a Dance Mag #1
The result of a recent Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign, our latest Magazine of the Week is spectacular in concept, format, text and design.
Published from Beirut, a Dance Mag seeks to use dance to break the cycle of polarisation we are witnessing today. ‘The polarisation between right and left, rich and poor, light and dark, acceptance and aggression, rebellion and resignation has become too extreme to ignore,’ write founders Jana Al-Obeidyine and Ibrahim Nehme in their opening letter. They proceed to explain how dance can unify people; bringing together the conscious and unconscious and connecting us to one another. It’s a powerful start to the new magazine.
Keen magCulturalists might recognise Nehme’s name. We last heard from him via his mag The Outpost, another Beirut-based project that sought to replace the typically downbeat narrative of the Middle East with a more positive one. After the end of that magazine he promised something new, and here it is.
Although a completetly different format and scale, the design of a Dance Mag shares a lot with The Outpost, although the new mag has a strong upright format that helps it stand apart, and is stapled rather than spine-bound. This tall format — it is twice as tall as it is wide — is a key part of its visual identity and is used/referred to throughtout the page design.
The design is sparse and text-orientated, Nehme making the most of a deliberately limited set of parts. The movement and shapes of dancing are alluded to graphically rather than displayed photographically, giving the pages an abstract sense of dance and making the reader focus on the writing.
This abstraction is emphasised by a two-colour palette, the whole issue rendered in black and a spot orange-yellow ink. Nehme’s ability to make much from little follows him from The Outpost: variations of patterns, shapes and soft, dithered images create a background canvas for each story.
But the most important design element are those 1:2 format pages. When a spread is opened the pages together make a square, and the text takes up only the top half of each spread. Thus the super-vertical exterior becomes a horizontal experience when opened.
With all texts above the half way mark, page furniture – the running head and writer credit – sits at a centrepoint half way up every page (see video). This is a really effective and unique characteristic, which along with the quirky mix of regular and extended fonts for headlines injects an element of surprise to the otherwise simple structure of the individual pages and the magazine as a whole. The positioning also provides the one consistent design element throughout the magazine, an anchor for every page, including front and back pages.
Each issue will be themed on a particular dance. Issue one is titled ‘Transcendence’, referring to Sufi whirling dervishes and their dance of unity. The visuals in the issue continually reference the swirl and spiral, as the texts reach from the personal to the general.
The opening story links the religious experience of the dervish to that of children spinning til they fall; we visit The Master Musicians of Joujaka in the Morrocan dessert (with the obligatory reference to Bryon Gysin, William Burroughs and co); there’s a reflection on the power and meaning of the spiral, before we’re suddenly shifted into the now with a piece that begins with the use of ketamine at a techno club.
a Dance Mag is that sort of publication, using its theme as starting point to cover history, yoga, drug use and various religions while taking in contemporary cultural references.
Its physical format is similar to Real Review, and it shares that publication’s willngness to jump between eras, subjects and forms. It remains rooted in the culture of the Middle East, and by making less overt promises from the outset it might potentially make more genuine difference to people of that part of our world than The Outpost did.
Editor-in-chief: Jana Al-Obeidyine
Creative director: Ibrahim Nehme
Art directors: Timo Durst & Max Weinland