One person can have a profound effect on another. And two people…well, two people can work miracles. They can change a whole town. They can change the world. -Diane Frolov and Andrew Schneider, writers of the TV show Northern Exposure
In researching the subject of refugees, I quickly discovered the Ibdaa Dance Troupe, a group of girls and boys that are residents of the Dheisheh Refugee Camp near the city of Bethlehem in the occupied Palestinian (Israel’s) West Bank, who share their experiences and message through dance. According to their website, the dancers “perform Palestinian traditional folkloric dance, or debka, as an artistic way of preserving and sharing their culture and history while simultaneously voicing the rights and struggles of the Palestinian people.”
The dance troupe is just one of the arts programs offered to children and teens at the Ibdaa Cultural Center, which is a grassroots program that seeks to empower the women, children, and youth of the Dheisheh camp. Opportunities to explore art, dance, drama, and music are rare among the 59 refugee camps in the occupied region. The programs provided at the center offer young people the chance to express themselves and develop creativity in a positive and peaceful manner. It is a stark and refreshing contrast to the violence and uncertainty that surrounds them. Ibdaa, which in Arabic means “to create something out of nothing,” reflects the hope that survives among this community of people despite the tumultuous environment in which they live.
We recognized World AIDS day recently. On that day Dance Advantage offered a small collection of links to AIDS related organizations and Dance Outlook‘s post on the subject. Dancers are doing important work in fighting AIDS. In particular, there are two organizations I’d like to highlight here. The first is Dancers Responding to AIDS (DRA), a fundraising program that holds events and organizes donation opportunities that help individuals in need and the organizations that support them. The other is Dance4Life, and international initiative that engages young people around the world to do something about the HIV/AIDS problem.
When people make a one-on-one connection with someone in need it can alter their lives (and consequently, the lives of others) forever. This was the case for Mary Mitchell-Campbell, a successful Broadway music director whose volunteer work in India inspired her to make an impact on worldwide childhood poverty. She founded ASTEP (Artists Striving To End Poverty), an arts-based nonprofit that works directly with disadvantaged children, seeking to empower them through the arts. ASTEP has been a work in progress since about 2001, but received non-profit status two years ago and currently leads programs in the U.S., Africa, and India, connecting “artists who wish to share their talents with children who can benefit from artistic encounters.”
An upcoming event in New York City will feature performances by Broadway’s hottest stars. All proceeds from the event will benefit ASTEP. If you live in the city or plan to visit during the holiday season, be sure to see A NYC Christmas on December 15.
The Dancers Care Foundation raises funds for breast cancer awareness, prevention, and research and encourages young dancers to utilize their talents for the cause. By offering several ways that dance students and studios can get involved, they encourage young dancers to utilize their talents to support and improve the quality of life for cancer victims.
Coming into Being
Genesis: Sarajevo provides dance and artistic opportunities to young people throughout Bosnia-Herzogovina. Currently the project offers two-week workshops twice a year to students in Bosnia but has plans to develop a full-fledged company and seeks to expand their work to other war-torn areas of the world. Amy Danielson, the organization’s founder was featured this month (Dec 2008) in Dance Magazine (Dancing for a Cause, by Nancy Alfaro).
Changing the Community
The Center for Contemporary Dance in Winter Park, Florida is a nonprofit center for dance education and home to six contemporary dance companies. The organization also seeks to inspire their community to “act as imaginative agents of change” through their Dance For Change program. Their initiatives address race, tolerance, and social equality, provide arts education to underserved commuities, provide opportunities to artists that explore the theme of Global Peace in their work, and invite young people to write about how they can impact the world. Those interested in their work can also find them on twitter, myspace, and facebook.