Evaluation working in Palestine Dez/Jan 18

It’s been now one week I’m back from Palestine. It is as hard to come back as it is to go there. I miss my dancers and my dear family Tams who hosted me for the last 2,5 weeks.The last day of my stay we were filming the piece to create a small teaser to promote the show and the whole creative team was present. The composer and singer of the soundtrack, the dramaturge and the administration of the company. All of them loved the creation and now I left everything in the hands of the company. Expected march will be the premiere of the show “Salal” and will tour in Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Ramallah and Nazareth. Hopefully I will have an occasion to see the piece…

That day we finished around 22 in the evening in the Ibdaa Culture Centre in the refugee camp Deheisheh in Bethlehem. The dramaturge had to leave earlier to catch his bus to Ramallah. Due he has no Jerusalem ID he is forced to travel 2,5 hours over Jericho to get to Ramallah. But he was late and missed the last bus. So he came back to Deheisheh – Camp and could stay overnight in a guesthouse in the camp.
In that night and early morning, a military action happened in the camp. There was a detention of a Palestinian man. Clashes erupted while the military entered the camp and 10 Palestinians were injured. Two of them seriously. One of them was a boy on he’s way to school.
This information for me is terrifying. If we would have left later maybe, we would have been involved into the incident. There is no safety in Palestine. And if nothing happened to us during my stay it is only because we had a big guardian angel who watched over us. The dramaturge who stayed overnight in the camp is safe. But he passed a terrible night…

Why do I still travel to Palestine even though is difficult and dangerous?

It is all about love and friendship. I had a great luck to know really good people. People who risk every day their lives because they are born there. People who have incredible life stories. People who suffered torture, prison, persecution and death and still carry love and humaneness in their hearts, still resist and still fight for a better world.
I learn so much about these people. People who direct a dance company, a theatre company and schools despite the difficulties. They give me an incredible power and help me to grow as a human. To learn to love, to learn to hold side by side, to believe…

Because of these people, because of the love to these people it is worth every time to travel to Palestine.

Author of the picture is unknown

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Happy new year 2018 from Palestine!

We finally are at the door of the finale of the choreography and everybody is tired. Till today we rehearsed in Beit Djalah at Baladi folklore Centre.  Our bodies start to show the first signs of exhaustion and some are sick, others have knee or foot problems and are taking painkillers…Because of the bad conditions of the rehearsal room we had to look for another possibility. The bathroom was broken, the room was way too small for the 10 dancers and above all the floor was a kind of spongy material which didn’t allow any turns or floor work at all. The floor is impossible to clean and the room was all over of dust. Every evening I removed a big layer of black dust on my laptop.

We found finally for free a great hall in the refugee Camp in Bethlehem. In the Dheisheh – Camp. The camp is well known as one of the strongest resistance places in Palestine. The camp was created as a contemporary humanitarian solution to Palestinians who were expelled of the Israeli army of more than 45 villages in West Jerusalem and Hebron in the year 1949. The community offered us to use the room for free and we moved now with the rehearsal in a great hall of a culture centre in Dheisheh. In the non-heated space, we all suffer the cold and we hear the rats running in the walls of the building. On the ceiling there are the names of the destroyed Palestinian villages and the walls are decorated with drawings of the tragic history of the Palestinians populating the camp.

We have 4 more days to work. All the dancers did a great effort. Especially the ones who were besides the rehearsal working and made everything possible to join the group. Some of the dancers never had in their lives a regular dance class. They were only trained in Dabka, the traditional Palestinian Dance and did for the first time in their lives dance basics and learned about correct posture. My movements are completely new for most everyone and it needs time for everybody to absorb the style. I am aware that in this short time it won’t be possible to have all the movements perfect, but I’m very proud of all the dancers who gave their best despite sickness, work and pain. And I’m thankful for the openness for the completely unknown movement repertory. They improved a lot since our start in December and what I really don’t need to teach them is their strong energy they naturally express while dancing which touches me every time the most of all.

