Mia Habib Productions

Article on M.I.A by Deise Faria Nunes


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Missing in Action:

A journey in between fragments of heritage and a chaotic contemporaneity

In the beginning

I remember well a conversation I had with a newly graduated Mia Habib in the spring of 2004, in a casual meeting at a rehearsal space in Oslo. She told me she was working on a solo piece that would be named Missing in Action. I did not understand the title, and she went on to tell me that the phrase had a double signified. First, the three words form an acronym of her given name – M.I.A. Second, it is a war jargon meaning that a soldier or officer disappeared during a military operation and may or may not be dead.

A palpable status of uncertainty and the way the undefinable can be navigated by an overwhelmed body, were the strongest memories the performance, that premiered in 2005, left in me.

At that point I was very curious about the artist, who I happened to meet through a common dancer friend while she was attending her studies in choreography. Because of my own uncertainty as to what I was in terms of ethnicity – and maybe more important, what I was becoming in terms of culture, it blew my mind to dialogue with her about these subjects, and about the paradoxes of her own background.

The experience of following part of the creation of Missing in Action, was relevant for how I carried out my own artistic and theoretical work in the years that followed. At that point I didn’t know what auto-ethnographic research was. I had no idea that it can depart, as the thinker bell hooks puts it, from the urge to talk back to power, reclaiming the narrative of your own history as an analytical tool to understand socio-political structures.

Being sort of a privileged spectator of that performance surely sowed in me a seed of curiosity – what if the material I am so frenetically looking for is within myself? – A kind of curiosity that is indeed essential for approaches that, departing from the self yet guided away from the traps of the ego, can bring reflections of collective relevance to the surface. I would like to approach M.I.A. in those complementary perspectives: the person and the world.

Missing in Action is, in my memory, a bodily-affective mix of that auto-ethnographic curiosity, anger, fearlessness and a great amount of resistance to pain, expressed every time the room resonated the sound of the body in contact with the wooden floor. But beyond all of this, it became a political statement worth to be repeated, over and over again, until it becomes history. Because now, 14 years later, Missing in Action is painfully relevant.

A M.I.A., a person who has gone missing in action, is an undefined absence, an absence that is neither death nor abandonment. Whatever the status, the body is not there, and that empty place opens to a fragmentation of the existence into glimpses of hope and pieces of shared experience in the body-minds of those who were left in uncertainty, the M.I.A.’s loved ones. The carriers of their archive, their heritage.

In Missing in Action, the performer seems to be picking up those fragments of heritage while stating a refusal of the spoken language as a signifier for her voice. Trembling. Falling. Getting back up and falling again, the noise produced each time by the landing body sharp as shards of a glass. In this dance, those fragments coexist within a body overwhelmed by conflicting heritage. In this context, the fragments are means of reenacting history.

But, as I initially remarked, heritage and the self are not the only important dimensions of this work.

A testimonial of the future

A little more than one year before my casual meeting with Habib in 2004, I was in the streets, side by side with thousands of others in several cities worldwide, protesting the then imminent invasion of Iraq by the US and Great Britain in the wake of the attacks on September 11, 2001 (9-11). An invasion based on a doubtful premise, later admitted by British prime minister Tony Blair, that Iraq was in possession of arms of mass destruction. Little did we know of the consequences that so-called “war on terror” would have for innocent people in several countries.

The construction of Muslims as a common enemy of peace and prosperity in the West, at that time already a current matter in international politics, was intensified to unbearable heights.

Missing in Action takes that narrative and subverts it, posing a disturbing question: what kind of bodies are placed in the position of common enemy of the Western powers? In the performance, this question becomes increasingly pressing by means of music: what we believe to be a universal language disclosing violent barriers imposed on certain ethnic, religious and socio-cultural groups.

