Springboard for the Arts virtually welcomed their newest Hinge Arts Residency artist, Noelle Awadallah, this week at a meet and greet held on Zoom. Awadallah will be completing her residency from the Twin Cities, working on a solo dance performance titled “Say You are a Stone.”
Awadallah has a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Columbia College Chicago where she discovered improvisational dance. “I think, throughout college, was when I knew a performer and dancer, but I wondered what is my foundation of why I create and what I create for, and I think the realization of creating as an act of resistance is a foundation for me, and reimagining as resistance,” she says.
Her work-in-progress, “Say You are a Stone,” takes its name from a prose-poem by Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish called “Absent Presence” and is inspired by Awadallah’s own Palestinian-American background, natural cycles of life and landscapes. “I think specifically ... the idea of Palestine and the histories and memories I hold as a Palestinian-American with Sicilian blood, that has been trying to rediscover and find my way into that history. I think that, if we’re not imagining, we won’t know where to go to build the future that we want to have,” she said, emphasizing the importance of being able to both hold onto the memories of the past while also imagining the future.
“Say You are a Stone” will have three parts, or what Awadallah calls realms, which seeks to answer three core questions. The first realm, which she says represents birth and death, asks, “How do we hold onto the past and future simultaneously without allowing one or the other to consume our existence?”
The second realm is limbo and asks, “How do we live in the present while being flooded with nostalgia from the past that wasn’t our physical experience?” Awadallah explains that we often hold memories from our parents and grandparents, as well as our own memories, “So these memories we all hold in our bodies from generations before us, and how do we distinguish which memories are ours and which aren’t, and how do we balance nostalgia to not overcome us?”
Finally, the last realm is the future. “When we get to the future, it’s the question of, how do we find healing, or when do we find healing?” Awadallah asks. The focus here is on how we share the weight of the past with our ancestors and also with the land.
“We hold those past memories that are ours and that aren’t ours, along with the land that holds it for us, as well, and through that we find this softness within our history and the history that was passed down for us,” she says. “After all that, I think it’s definitely the work is about memory and the balance of, how do we hold all this heaviness that our ancestors had, and now live in our bodies, and how do we find softness in all that weight?”
Although Awadallah has played a bit with experimental short films, she says she hopes to show the finished work as a live performance either in a black box theater or outdoors. She currently works at Ananya Dance Theatre in St. Paul.