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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Impressions

Scary dummy collection

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Interview with Atta Khatab and Mohammad al Tayeh

This time I had the chance to ask some of my questions to Atta Khatab, another main choreographer of El-Funoun. His Father is one of the founder of the company and he practically grew up in the institution. Mohammad al Tayeh, is a main dancer of El-Funoun and the company is encouraging him as well to start to choreograph for the troupe. Mohammad had to leave after 30 minutes, so some of the question are not answered by him.

What means El-Funoun for you?

Atta: Funoun has been in my live from my childhood on. It has always been there. My Father was one of the founder of el-Funoun and naturally I became a member of the institution. First as dancer of the youth troupe, then for El-Funoun itself and now as well as a choreographer and administrator. El- Funoun represents my live. The building the second home. It’s my family and it’s a space also to try out something and as well to fail. In the society to be wrong is not exactable and el-Funoun gives me the space as well to fail. It’s a journey and on this journey I meets a lot of people and as well there is great enjoyment and happiness.

Mohammad: My time, my live, my family. I couldn’t be without el-Funoun. I can recognise myself in this place. The perception of the institution is very close to my own. As man raised in a village I feel El-Funoun close to my needs and reality I live in.

How do you experience to be a dancer in Palestine?

Mohammad: In the Arabic world to be a dancer is not exactable. I tell to my friends to be a Dabke – Folklore dancer. I invite people to attend a show and they can convince themselves of the art form. Dabke and its way that it is connected with the land and the village is useful for my live.

Atta: To dance in the Arabic society is not really accepted. There is for example the wedding dance but it’s not really free, it is still hardly connected to the ritual itself. It is very challenging to be a dancer in Palestine. Even as a male dancer. And it is not only about dance. It is about how to move your body. What’s left if you are not allowed to move your pelvis and chest? In the Arabic society there are restrictions of freedom based on folklore and on religious traditions. And on the other side there is the occupation who takes away the freedom of the people. And in dance, the most important thing is to be free and to have the freedom to choose. We are not free to live under the occupation. And as a dancer I have to defend my Identity as a person and my Identity in my society. How can you fight against the two sides? Our liberation faces two sides. One the occupation and the other of the society with his traditions.

Does the occupation influence your dance/creation? If yes, In what way?

Mohammad: Occupation does affect his dance. The way he sees the occupation and how do you let the dance talk and speak about what he is living every day. Dabke for me is a language to speak about the occupation and to talk about.

Atta: there is a link between art and politics. There is always a link. In our times we need to raise and reveal the worriers inside our dancers and educate them to become fighters. For me dance and to be a worrier are strongly connected. That’s what I feel when I dance on stage. Our fight is not only the occupation. I have a global thinking about what is happening in this world. My fight goes against every one that represses freedom and peace. And in my art I have the opportunity to do something realistic against it. I try to unite the people to fight against these forces.

In which direction do you want El-Funoun to develop?

Atta: To keep to maintain the relation between art and the liberation issues and to maintain the respect for the art in our society. I want El-Funoun to be an oasis in the desert that can give live to the ones that are tired of society and to continue to be a factory of warriors for freedom.

In your opinion: can art/dance change something? If yes, how?

Atta: All the problems Palestine is facing are ultimately due to the occupation. But I see the occupation in a bigger context and I think that it is not only the matter of the Palestinians. It is a matter of all the people living in this world to unite against that system of Capitalism and Neoliberalism. Because the system is united against us as humans. They see the world as a market and they are not afraid to instigate a war in order to receive for example oil or rough material of other countries. Art should really unite and lead people to questioning more about how this world rules and to rebel against it.

Wishes for the future?

Atta: Peace. What kind of peace. I’m really fighting for, to listen to this new song of Fairuz in full freedom. I wished human could really reflect their existence from the nature. From where do we come from and where we are going? To reach the moment to think about why we are here? I believe there is something outside this world. There is a reason why we are here. I wished that we become able to enjoy live more and we don’t need any more to fight and kill. Maybe to go out of this earth and live somewhere else in what we believe?

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in the lung of Palestine – Al-Khalil

Short trip to El-Khalil (Hebron)

One of the first days here I had the chance to visit Hebron. I could assist a theatre company who was invited to perform for children in the Medina Kadima (old town) of Hebron. Hebron has an extraordinary difficult situation compared to other cities in the West-bank. In the old town a part of the houses is inhabited by extreme right-wing settlers and some houses still from Palestinians. During the years, Palestinians have more and more left the old town caused by the unbearable situation and great parts of the city are abandoned. I didn’t have much time to visit because I was not allowed walk alone. The Palestinian community there is very traditional and the violent readiness of the people is extremely high. Walking through that market left a deep impression inside me. It felt as I would walk in the lung of the conflict. I perceived the breath of the conflict and it felt deep dark and scary. I walked on a kind of a thin suspension line that is ready to explode in every moment. My friend and companion in the middle of the market suddenly turns to me, eyes me up from top to bottom and says: “You are dressed like a settler. I am scared to walk with you through the streets here!” Can you imagine how I felt that moment? First, it offended me and second my role as a harmless visitor changed into a threatened animal in an open field and I only could trust on the knowledge of the people there that they can differentiate between an international and a settler! I’m happy I was right! Hebron is well-known for its readiness of violence. On the way back to the car we met kids who were playing with stones. We had to calm them down in order they don’t start to throw stones against our car – even as Palestinians…As well this readiness of violence is part of the deformation caused by the situation.

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