I do not consider myself well-versed in international or global affairs, policies, politics, wars, or history. As a dancer, an artist, and citizen of the world I am curious about these things. However, probably like many of you, I am easily overwhelmed by all there is to learn and understand as I try to sift through the vast amount of information available to me. As an American, I find it easy to become engrossed in the multitude of distractions available to me in my life of privilege and relative security and, as a result, “tune out” the world. My heart, my conscience, and my curiosity, however, reminds me that there is a larger world out there and encourages me to investigate cultures and experiences beyond my own. As a blogger fortunate to have at least a few of you paying attention to what I say, I would be remiss of a certain responsibility if I never encouraged you to do the same. Therefore, despite my lack of knowledge on the subject, I have chosen to participate in the Bloggers Unite event, Refugees Unite. To do so forces me to explore and research a topic I could have otherwise “tuned out” and by sharing what I find, it is my hope that you, too, would “tune in” and be willing to investigate the issues for yourself.
Ibdaa Dance Troupe
As this is a dance blog, I do my best to stay true to my mission of educating and sharing through articles that enhance your experiences as a dancer, student, teacher, and/or parent. I attempt to find stories and subjects with which you can connect. 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.
The people currently living in the Dheisheh Refugee Camp include some of those originally displaced in 1949 by the Arab-Israeli war, as well as their second and third-generation descendants. The camp currently houses around 12,000 people in an area less than a quarter-mile squared (under half a square kilometer). Many of them have and will live their entire lives in the camp. The Ibdaa Dance Troupe, however, has had the opportunity to tour throughout the world. They stopped in several United States cities in 2003 and 2005 , and have performed for members of the United Nations, world leaders, and the Pope. They dance their stories and they dance with purpose, hoping to bring awareness to the Palestinian perspective, culture, and sometimes brutal realities. The story of this dance troupe was documented on film and is available for purchase here (This review contrasts The Children of Ibdaa documentary and another film which highlights youth from the Dheisheh camp).
Neither the Israeli or Palestinian governments have been free of blame throughout the many years of fighting in this war-torn area of the world. In response, we are often asked to take sides. The Idbaa troupe presents their perspective through dance. They remind us of the innocent lives that are sometimes caught between sides, of human beings born into and trying to survive within a land in turmoil. These dancers are young people who have chosen not to “tune out” the hope for peace in their own hearts and to fight their battle with creativity not violence, despite all that they live through. Regardless of one’s individual beliefs or our government’s policies regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, these are voices that deserve attention.
Additional Reading about Ibdaa Dance Troupe
- Palestine Embodied is a news article featured in the Dec 2003 edition of Dance Magazine.
- Dancing for Peace
- Dancing the Spirit of Palestine
- Freedom Dance
- Middle East of Eden
More Information on the Dheisheh Camp and Palestinian Refugees
- UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) – Dheisheh
- Global Flux – Living in Limbo
- Refugees.org – Israeli-Occupied Territories
- Israeli-Palestinian conflict – the basics on Wikipedia
The cause which is the focus of today’s event is Refugees Unite, however, as the core initiative of both Bloggers Unite and Refugees Unite is information, I chose to highlight the Ibdaa Dance Troupe instead. Refugees Unite is a non-profit that is worth checking out.
(from the Bloggers Unite homepage)
Refugees United is a non-profit organization that helps refugees relocate family and friends through the use of the internet.
Refugees United provides refugees with an anonymous forum to reconnect with missing family. By registering with nick- names, scars, former locations and other markers only identifiable to family and close friends, everyone can remain ‘invisible’ to all but relatives.
- All refugees are welcome, regardless of conflict, place or time.
- Refugees United is an independent, non-political, non-religious NGO.
- No third party is involved. No official papers need to be filled in.
- The service is free of charge, easy and safe.
The Refugees United search engine is the first of it’s kind. Visit Refugees United to see how it works and to learn more about the work that Refugees United is doing.
If you have something to add that will further educate or inform myself or my readers on this sensitive subject, I encourage your response. I just ask that you try to do so in a positive manner rather than an inflammatory one. Thank you.
Nichelle Suzanne is a writer specializing in dance and online content. She is also a dance instructor with over 20 years experience teaching in dance studios, community programs, and colleges. She began Dance Advantage in 2008, equipped with a passion for movement education and an intuitive sense that a blog could bring dancers together. As a Houston-based dance writer, Nichelle covers dance performance for Dance Source Houston, Arts+Culture Texas, and other publications. She is a leader in social media within the dance community and has presented on blogging for dance organizations, including Dance/USA. Nichelle provides web consulting and writing services for dancers, dance schools and studios, and those beyond the dance world. Read Nichelle’s posts.