Hussein Smko on Joining Battery Dance's 41st New York Season at Pace's Schimmel Center as the First Recipient of The Adel Euro Campaign for Dancers Seeking Refuge
Battery Dance’s 41st Annual New York Season
Wednesday-Thursday, May 10-11, 2017.
The Schimmel Center at Pace University, 3 Spruce Street, NYC.
For more info and tickets, go to Battery Dance
In November 2016, The Dance Enthusiast had a sobering heart-to-heart with Jonathan Hollander, Founder of Battery Dance, about the Adel Euro Campaign for Dancers Seeking Refuge, a program designed to relocate dancers from conflict zones to New York; the catalyst was the loss of company dancer Adel Faraj to the Baghdad bombings of July 2016.
When we last spoke, Battery Dance was in the process of raising funds to take Iraqi dancer Hussein Smko under its wing. In the short few months since then, not only has the company managed to sponsor Hussein Smko; they are also collaborating with Syria-born visual artist and musician Kevork Mourad and Kinan Azmeh and Tunisian composer Anouar Brahem. As a result of this symbiotic relationship, Battery Dance’s 41st Annual New York Season promises to be one of the company’s most colorful and culturally rich yet. The Adel Euro campaign is already reaping dividends in the lives it has influenced, in those who belief in it too, and who acted accordingly.
Sammi Lim for The Dance Enthusiast: Marhaba, Hussein. As the first recipient of Battery Dance’s Adel Euro Campaign, could you shed some light on what the audition or application process was like?
Hussein Smko, Kurdish-Iraqi dance artist: Jonathan and I began communicating on Facebook in 2014 and out of that conversation came the opportunity to do classes with Sean and Mira, two of the Battery Dancers, via Skype while I was living in Erbil. After I moved to America, I came to New York City in spring of 2016, and met everyone at Battery Dance in person. I visited again in August and worked with Sean and two of my Iraqi friends who were living in Detroit. We all gathered in New York in order to create a piece in honor of Adel Euro who had died in the bombing in Baghdad. Battery Dance set up the campaign in Adel Euro's name and Jonathan chose me as the first recipient.
TDE: Jonathan mentioned that you and Adel were pals. Were the both of you considered black sheep back home or are there more aspiring dancers in Iraq than most imagine?
HS: First of all, I am from Erbil. I am Kurdish Iraqi. So my situation and Adel's were very different, since he lived in Baghdad. However, the community never supported the idea of anyone become a dancer or artist – either in Erbil or Baghdad. You could be the best dancer in Iraq but still people will not support you. They might clap for you, but they would ask, afterwards, what your real job is.
TDE: Of all the works being presented at The Schimmel Center on May 10 and 11, I’m most excited for Double Knot. It’s pretty cool that you, a young dancer from Iraq, will share the stage with Razvan Stoian from Romania, and together, perform a work by Sean Scantlebury, an uprising American choreographer born in Barbados. Only in New York City, huh? Could you say a few words about the work.
HS: This is my favorite work. This is the best thing I have done so far. We worked for two months and it was very new to me. The whole movement style was different, with lots of unusual approaches. Sean has his own style, which is never easy. He throws in tricky twists and knots, but I am so glad that I picked up the moves and perfected them for the stage. Razvan has been a great help, a great friend - he has taught me so much about dancing and improved my mentality about art in general. I love working with him.
TDE: Dance enthusiasts are also anticipating Echoes of Erbil, your first choreography for Battery Dance! I understand it draws inspiration from memories of your motherland.
HS: Moving from a very old generation to the present, moving from Erbil to New York, I have tried to express the process and the land where I come from — where people gather, where there are mountains and nature, and where the locals respond to and have a strong bond with nature, which is a source of strength. I felt like I should sing and dance in order to show more of myself or who we are as Kurdish people. We have a very different background from Arabs. People do not understand the Kurds and their special culture. I want to draw from that background and to bring it to live on stage.
TDE: What is the best compliment you’ve ever received about your dancing?
HS: The best compliment I received was that I am a motivation for people to continue dancing and to pursue what they love.
TDE: The Dance Enthusiast is a huge proponent of Audience Reviews; what are your sentiments on viewer feedback?
HS: I receive talks from people after they watch my performances. This gives me strength to go on. To know that I have inspired someone - that is a big motivator for me.