Conference at the Festival de Marseilles II

at the Théâtre des Bernardines

Within the programme FESTIVAL OF IDEAS, MAKING THE CITY TOGETHER #2 of the Festival de Marseille: Co-creation of the city between artists, inhabitants, spaces and institutions

Reflections and discussion

For this session we are rephrasing the larger question of “creating the city together”: what is the position of the arts (of cultural politics, institutions, programming and artists) in a polycentric, multi-scale and multi-identity urban society? Within this framework, what are the co-productions (partnerships, methods, themes, etc.) needed in that effect?

With La Biennale des Écritures du Réel and the artists in residence Vooruit (Gand). Debate and reflections with Eric Corijn (Université Libre de Bruxelles), Fanny Robles (Professor and researcher at LERMA, Aix-Marseille Université) and local researchers.

Masterclass with Ali Salmi

Marseilles, France

At the Cité des arts de la rue, June 29th & 30th & the Ballet National de Marseille, July 1st 2018


Since the beginning of the project in 2016, the young dancers participating in the SHAPERS project have had the opportunity to meet various choreographers to discover new aesthetics and deepen their choreographic vocabulary. Open to all other dancers (either professional or in the midst of becoming professional), these masterclasses were also an opportunity for the project participants to meet other dancers from the region.

Within this context, for the last of the project’s series of four masterclasses, Ex Nihilo invited Ali Salmi, dancer, choreographer, and artistic director of the Osmosis Company, to share his approach and relationship to public space.


This masterclass was organized within the MP2018 SUMMERSCHOOL programme, a project initiated by the Ballet National de Marseille, marseille objectif DansE, Le Pôle 164, l’Ecole Nationale Supérieure de danse de Marseille, Le Ballet Preljocaj, Le Groupe Grenade, and KLAP Maison pour la Danse.

Performance in Marseilles

In front of the Centre Bourse, in the Belsunce neighborhood

This performance of SHAPERS was within the project’s ‘Focus in Marseilles’, organized by the company Ex Nihilo, from June 23rd to July 1st, including two conferences, the performance, and a masterclass.

Presented as a part of the Dimanches de la Canebière, in partnership with Lieux Publics – a national center for creation in public space, and the Festival de MarseilleSHAPERS was performed in Marseilles on June 24th.

The Dimanches de la Canebière are a cultural event organized by the Mairie of the 1st & 7th arrondissements.

Focus in Marseilles

Parallel to this performance, two conferences were organized within the ‘FESTIVAL OF IDEAS : MAKING THE CITY TOGETHER #2’ in the 23rd edition of the Festival de Marseille : Artistic practices in public space in the Mediterranean on June 23rd, and Artistic practices co-created with urban stakeholders on July 1st, at the Théâtre des Bernardines. The masterclass with the choreographer Ali Salmi took place at the Cité des Arts de la rue and at the Ballet National de Marseille from June 29th to July 1st.


A piece for public and singular spaces for 9 dancers 45 minutes

Conception: Anne Le Batard and Jean-Antoine Bigot, with assistance from Rolando Rocha and Corinne Pontana

Dancers: Lucia Bocanegra, Mourad Koula, Natacha Kierbel, Shady Abdelahman, Elvira Balboa, Ayoub Kerkal, Aurore Allo, Ahmed Shamel, and Emma Riba.

Music: Pascal Ferrari and Jean-Antoine Bigot

Ex Nihilo [Marseille, France] is a contemporary dance company, directed by Anne Le Batard and Jean-Antoine Bigot, founded on a common aim: to make public space a favoured space for creation and performance, placing encounters with a particular context and the people using an environment, such as inhabitants, an audience, and passers-by, at the centre of their artistic approach.

Conference at the Festival de Marseilles I

Théâtre des Bernardines

within the programme FESTIVAL OF IDEAS, MAKING THE CITY TOGETHER #2 of the Festival de Marseille: Art, public space, the Mediterranean

Reflections and discussion

Our starting point is “public space”: a space that in theory is shared and open, but in reality is communitarised – meaning it is characterized by the context, by particular social practices and by specific populations. What is the function given to art in such spaces? If it is to let those places and districts speak, to whom belongs the narrative?

Could we say that art in public places brings a contextual narrative that creates meaning for those who practice these places?

Does this type of art express the individuality and our differences or else does it participate in the notion of citizenship ?

These questions inevitably resonate differently when viewed from Alexandria, Tunis or Marseille.