Yesterday the dramaturg of the show who lives in the West Bank was with us to see my choreography and to take a dramaturgical decision about the ending of the piece. We drove him back by car to Jerusalem and we all forget that with his permission he only can pass certain checkpoints. Not the one we were standing in front of. The moment it was our turn to pass, the soldier turned his back to us to tell something to his fellow. We slowly passed without stopping. He didn’t say anything so our driver went through. (I didn’t know anything). As soon we passed, they all start laughing. Hanna was totally released because in case they would have stopped us, everything would have been possible – even prison! That what made me laugh most was the sweet malicious joy of our driver to have succeeded to feint the soldiers…

Ceiling and wall in the culture hall of Dheisheh – Camp in Bethlehem

Ceiling with names of the destroyed Palestinian villagesdrawing of the wall in cultural hall in Dheisheh - Camp in Bethlehem

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Meeting the Douban Family

Douban Dance Company is founded by Hanna Tams. A very enthusiastic, young dancer. He is one of the few men in Palestine being very passionate not only of Dabke dance but especially as well of Ballet. He studied Ballet in Austin (USA) and London where he already toured with Austin Ballet, the school Company of Rambert school in London and other companies. Now he dedicates all his time to teach and choreograph his own company and in different schools all over Palestine. The community of professional dancers in Palestine is small and he believes above all in connecting and supporting the different dance groups in Palestine. Douban Dance Company is specialised in including different dance styles like Flamenco, African Dance and with me today Egyptian Dance or better my fusion of contemporary and Egyptian Dance.

I am very happy to be invited by Douban and from the first day on I was welcomed as part of the family, the Douban Family. We rehearse every day 5 hours or in the morning or evening. Part of the dancers are from Beit Djalah (Bethlehem) and we travel most of the times to Bethlehem to rehears because some of the male dancers don’t have any permission to travel to Jersualem. This complicates the situation a little bit not only for the travels but as well because the place where we rehearse doesn’t have a dance floor and it is impossible to do floor work and difficult to dance bare feet and turning Pirouettes. Now we are looking for another place in Bethlehem with an adapted floor. We reduced the big group of the first introducing workshop in 6 men and 6 women dancers. They all are very enthusiastic and try their best to get as fast as possible familiar with the different dance style I am offering. Most of the dancers are very young between 15 and 23 years old. There’s still a lot of work to do and specially to resolve some practical issues.  The show is planned at the beginning of February but due to administrative problems with a journey of another teacher who will choreograph a piece for the group the show may be a little postponed.

In west Jerusalem there are everywhere posters with the writing “god bless you mister Trump”. The reaction of the Palestinian people are the continuous protests especially on Fridays. Last Friday we were in Bethlehem and run with the car into a teargas cloud. Protesters were standing with stones and masked with gas masks. We were forced to turn around. It was not possible to pass that road. We have to stay more in alert at the moment because of the more intense protests and the resulting measures of the military.

Despite of the tensions I am very happy to be here and meeting my friends of the dance community. I am spoiled with respect and love of the people around me.

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A Palestinian Goodbye

Tomorrow I will travel back home. It will be difficult to arrive in only a few hours in again a complete different world. The time in Palestine was incredibly rich and I need time to digest all the impressions collected.After a one week break during Eid I was supposed to teach the last class tonight, after that to celebrate with the whole company my birthday and to have a goodbye diner together.Today I got a call from Noora from the border of Jordan, that the whole head of El-Funoun got stock at the border. Noora, Atta and Majidi where send back to Amman, while Khaled got stock with his kids in the border between Jordan and the Westbank.They have to try tomorrow to get back to Palestine. The class was cancelled, and the diner was with some dancers that remained here in Ramallah. But the thing that really hurts me: I couldn’t say goodbye. And the goodbyes here are fundamental because you never know if you will see each other again.

Good bye my beloved bleeding country. I bring back two suitcases. One full of pain. And another one full of love. One filled with death and the other plenty of live. You can’t live Palestine without its Palestinian wounds and without its Palestinian love.

 
ismail Shammout

Paining: Ismail Shammout

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Impressions

A lover from Palestine

Her eyes are Palestinian
Her name is Palestinian
Her dress and sorrow is Palestinian
Her words and silence Palestinian
Her voice Palestinian
Her birth and her death Palestinian

Mahmoud Darwish

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Impressions

Palestinian traditional dresses „Thob“

Thob 1

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Impressions

Wall paintings Ramallah

 

I die upright, like the trees in Palestine

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