Training, creation and cooperation across the Mediterranean for contemporary dance in public spaces and unusual locations

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The SHAPERS cooperation project began from a longstanding commitment of partners from both shores of the Mediterranean; choreographers, festivals, and venues for art residencies:

Ex Nihilo [Marseilles], Rézodanse [Alexandria], Momkin – espaces de possibles [Marseilles] and Nassim el Raqs [Alexandria], Mes de Danza, International Contemporary Dance Festival [Seville], Espace Darja [Casablanca], Zvrk Festival, International Contemporary Dance Festival [Sarajevo], & In’8 circle – maison de production [Marseilles].

These partners were willing to develop a long-term perspective on questions regarding training, to accompany emerging artistic dynamics in public spaces across the Mediterranean, to share and promote the values of exchange, mutual cooperation and citizenship.

From April 2016 to September 2018, eight young dancers from Egypt, France, Spain, and Morocco were trained through their participation in the creation of a dance piece, questioning their relationship to the city, to locations, to passers-by, and to public space. The dancers travelled across the Mediterranean region and Europe, challenging their dance in new contexts and developing a particular relationship with site-specific work over time.

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A series of projects emerged around this creation to link cultural actors, artists, and audiences, enabling each of them to learn from shared experiences through an equal and sustainable Euro-Mediterranean cooperation; fostering meetings with those who share our thoughts on the matter: artists, journalists, researchers, trainers, architects, urban developers…

SHAPERS was developed through the collaboration of all the co-organising partners in 2015.

This partnership left room for possible future collaborations and some flexibility in running the project, to allow as large a space as possible for collaboration at a grass-roots level and to adjust the project as it unfolded.

The SHAPERS project was co-funded by the European Union Creative Europe Programme, from 2016 to 2018. It was initiated and implemented by the Ex Nihilo company.

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Training programme for professional dancers

The training started in April 2016 with a first workshop open to Alexandrian and Cairene dancers within the framework of the Nassim el Raqs festival. The overall project encompassed a comprehensive programme with two workshops, four artistic residencies, four masterclasses, and an international tour. It ended during the summer of 2018.

While the overall training programme was open to eight dancers, the workshops and masterclasses targeted a much wider audience of both professional and transitioning towards becoming professional dancers.

The dance performance

An original dance piece for eight dancers was the backbone of the cooperation project.


A series of four masterclasses was held in 2017-2018 in Marseilles, Casablanca, Alexandria and Seville. Each masterclass was given by a guest choreographer and held within the partner organization’s premises. They were open to the eight dancers who took part in the creation process as well as to other dancers, both professional and amateur.

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International tour

The tour within festivals from the Mediterranean region and beyond was a basis for the mobility of the dancers and the organizing partners of the project, giving an opportunity to showcase this cooperative experience to a wide audience and to stakeholders in the field. It was also a great learning opportunity for the dancers, a source of professional experience, and a way to nourish their own artistic background, through their encounters with different cultures.

Conferences about dance with a site-specific approach

Multiple conferences, attended by high profile lecturers specialized in the field of dance in public space, were held during the course of the project. They brought food for thought and a way to explore common artistic grounds: in Sarajevo in September 2016, in Marseilles in July 2018, in Düsseldorf in partnership with the Tanzmesse in September 2017 and August 2018.

Two International gatherings

In addition to regular meetings between the organizing partners of the project, two larger gatherings took place in Sarajevo and Marseilles respectively, in 2017 and 2018, with the aim to provoke new ideas for cooperation to implement within the Mediterranean region, in the field of dance in public space.

Digital platform

This platform was launched, in order to record and share experiences from the SHAPERS project and resources on contemporary dance in the Mediterranean region, and to forge links between both professional and amateur actors in the field.

Academic research paper

Since this project endeavors to have a long-term impact and to foster exchanges on different practices among the different stakeholders, there will be a study conducted to map out the various actors and practices in the field of dance in Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as in neighboring countries. Its aim will be to instill new dynamics for the development of dance within this region.