With the participation of: Julien Marchaissau (Rara Woulib), Guy-André Lagesse (Les Pas Perdus), Julie De Muer (Hôtel du Nord), Selma Ouissi (L’Art Rue / Dream City), Anne Le Batard (Ex Nihilo), Emilie Petit (Momkin espaces de possibles). Discussions led by Eric Corijn (Université Libre de Bruxelles) and the philosopher Joëlle Zask in the presence of the co-organisers of the euro-méditerranean projet SHAPERS.

Partners meeting in Marseilles II

This partners meeting took place at the Cité des arts de la rue, in Marseilles, May 26th and 27th, 2018

All of the project partners were present at this meeting with the objective to assess the project as a whole and prepare the last steps – Ex Nihilo (Marseilles), Nassim el Raqs (Alexandria)/Momkin-espaces de possibles (Marseilles), the Centre Rézodanse – Egypte (Alexandria), l’Espace Darja (Casablanca), Mes de Danza (Sevilla), ZVRK (Sarajevo), in8 circle – maison de production (Marseilles).

We took these two days to understand what our goals were and how we carried them out, discussing both the positive and negative points, difficulties, and moments of great satisfaction. We highlighted the skills gained that supported our other personal projects or collaborative projects. Another objective was to share our difficulties and the solutions we put in place to carry out the project to value our experience.

Each day began with a commun physical warm-up, led by the Ex Nihilo dancers Corinne Pontana and Rolando Rocha.

To develop a shared analysis of the commun project, each partner prepared a presentation, starting from their positions and their individual skills used in order to carry out the project. The commun questions we asked ourselves were:

-What skills and knowledge did you use in this commun project?

-What did SHAPERS bring to your cultural project/structure?

-What are the new skills you developed within the SHAPERS project through this shared experience?

-What traces of SHAPERS to leave behind?

A Cartography of References with Alix de Morant

December 2017

The SHAPERS dancers and partners from Ex Nihilo and Momkin – espaces de possibles attended a presentation about the history of artistic urban interventions by Alix de Morant, a performing arts researcher and university lecturer specialized in artistic nomadism and in-situ art in public space. This was followed by a workshop to map their dance and art references onto a personal cartography.

This presentation and workshop took place in Marseilles, at the Cité des Arts de la Rue.


Alix de Morant is Assistant Professor of Theatre & Choreography at Université Paul Valery Montpellier 3 and Member of RIRRA 21 ( EA4209). She is part of the pedagogic team of EXERCE Master of Choreography (Université Paul Valéry Montpellier/ICI-CCN Montpellier Occitanie-direction Christian Rizzo) and directs the DAPCE Master degree in European Art & Culture Management. In addition to several publications in Art pressAlternatives ThéâtralesBallet/Tanz, COI, Ligeia, Theatre/Public, she is the author with Sylvie Clidière of the essay Exterieur Danse, and contributed to La scène et les images (Paris, CNRS 2001), Butô(s) (Paris, CNRS, 2002), Rythmes, flux, corps. Art et ville contemporaine (CIEREC-Presses Universitaires de Saint Etienne, 2012), La rue comme espace chorégraphique (Presses Universitaires de Rouen, 2017). Her interest includes site specific experiences, contemporary dance & performance, theatre & cognitive science. Trained as dancer & actress, she is working mainly on the relation between practice and theory.

Some of her publications include:

Masterclass with Thierry Thieû Niang

Since the beginning of the project in 2016, the young dancers participating in the SHAPERS project have had the opportunity to meet various choreographers to discover new aesthetics and deepen their choreographic vocabulary. Open to all other dancers (either professional or in the midst of becoming professional), these masterclasses were also an opportunity for the project participants to meet other dancers from the region.

Within this context, choreographer Thierry Thieû Niang was invited to give the masterclass Sharing with others, beyond the generation gap in Marseilles at the Cité des arts de la rue, in which the SHAPERS dancers participated alongside elderly amateur dancers.



Dancer and choreographer Thierry Thieû Niang associates artists from different disciplines as well as children, adolescents, elderly amateurs, prisoners, and autistic people, to his creations.

During the 17/18 season, he is working in theater, opera, dance, and cinema with the following artists: Marie Desplechin, Ariane Ascaride, Anne Alvaro, Éponine Momenceau, Dominique Blanc, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Linda Lê, Claire-Ingrid Cottanceau, Madeleine Louarn, Sara Llorca, Daniel Jeanneteau, Jean Bellorini, Philippe Lefait, Olivier Mellano, Jimmy Boury, Éric Caravaca, Sébastien Ly, Nicolas Daussy, François Gedigier, and François Waledisch.


Marseilles artistic residency

Following the selection of the 2 French dancers to complete the team of dancers, the SHAPERS project led its second artistic residency for the creation of a choreographic piece.

