Searching for Tarab

Sandra Gysi & Ahmed Abdel Mohsen
Sandra Gysi & Ahmed Abdel Mohsen
Documentary | 2013-2022 | Duration 52'

Combining dance footage with interviews and archival footage, the film questions the concept of tarab in depth and will provide a unique account of our creative process.

Before starting rehearsals for the creation of Tarab in 2013, we went on a creative residency in Cairo, in search of “tarab” – that sacred notion of Eastern culture. The revolution was rumbling in Tahir Square and Mubarak’s removal from power was imminent. It was in this context that we met Sandra Gysi and Ahmed Abdel Mohsen, two Swiss-Cairo directors.

Fascinated by our endeavour, somewhat amused by our temerity and stubbornness in pursuing tarab, while the concerns of Cairo’s people were at that time far removed from it, the two filmmakers decided to follow us through the streets of Cairo, as well as with some specialists in Arabic music.

After studying maqams, the specific quarter tones of Arabic music that enrich the interpretation of a musical work, they were both curious to know how we would transpose what we had discovered from the long Arabic musical tradition to contemporary dance.

Our questions echoed theirs: would it be possible to transform this unique feeling into movement? Would it be possible for the dancers to reach this feeling of ecstasy during the performance? Better still, could this feeling of ecstasy be passed on to the audience? And before that: was it possible to achieve the oriental feeling of tarab coming from a western culture?

Choreography, Concept
Laurence Yadi, Nicolas Cantillon

Donkeyshot Filmproduction: Sandra Gisy, Ahmed Abdel Mohsen


Luc Bénard, Rosanne Briens, Nicolas Cantillon, Ryan Djojokarso, Karima El Amrani, Victoria Hoyland, Lola Kervroedan, Aline Lopes, Margaux Monetti, Melissa Ugolini, Laurence Yadi

Sir Richard Bishop, Jacques Mantica



Donkeyshot filmproduction Compagnie 7273

Financial support
Arab Bank Switzerland Ltd.
Pro Helvetia - Cairo

The completion of the film was made possible thanks to the support of the Canton of Geneva and the Swiss Confederation in the context of the Transformation Projects.