Meet The Lebanese Genius Who Brought Magnificence To The World Of Dance

OLJ | Facebook/CaracallaDanceSchool

He carried the vibrant Lebanese cultural cadence across the oceans and onto the world’s most prestigious stages, presenting magnificent and most outstanding performances.

To this day, Middle Eastern society praises children who become doctors and engineers, and scratch their heads when students say they want to become professional musicians, actors, or even get into the field of dance.

One can only imagine how bizarre the idea of creating a dance school was back in the 60s.

Abdel-Halim Caracalla with Assi Rahbani in Baalbek – Asharq Al-Awsat

But Maestro Abdel-Halim Caracalla was adamant to follow his dreams. He challenged the status quo and became the first person to bring the tradition of folk dance to the Lebanese stage as a professional work of fine art.

“Caracalla was worried about a body attracted by the earth, so he used body language to write a language that can only be comprehended by a body that walks on the water.” ~ Poet Talal Haidar

Born in Baalbek in 1940, Abdel-Halim Caracalla had always loved the art of movement and expression. 

In his early years, he had a career as an athlete and represented Lebanon as the champion pole-vaulter and participated in many international games. 

He studied the history and science of dance theatre at the Martha Graham School in London and learned the modern dance in France in the 1960s.

“Caracalla sat with his destiny and together they sketched his creative career in the musical dance theater across half a century, starting with pole-vaulting upwards to jump over all stages towards the impossible.” ~ Poet Talal Haidar

It was in 1968 when he ignited the first flame of what developed into the first professional dance theatre in the Middle East. 

But according to an interview with Euronews, Caracalla Dance Theatre was formed at a time when expressive arts like dance were not common in the Middle East. 

In Lebanon, his first choreographic performance was at the Temple of Jupiter in Baalbek. He started with 10 dancers in 1968, “despite the social stigmas of the time and the civil war of 1975-1990,” noted Euronews.

“I was born into a society that had no links to dance. Pursuing a career in dance was not acceptable, for a man or [a] woman, but I was determined,” he said.

Zina Ariss, Director of Public Relations, issued a poetic statement about him. “Talking about Caracalla is but like wearing a perfume of pride with which we arm ourselves to any artistic and cultural event, ostentatiously boasting of an ingenious Lebanese who catered to his theater as does loyalty to a good land, and stood on the stage of life as a distinguished Lebanese name and a flag that hovers with creativity.”

Caracalla became legendary, not only in Lebanon but around the world, for the magnificent performances and rich presentations he kept creating.

He founded dance schools that have distinguished themselves as the most prominent in the Middle East until now, representing the Lebanese and regional culture and history internationally.

In his honoring by the Beirut Arab University in 2019, Caracalla rightfully said, “If art doesn’t resemble us, it is worthless. We must evoke an art that looks like us and introduce it to the whole world.”

And that what he has so magnificently done!

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