This residency was led by Anne Le Batard, Jean Antoine Bigot, Corinne Pontana and Rolando Rochala of the company Ex Nihilo with the 9 dancers taking part in the î project at the Cité des Arts de la Rue, in Marseilles, from January 19th to 30th.

Ex Nihilo [Marseilles, France] is a contemporary dance company, directed by Anne Le Batard and Jean-Antoine Bigot, founded on a common aim: to make public space a favoured space for creation and performance, placing encounters with a particular context and the people using an environment, such as inhabitants, an audience, and passers-by, at the centre of their artistic approach.

The Dancers

Following a series of workshop auditions from April 2016 to January 2017, eight young dancers from Egypt, France, Spain and Morocco participated in this training programme for professional dancers.

The dancer Emma Riba came to join and supplement the team as a substitute dancer in October 2017.


Ahmed Shamel Azmy, Egypt

Born in 1991, in Cairo, Egypt, Ahmed Shamel Azmy became interested in dancing at a very young age, practicing Hip Hop at home, using YouTube and other media to improve his skills. By the age of 21, he was accepted into the Cairo Contemporary Dance Center, where he had the opportunity to work with various choreographers such as Christian Ubl, Arno Schuitmarker and Libertad Pozo. Ahmed is also a member of Swaggers Crew with experience in street dance and Krump.

Throughout the SHAPERS project, Ahmed was intrigued by the concept of movement and how to become a stronger mover rather than a stronger dancer. He uses practices such as ‘animal flow’ as inspiration along with a variety of other physical practices to explore his body and capabilities, a concept he wishes to popularize in Egypt’s dance community.

Shady Abdelahrman, Egypt

Shady Abdelrahman is a young artist, actor, dancer, pantomime artist, and clown. Since 2007 he has acted in many theatrical performances, short films, and television shows. He participated in the 2015-2016 studio ZAT actor preparation workshop with Shady Khalaf and Ahmed Kamal.

With a dance background in ‘popping’, Shady’s relationship with contemporary dance began in Karima Mansour’s workshop in 2011, before joining the Cairo Contemporary Dance Center’s Professional training program (2012-2015). During his studies, he was selected to attend the Henny Jurriens scholarship program in Amsterdam. In addition to working and touring with many choreographers and companies, Shady is working on his own projects as a director and choreographer.

Mourad Koula, Morocco

A dancer and circus artist, specialized in Chinese pole, Mourad Koula was trained at Shems’y National Circus School in Salé, Morocco. He has worked with many directors and choreographers: Sylvie Guillermin, Guillaume Bertrand, Juha Marsalo, Thierry Poquet, Jawad Essounani, Anne Le Batard, Jean Antoine Bigot, and Samuel Tétreault.

His solo Shkoun ana, has been shown many times in Morocco and France. Mourad has performed in: Karacena Festival in Salé (2012 & 2014), Sacred World Music Festival in Fès (2013 & 2014), Fatw’art Festival in Casablanca (2013, 2014 & 2015), Nassim el Raqs in Alexandria (2015), Street art and circus Festival of Agadir (2015), Chalon dans la rue in France (2015), Mes de danza festival in Seville (in 2016), Crolles circus festival in France (2016), and the dance festival On marche in Marrakech (2017). He is currently creating new performances such as Error 404 with the Wajdins cie and Youness Essafy.

Ayoub Kerkal, Morocco

A circus artist and dancer, Ayoub Kerkal began training in the renowned Shems’y National Circus School in Salé, Morocco, in 2011. Since 2012, he returned to this first passion, contemporary dance, working with choreographers such as Mic Guillaumes, Thomas Huert, and the company Ex Nihilo.

In 2013, he became a member of the parkour company Accroche-toi, as a dancer and circus artist. Ayoub has participated in festivals such as the Biennale of Circus Arts in Karacena (2012 & 2015), as well as multiple dance festivals: On Marche in Morocco, Nassim el Raqs in Egypt, and Zvrk Festival in Bosnia Herzegovina.

Lucia Bocanegra, Spain

Lucia Bocanegra was born in Seville in 1997. She started dancing at the Endanza space in Seville in 2000. Before entering the Professional Dance Conservatory, she also took classes at the Performing Arts Center of Seville. Lucia chose to specialize in contemporary dance in 2015, and was selected by the CAD (Andalusian Dance Center) to train. In addition, she has participated in the creation of various short pieces, such as Seenpro (2015), Soulviewer, the conservatory’s 2015 end of the year piece, and the trio Nudas (2016). Lucia also performed the solo Gnosis, for the CAD 2015 tour and Salafuera within the cultural collaboration of the 2016 Noche en Blanco in Seville. From 2016 to 2018, she joined the team of the Euro-Mediterranean Project SHAPERS with the company Ex Nihilo.

