Review: FJK DANCE: Raising the Arab Voice in Contemporary Dance at New York Live Arts

FJK Dance, the ten member Iraqi-curated contemporary dance company, will celebrate their ninth season with a return to New York Live Arts, 219 West 19th Street, NYC, Tuesday, May 23 through Thursday, May 25, 2023.

By: May. 25, 2023
Review: FJK DANCE: Raising the Arab Voice in Contemporary Dance at New York Live Arts

For their ninth season, FJK Dance presents three company signature works by Artistic Director Fadi J. Khoury, each rich with contemporary and visual arts, reflective narratives, and an overarching motif of peace building. Khoury unanimously tells his truth as an Arab-American creator while challenging cultural stereotypes. He reminds communities how movement has the power to heal, unifying people of all backgrounds through outreach and performances. “I hope to inspire a cross-cultural dialogue, and a world where culture is safe,” says Khoury.

As the audience lights dim, opening the evening is Reflections (2016) choreographed by Khoury with original music by composer Peter Michael von der Nahmer. The entire back wall of the theatre stage is suddenly overcome with an ocean body and the audience is taken underwater. Soft, soothing, and lusciously blue, the ripples of water match the four dancers partnering on pointe draped in bright turquoise fabric. As music quickens the stage fills with company dancers executing promenades, lifts, and swift bourrées. Elongated, floating developpes contrast with stark spinal undulations, showcasing a unique marriage between classical pointework and contemporary partnering. Whether in complete synchronousness or conflicting movement, there is a calmness felt among the dancer’s demeanors. The screen projection impulsively turns into a gray sky filled with clouds as Khoury is center stage and still for one moment. His shadow eerily echoes his por de bras, as his arms and shoulders twistingly expand and contract. Reflections is nature in motion. As the water and clouds ripple, the dancers mirror these natural elements with beautiful fluidity.

Off Limits is unique, enticing, and completely captivating bridging Khoury’s choreographic and artistic talents to present an immigrant story. Soft, instantly inviting orange lights wash over the stage to highlight a blank, white canvas upstage right. Waiting to be painted on, Khoury stands in front of the tapestry in contemplation. He slowly begins to move to the heartwarming music by Claude Debussy. Off Limits is, “…a multimedia piece exploring the challenges of authenticity in the face of social norms,” states the program. As strokes of black ink circle, Khoury’s wrist guides every circle and line being painted. Dancers emerge onstage in varying forms: on pointe, in heels, and barefoot with hair down. Alisa Toro Franky stands out with strength and elegance in her lines, taking agency over the stage as she skims the floor with her beautiful arches. A statement is made when Khoury introduces red paint to his canvas. Dancer Anica Grace Bottom seizes the red paint brush to unpredictably throw the bright color onto Khoury’s leg. Ignited and energetic, the change in music changes the tempo in movement. There is a curiosity behind the ebb and flow of Off Limits, as Khoury seems to at times belong to his surroundings and other times be rejected. His immigrant narrative quite literally paints a picture of the journey it takes to finally feel a sense of belonging and ownership of self.

Review: FJK DANCE: Raising the Arab Voice in Contemporary Dance at New York Live Arts

Concluding the evening is Unforbidden, an unfolding of a solo piece Forbidden which originally emerged in 2021. The story of Unforbidden reveals a phenomenal multi-faceted performance show telling, “when love is locked and the key is inside,” states the program. Khoury is alone onstage with no one except for an enlarged version of himself projected on screen. Pearls drape elegantly over his bare back as he appears in red tulle and patterned fabric. Surrounded by a white glowing spotlight and subtle atmospheric smoke, he articulates his wrists carefully, interlacing his arms while moving his hips with dynamic and confidence. There are two separate versions of himself, and his projection tells an echoing story of what is occurring live on stage. As fabric moves vivaciously on the screen, dancer Franky comes onstage to whist the red tulle off Khoury, and his movements grow. Khoury’s arms and shoulders move like wings, freely undulating, flowing, and ticking in an expansive and enthralling manner. His gaze is open and wide as his eyes reach the audience. With beautiful moments of unison in black skirts, FJK Dance is united and in sync, sharing the beauty of Khoury’s Middle Eastern heritage. “My creative process is anchored in peace building and bringing together a diverse group of international dance artists, musicians, and designers,” says Khoury.

The balance of peace building while breaking boundaries is the magic of FJK Dance’s mission. FJK Dance’s commitment to cross-cultural dialogue is engaging, refreshing, and extremely valuable to the New York dance community, driven by Khoury’s fearlessness. “At its core, the FJK vision in dance reflects an immigrant journey and belief in the power of the performing arts and bringing people together of all backgrounds,” states the program. Khoury’s heart is anchored in advocating love for one another. “I’m so grateful for so many supporters and friends behind the success of this work and dream come true,” says Khoury.

Review: FJK DANCE: Raising the Arab Voice in Contemporary Dance at New York Live Arts

For more information about FJK Dance, visit:

Artistic Director: Fadi J. Khoury

Dancers: Fadi J. Khoury, Elisa Toro Franky, Giovanni Goffreddo, Anica Grace Bottom, Timothy Ward, Gsayuri Tanabe, Estefano Gil, Colby Treat, Heber Romero, Yuliya Chitose

Lighting Designer: Calvin Anderson

Stage Manager: Payton Smith

Animation: James Daher

Sound Design: Ric Schnup

Administrative Coordinator/Company Manager: Jillian Marzziotti

Director of Educational and Community Outreach: Ann Rakoff

Public Relations: Adria Rolnik


Photo Credit: Jaqlin Medlock


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