The context of the upcoming performance of Missing in Action in Oslo in October 2019 may in some ways be seen as a nightmare scenario unfolded by the events in the US and Afghanistan in 2001 and in Iraq in 2003. In this sense, the performance has not only remained relevant, it has also gained the dimension of a testimonial on the entire decade that was yet to come by the times of its premiere.

The anti-Muslim hate narrative, drawn from the fear mongering belief that Islam is going to take over Europe – the Eurabia conspiracy – was fueled by discourses created to justify and support the war on terror. Those discourses rest on imputations of conflicting values to certain cultures, religions and countries. Thus, the “terrorist” has, in opposition to the Western individual, a savage behavior, lower culture, education and ethics. The common enemy is uncivilized and evil. Even their humanity is questioned. That being expressed, one aspect is not to be forgotten: the enemy is a person of color.

Those discursive aspects of the war on terror gained terrain in the Nordics in the time since M.I.A. first was performed. This can for instance be seen in the violent rhetoric of Danish and Swedish far right politicians. In Norway, there are several examples: the racist blog-turned-website Document has been active since 2003. The history of the organization Human Rights Service (HRS), founded in – what a coincidence – 2001, is also worth a look. HRS started with a pretext of raising awareness against female genital mutilation in Muslim communities, later to become the organization led by Norway’s most Islamophobic person. The competition has become hard on that point, but those were the words of founder Hege Storhaug as she introduced herself to Steve Bannon, in the occasion of his visit to Oslo in May 2019.[1]

Not even the aftermath of terrorist attacks of July 22, 2011 in Oslo and Utøya were enough to stop the increasing aggressiveness of the far right, actually, the opposite is true. Systematic threats on survivors, left-side politicians and people of color, the reverberation of the mass murder’s ideology in other countries, such as New Zealand, and a new mass shooting attempt at a mosque in Oslo in August 2019 are some of the issues we face almost 18 years after 9-11.

In Norway, Islamophobic rhetoric post-July 22 gave in 2017 birth to another media outlet: Resett. Financially supported by some of the richest people in the country[2], Resett has published a number of the ugliest attacks on identifiable individuals among the so-called “alternative media”. One of those people is Mia Habib. In the fall of 2018, when it was made public that she had been granted a four-year support by the Arts Council Norway, Resett hosted a mudflow of racist and anti-artistic remarks in their comments section. Much of it was directed to her surname, that the attackers connected to Arab ethnicity, even though Habib is of Jewish and Norwegian descent. Habib has filed a police report against Resett, that is supposed to answer for the crime of racism in the following months.

Seen from multiple perspectives: culture, heritage, the individual, the body and the politics of belonging, Missing in Action is a performance whose inner layers become more visible and understandable as time passes.

May this work continue to unfold its journey and our history through the eyes of a maturing artist, until we can collectively envision the end of this sorrowful chapter in our history.


Deise Faria Nunes
Oslo/Kristiansand, September 2019.


[1] Klassekampen. “Steve Bannons norske venner”. https://www.klassekampen.no/article/20190513/ARTICLE/190519988. Published on May 13, 2019. Downloaded on September 4, 2019.

[2] Journalisten. “Dette er eierne av Resett”. https://journalisten.no/monica-staff-alternative-medier-helge-luras/dette-er-eierne-av-resett/325991. Published on July 18, 2018. Accessed on September 28, 2019.

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MISSING IN ACTION (M.I.A) – touring production


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Premiered 2005, New premier 2019 under CODA International dance festival.

The history of this solo has become a crucial part of the work itself. It has been performed in a variety of contexts: a church, a squat, the PKK guerillas in Iraq during the American invasion, Israel, Turkey, Madagascar and various stages in the Nordic countries. The solo also serves as a recurring material in Habib´s film ‘The Movie Concert’ commissioned for the opening of Dansens Hus, Oslo in 2008. Philosopher Boyan Manchev has used the solo in his lectures in Sophia and at the College of Philosophy in Paris. He also published a Bulgarian book analysing the solo in the context of the transforming body together with works by Xavier Le Roy, Gisèle Vienne and Benoït Lachambre.

