Habib Ben Tanfous/Compagnie Finek

A body is curled up next to the model of a building. On the back wall, a projection reads: ‘Habib means beloved.’ Walking slowly, back hunched, Habib Ben Tanfous seems to be searching for his identity as a list of famous Habibs appears behind him.

He carries models of buildings and pushes them across the stage; repeatedly holds a hand to his ear, as the other one reaches out to the side. The movement material is sparse throughout the piece, and he later explains the gestures as memories: A family member dancing, another handing him a microphone.

Tanfous sees his body as a screen, and he will decide, he says, what we project onto him tonight. One powerful scene shows the face of his great-grandfather blurred over his own. Later, he seems to breathe in the sound of his ancestors, as the voices of his relatives are heard coming out of the microphone.

There is a bridge between people across time and material here, which could be further explored.

Ingeborg Zackariassen

Habib Ben Tanfous’ Ici je lègue ce qui ne m’appartient pas continues a trend of this year’s festival. After an intriguing beginning, performers want to say too much at once. The performance feels scattered and loses any semblance of impetus.

In this case, maybe it’s actually the point. After all, feeling scattered in an environment that treats your body as foreign is a recognizable part of the diasporic condition Ben Tanfous explores. He shares his first name with a different Habib, his great-grandfather, who haunts him along with his origins.

His sense of estrangement, between a Belgian mind and a Tunisian body, seeps into the performance itself. He blends Arabic folk vocabulary with more idiosyncratic movement, at one point breathing so hard he appears on the verge of breaking down. Yet he keeps interrupting this physical journey with monologues of diasporic nostalgia that bring little new to an old tale.

What is not touched upon is what the Brussels-born artist might be projecting onto his idealized ancestral homeland.

Marína Srnka

Second- and third-generation immigrants sharing their personal stories have become a familiar sight on the European stage – a very welcome development, yet one that has raised expectations for emerging artists. In that sense, Ici je lègue ce qui ne m’appartient pas (literally “Here I pass on what doesn’t belong to me”), by the Brussels-born performer Habib Ben Tanfous, mixes text, song and movement in too hit-and-miss a fashion to stand out.

While he earnestly discusses his Tunisian roots, especially the great-grandfather whose name he inherited, the dance scenes showcase his conflicted identity best. At the start, a curled-up Ben Tanfous whistles quietly. When he rises, he remains hunched over, exaggerating the curve of his back as he shuffles forward. Later, he explains that he was taught to stand up straight in order to fit in and “inspire confidence” – a societal injunction that he visibly wrestles with, his chest jerking and popping before he pummels it. The immigrant body clearly keeps the score: If only Ici je lègue really made it sing.

Laura Cappelle