translation of the texts being displayed as surtitles in the room. The audience can read the poems by Lilia Ben Romdhane and the rap lyrics by Mehdi Chammem aka ‘Massi’ later, on the six pages handed out earlier. They develop their own performative intensity, both when read by themselves and when I hear them recited in a language that is not known to me. The text, the movements, the sound, the tonality of the voice, the physicality, the light, the soundscore, the object on stage – they all flow into one another, complement and reinforce each other.

Since 2019, Radouan Mriziga has been working on a trilogy of choreographic works – Tafukt, Ayur and Akal – that are inspired by the culture and history of the Imazighen, an indigenous people of North Africa. In all three parts the focus is on female figures considered to be responsible for handing down Amazigh knowledge. Even though the Imazighen played an important role in large parts of North Africa for centuries, their knowledge is being disregarded, and they are affected by everyday marginalisation and structural oppression.

Examining the myths of the Imazighen, the choreographer asks himself the following questions in the trilogy: Can dance be an instrument of resistance that leads to reassessing current models of society and imagining a more inclusive future? Can choreography fill gaps in our historical memory? And in what way does indigenous thinking, discredited for a long time as backward and unenlightened by the canon of Western societies and their project of modernity, still have a bearing on the present?

Even without having a connection to or knowing much about the Imazighen, I feel a bond with Ayur and dancer Sondos Belhassen. I think I understand. Even if only for a fleeting moment. On evenings like this I feel confident, calm, strong. I know there will be different evenings again, too. But something will remain. I’m certain.


Rabea Grand studied cultural studies with a focus on sociology and, since 2011, has worked in various positions in the independent theatre and dance scene in Switzerland, including at Reso – Tanznetzwerk Schweiz, as a freelance production manager and at the AUAWIRLEBEN and Theater Spektakel festivals. Formerly a competitive alpine skier from early childhood, she has been working as artistic and executive co-director at Gessnerallee Zürich since 2020 and has been responsible for coordinating its artistic programme since 2021.