This work from 2005 marked the beginning of Habib ́s artistic career and traces of the work are still seen in her projects today. This solo also became a door-opener internationally as it drew a lot of attention, from the large European dance houses to smaller groundbreaking festivals.

‘Missing In Action’ returned to Scenehuset where it was first made 14 years ago as a part of the CODA International Dance festival in 2019.

Duration: 50 min.

Read article on M.I.A by Deise Faria Nunes here

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ALL – A physical poem of protest


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“ALL..” is a physical poem of protest taking place in different locations in the world. The piece originate from Habib ́s large scale group piece“A song to…” from 2015 for 16 dancers and 30-50 local volunteers.

The poem consists of different local people, possibly of different ages, backgrounds and appearances. Depending on the cultural context and geographical place of the physical poem of protest, the participants might be clothed or naked. It may manifest as a 45 minute to three-hour long performance on stage, an hour manifestation in an outdoor public space or a protest, or… a 12-hour durational happening.

«ALL..» is born in times of large socio-political movements. Habib´s work is dealing with the question of how to draw the macro political into the body and rooting it in various local contexts.

Method, process and strategy

The score is an ongoing insistence on exploding the space with the only action of running and walking bodies into several climaxes inspired by Hatuka’s term ‘choreography of protest’. A guiding question for this score is “What is the ecstatic energy of a mass of bodies in a (performative) space?” The piece consists of a durational insistence of one living system in the space through a real-time mediation of strangers (the participants). In some editions of the piece (depending on duration) the audience gradually becomes participants as well. The score is accompanied by voice. The participants form a drone choir, going from low drone humming into a loud drone scream.


Choreographed by: Mia Habib

Original light design: Ingeborg Olerud

ALL- a physical poem of protest will be facilitated in collaboration with dance artists from MHP

Producer & General Manager: Grethe Henden

Producer and International relation Manager: Siri Leonardsen

Supported by: Arts Council Norway

 Articles and reviews

Article from The New York Times, May 1, 2019, by Gia Kourlas,

Review from Flash art, September 27, 2019, by Lucy Cotter

Review from Hyperallergic September 13, 2019, by Lindsay Costello

Upcoming tours 2020

  • Burgtheater, Wien, February 2020

International tours 2019 – 2016

  • PICA, TBA festival: indoor and outdoor performance. Portland, USA, September 2019
  • La Mama Moves Dance Festival, LaMaMa, New York City, USA, March 2019
  • ISFIT festival, Trondheim, Norway, February 2019
  • Theaterszene Europa/Studiobühne Köln, Germany, May 2018
  • Danse Elargie 2018 in collaboration with Théâtre de la Ville, Paris, France, June 2018
  • Deprogrammation/ Theatre Atlantique, 2017: indoor performance at Theatre Atlantique/ outdoor performance at the Parliamentary square and the Opera square as a part of a feminist protest, Bordeaux, France.
  • The protest “Love-in. Queer action for Chechnya” at the Soviet Memorial in Treptower Park in Berlin and in front of the Russian Embassy, adapted by Chorographers Jo Koppe and Jeremy Wade, Berlin, Germany, 2016.

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How to Die, Inopiné


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Maybe it ends in silence. Like the silence beyond silence. The silence when you are so far into
the mountains at night that the only sound is your heartbeat. Or maybe it ends together, around
a bonfire singing. Or maybe it never ends. What would this be with no ending? A process. A
performance. Maybe it continues, because everyone leaves with something to hold on to.
This is a time we have not yet imagined. We can practice, we can prepare for the unexpected.
Inopine. We are on performance time, there is no starting over.

