We had the good fortune of connecting with Issa Hourani and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Issa, what principle do you value most?
Providing a safe space. In my creative process, whether working alone or in collaboration with other dancers and artists, I want to make sure that we are creating within a safe space. That way, we can allow ourselves to take risks, be vulnerable, and dive into our memories, explore our human histories, build upon our stories, and create visions that are rooted in genuine places within ourselves and with others. Considering that I want to continue to create works that delve into the heart of the missing pieces of social and cultural constructs, challenging hegemonic concepts requires the viewer to also feel safe to meditate over ideas or stories that might disrupt their biases, and shift their perspectives to introduce concepts full of spectrums as opposed to perspectives limited to binaries.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I have always been interested in the arts ever since I was a child. I taught myself how to draw in several styles and fashion design (which came in handy as a costume designer for my works later on). Considering the culture I had grown up in, the arts is considered no more than a hobby, so I stuck with the sciences with plans on becoming a reconstructive plastic surgeon. However, I discovered my passion for the art of dance in community college. Up until that point, I had never considered dancing, never saw myself as a dancer, and certainly not as a choreographer. The more I learned about the art form, whether from my experiences and research within the academic institution or outside doing professional work, the more I realized how integrated it is within almost, if not every, field of study. I have become so fascinated by the ability to use my voice and creative skills through this medium and liberate myself from my preconceived ideas that I cannot pursue an artistic career. Therefore, I started to invest a lot in dance and find ways to create and present my work, all while completing my requirements for medical school. Once I took my MCATs and did extremely well, I decided to jump ship and continue with dance. Medical school is still on the back burner, but I have seen so much reward and accomplishment through dance that I could not ignore. The decision to switch to dance was a terrifying thought, but it has allowed me to learn a tremendous amount about myself, my values, where I came from, and where I want to be. The ability to allow myself to shift, organize, disorganize and reorganize, that is my brand. As long as it is rooted in my human history, my values, and my lineage, not only will I continue to develop works rich with ontological integrities, but I hope to break down hegemonic ideas within my culture and redefine it for others that are afraid of shedding light on their creative geniuses.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Assuming that this took place pre-covid, or after we make it out of this pandemic, there are so many things to do in San Diego. Balboa Park is a nice way to start, there are many gardens (the Japanese garden is beautiful), intricate Spanish-Renaissance architecture, the Botanical Building with many tropical plants and orchids! You can also watch a show at the Old Globe Theatre, visit the plethora of museums (art, science, air and space, etc). Gaslamp Quarter with its Victorian-style buildings is another go-to. There are art galleries, shops, theatres, restaurants, and many many clubs and bars, some that host karaoke nights! Torrey Pines for hiking, I also found out later on that Torrey Pines is America’s rarest pine tree. La Jolla Shores and Cove are absolutely beautiful, I used to go there all the time, and even in between classes during my undergrad at UC San Diego. There is always a good chance that you will see sea lions hanging around! Liberty Station is a really fun place to go to for food, so many samples, so many different cuisines. They also have little shops where you can buy candles, accessories, jewelry, and more. San Diego zoo and Safari Park, one of the largest zoos with one of the most amount of endangered and rare animals in the world. You will also see my favorite animal, the red panda. Little Italy has delicious places to eat, and you get to see people playing music, dancing and singing. It’s great! Hillcrest is a great place to take someone for San Diego nightlife (similar to Gaslamp). But it is an LGBTQIA+ hub that has an extremely welcoming atmosphere, great music to dance the night away, and much more!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
There are so many people who have contributed to where I am today, from family and friends, to mentors. If I had to narrow it down to those who are currently contributing to my growth as a dance artist, creator and educator, I would have to give a shoutout to my cohort Sarah Elizabeth Stanley and Tashara Gavin-Moorehead, and my graduate faculty and mentors including Rebecca Lemme, Colleen Dunagan, Alexx Shilling, Marjani Forte-Saunders, Brenna Monroe-Cook, Teresa Jankovic, and Nguyễn Nguyên.
Youtube: Issa Dance Company https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCoAekZSwXxRWPB9_fon301w
Lost Heart Productions, Skye Schmidt Photography, Trubliss Photography