Elvira Balboa, Spain

Elvira Balboa finished her professional dance studies in 2017 at the Royal Contemporary Dance School Reina Sofia. She is currently a part of the Euro-Mediterranean project SHAPERS, directed by the French Company Ex Nihilo. She is continuing her graduate studies in dance at the Theater Institute of Barcelona.

Elvi is a dancer and choreographer in the company Land Lab Project and CIA la Coet. In 2015 she participated in the project Let’s Dance directed by Trinidad Castillo, a student of Pina Bausch. From 2012 to 2016 she created and organized the project Danzamatique (micro, macro, perfodanza) in Granada.

Natacha Kierbel, France

Natacha Kierbel was born in Paris in 1995. She trained at the Conservatoire Régional de Paris. In addition, she studied Literature and Theatre at Sorbonne Nouvelle University and trained at the International Acting School of Paris. In 2014, Natacha joined the Geneva Junior Ballet, where she danced the repertoire from Aleksander Ekman, Hofesh Shechter, Roy Assaf, Barak Marshall, Sharon Eyal, Adonis Foniadakis, and Kaori Ito among others. Since graduating in 2016, Natacha has worked with the company Ex Nihilo for the Euro-Mediterranean project in public space SHAPERS, choreographed by Anne Le Batard and toured in Morocco, Egypt, Spain, and Bosnia. She has also worked with the stage director Robert Carsen at the Opera of Lausanne and with the company Karine Saporta.

Aurore Allo, France

Aurore Allo studied contemporary dance in Paris and Belgium. She has worked for different projects in France and abroad as a dancer and choreographer. She believes in art in public space as a way to communicate with audiences in a common and publicly used area.

Aurore is interested in working with dance and art as a tool for social mediation, specifically with children and disabled people.

Emma Riba, Spain

Born in Andorra in 1990, Emma Riba studied contemporary dance in different schools in Barcelona, finishing her studies in Salzburg at the SEAD academy where she learned from dancers and choreographers such as Edivaldo Ernesto, Rootlessroots, Milan Tomasik, and others. Since 2016, she has worked with choreographers like Willi Dorner, Zsuzsa Rozsavolgyi, Helena Pellisé, and has collaborated as a substitute in the Euro-Mediterranean Project SHAPERS with the Ex Nihilo company. She is currently a member of the Spanish company Cielo Ras0. In 2017, she created the dance collective US BACK IN TOWN together with Laura Alcalà. They work not only in the creation field but also to promote dance and creation as tools for social mediation. They have worked with amateurs in schools as well as with disabled people.

Partners meeting in Marseilles I

An early step of the project in Marseilles, this meeting was the opportunity for all of the partners to meet the selected dancers and to attend the first rehearsals.

The main topic of discussion in this meeting was the choice of sites for the performances and the constraints and difficulties faced by each partner according to their respective social and political contexts.

In situ creation requires taking into account the specificity of sites, their uses and inhabitants. It is important to explain to the authorities the necessity of this type of work. It is not a question of setting up a scene in the street but of working in immersion in the city in duration and in relation to the context.

This raised the question of the long and necessary authorization requests estimated in terms of security, public management, signposting in each country in a different manner.

Thus the question was raised concerning the following step in Morocco of the possibility of extending authorizations to work beforehand. As well as how and where to rehearse when the choice of site was the United Nations Square, in the heart of the city and life of Casablanca, a meeting point of all neighborhoods, all populations, making it difficult or impossible to use for more time than on the day of the show.

More broadly, the issue of the sites was addressed at the project level. How could the cities of Casablanca, Marseilles, Seville, Sarajevo and Alexandria answer each other, and dialogue through the choice of sites? What sense can be found between these 5 cities? For each of the 5 partners?

The decision was to construct a structure of a performance that would be adaptable to very different places in order to leave the choice of sites open to sites that make sense and to avoid choosing the same type of space in each city.

This would preserve and affirm the possibility of experimenting throughout the project and being reactive at each stage.

The diversity of sites is the strength of the project.

The question of the spaces makes sense during the tour and in the back and forth of the people involved in the project while maintaining an exigency in the choice of the sites. This allows to create a sort of collection of places.

What does this place represent? for the public? the inhabitants or users? in collective memory? Is it symbolic in the current context? How to connect with the public?



Photo credit: Ex Nihilo