The French philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy brings in the word inopiné [unexpected, sudden],
which means “that which we don’t have an opinion or judgment, that which we haven’t yet

How to die – Inopiné is a transdisciplinary investigation, developed between Umeå and Oslo,
about ecological grief, cultural panic, and a feeling of collapse. The collective of dancers, scientists, sound, light, and costume designer an a choreographer, have interviewed, discussed with and given workshops to several inhabitants and institutions around these three thematics.

“How to die – Inopiné” with its different segments, holds seminars, readings, lectures, dialogues
with invited citizens, experts, and physical practices interwoven in a regular schedule; and here: a performance evening.

● February 6 & 7, 2020 – World premiere Norrlandsoperan, Umeå
● March 12 -14, 2020 – Dansens Hus, Oslo (Oslo International Theatre Festival)
● March 19 – 20, 2020 – BIT Teatergaragen, Bergen
● Fall 2020 – Rosendal Teater, Trondheim

● October 2019 – Displacement curriculum: Umeå School of Architecture, Umeå
● November 2019 – Displacement curriculum: Iceland Academy of the Art, Reykjavik
● February 2020 – Seminar at Umeå School of Architecture, Umeå
● March 2020 – Seminar at Black Box Theatre, Oslo (Oslo International Theatre Festival)


Mia Habib Productions (NO)

Concept, choreographer and dancer: Mia Habib
Concepteur and research curator: Namik Mackic
Artistic advisor: Steinunn Ketilsdóttir

Creative team and researchers:
Dancers: Harald Beharie, Anna Pehrsson, Asher Lev and Nina Wollny
Sound designer: Jassem Hindi
Lighting designer: Ingeborg Olerud
Costume designer: Ali Hazara
Researchers: Marie Kraft and Ashkan Sepahvand,
Costume consultant: Christina Lindgren
Set design consultant: Trond Solberg

Producer and managing director: Grethe Henden
Producer and international relation manager: Siri Leonardsen
Pre-production: Kira Senkpiel
Photo: Ingeborg Olerud and Namik Mackic

How to die – Inopiné involves artists and researchers across disciplines to interact with local communities through the idea of the “unimagined” as a political and artistic tool to bring people together.

In cooperation with: Norrlandsoperan Umeå
Supported by: Arts Council Norway

Co-producers: Black Box Theatre/Oslo International Theatre Festival, Dance House Oslo, BIT Teatergarasjen Bergen, Rosendal Teater and DansiT Trondheim

Thank you to the organizations and people whom the collective have worked with during the process: Vän in Umeå, Umeå School of Architecture, the Norwegian Climate and Forest initiative, CICERO (Center for international climate research), the Umeå Police, In Transit – safe spaces in crisis contexts The Oslo School of Architecture and Design and Tøyen building society

Associated projects: “EXPRESSIONS: the power and politics of expectations in dance” led by Steinunn Ketilsdóttir and “The New Dionysian Festival” in Brussels.

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Workshop at SITE Sweden

Lectures/ Talks

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In connection with the project A song to… Mia Habib will have a residency at SITE Sweden from July 06th – 11th 2015.

Mia invites dancers, dancestudents and amateurs to a workshop at SITE from July 06th – 11th from 12.00 – 16.00 every day.




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MONO at Aerowaves Spring Forward Festival

Next Shows

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MONO was invited to Aerowaves Spring Forward Festival in Barcelona April 17th – 19th 2015

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MONO at RAS, Sandnes February 26th 2015

Next Shows

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upcoming events

New Projects, Next Shows

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A) ”A song to…” premieres at Dance House Oslo in september 2015. Guestperformances at BIT Teatergarasjen 2015 and RAS, Sandnes and Theatre Freiburg spring 2016.

B) Tour of ”MATTER” by Julie Nioche March 2015  

C) Mentor in M.A. Choreography at Oslo National Academy of the Arts 2015. 

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Hands Up Be Counted

Lectures/ Talks

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BrainDance Days. Public concluding discussion: Dance, Science, Parkinson´s

Lectures/ Talks, New Projects, Next Shows


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