A distant male voice, singing in Arabic, echoes over an empty stage before three men in jeans and t-shirts (Rami Farah, Shamil Taskin, Mithkal Alzghair) appear. They stand still, then raise their arms overhead, pausing before beginning to clap rhythmically. That’s the arresting beginning of “Displacement,” a minimal trio by the Syrian-born Mithkal Alzghair, which conveys images of isolation, alienation, nationalism and fear with economical structure and a keen sense of timing.
Throughout the 27-minute work, the men do little more than variations on a soft-shoe shuffle, sometimes stamping, sometimes tapping as they move through changing configurations on lines and diagonals. They link arms, move in and out of sync, run, stop, unfold a large white cloth and hold it before them. Is it a flag, a shroud, a shelter?
Mr. Alzhair’s timing is compelling, and his sense of drama nicely understated. Towards the end, the men begin to drop clumsily to the floor. At first the hold each other; later they fall alone. When they exit, it’s in different directions.
Leave us alone, don’t you think we’ve been through enough already? This question might have been read from the eyes of three exiled men on the stage, performing the Mithkal Alzghair’s Displacement. They stand in silence, putting their arms up, surrendering. Their dislocating journey took a long way across the world. Now they hold on together. Their stage migration also keeps them tight and leads to the point of hiding behind a white rectangular fabric. Is it a white flag? Another surrender? Do they repel from a prejudice-densed judgment they may be dealing with, after being misjudged, mischarged, misunderstood, misbelieved? By clapping their hands, dancers had set the rhythm of the performance, and their rhythmic stepping followed as the soundtrack. With this politically charged, meaningful piece, Alzghair clearly shaped his thoughts and feelings into the trio. At one moment, three men are breathing as one and, then, dancing as individuals or at counterpoints. Through a slowed down interpretation of Syrian folk dance they evoke tradition, roots, a scent of the homeland, memory of broken dreams. Their movement is simple, yet deeply moving.
Displacement occupies a territory of enforced movement and deafening silence. Three ordinarily- dressed men stare at us, raising their arms as if to say, ‘I’m defenceless, I surrender’. Their heavy steps shape linear folk patterns, constructing a fluctuating dynamic. Mithkal Alzghair is an El Greco sketching elongated figures who emanate an internal light. These heroic protagonists, strongly bonded in brotherhood, can’t escape the life-long effect of being refugees. The mechanical motif they develop stays incomplete because it must be so. The firing squad atmosphere lends the work an electric charge. This trio reaches beyond exhaustion, holding aloft a large white cloth like a flag and dancing behind it. By the end, their naked torsos repeatedly collapse as their feet continue upon an unabating pathway to the unknown.