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?