“I first got to know about I CAN MOVE from my best friend Summar. One day she told me to come to this contemporary dance class with her and that she was pretty sure that I would enjoy it. So I decided to try it out. At first it was not easy for me, as I did not exactly know what I was doing. But when I went out of the class I knew that this was the thing that I wanted to do for the rest of my life. That was when I joined the programme.
I didn’t really have any concrete expectations, because I was new to the dance field. Therefore, I didn’t know what to expect and every class turned out to be unique and different. Even if I had expected something, it would have been better than any expectation I had.
I liked many modules. The module with Jurij Konjar for example was very remarkable for me. He encouraged me to challenge myself and I really liked that. I also enjoyed Malcom Manning’s module a lot. Actually, at first I was irritated by the module and kept asking myself: “What are we doing here? Why are we not moving? This is not dancing!” I doubted everything. Then suddenly, my whole body shifted and changed, it was an overwhelming moment and it made me realize that I should trust in other people’s knowledge.
I also enjoyed the module with Martin Sonderkamp and the one with Ayman Safieh very much. Especially the latter surprised me a lot. Ayman is a Palestinian dancer and as we were used to teachers from Europe it was unusual to have a Palestinian dance teacher. That was the reason why I underestimated him in the beginning but he really exceeded my expectations. Furthermore, this class was very challenging for me as at that time Summar was in the USA and it was just Yousef, Asef, Kamel, the teacher and I. The classes were so hard for me because the room was full of masculine energy.
The men were jumping and flipping and at one point I was frustrated because I believed that they were all actually stronger than me and it felt very hard for me to compete with their masculine energy. But then I started to dance the way I dance. I didn’t care about it anymore and I focussed on my abilities and me as a dancer. From that moment on I could fully enjoy the classes. In general, the moment I feel bad, compare myself to others or start feeling insecure about myself is the moment where I also immediately remind myself that I should always think about who I am and not how I might look in comparison to other people.
The section that I had difficulties with was probably the dance technique classes taught by Alexandra. We worked on feelings, and I didn’t like it a lot because I’m not that good with my feelings, I don’t recognize feelings so much and we were working on feelings like anger, sadness and joy. I did not understand why we should categorize our feelings that way. Everyone has their own perspective on feelings and everyone has the right to feel the way he or she wants. So it was hard for me to do an exercise and feel angry when I just couldn’t feel it.
I remember when I used to go to the dance classes after college, I would be so tired and sometimes I would feel like I don’t want to go to the class, because I was very exhausted. Then I pushed myself to go there and the moment I entered the class I immediately forgot how tired I was and I enjoyed every minute of it. It is weird how quickly time passes, sometimes it was 4 hours and I didn’t even feel them. Sometimes we were in intensive modules, where we would dance for 6 hours and they just passed by like seconds. I miss these times a lot.
The most beautiful experience I had during I CAN MOVE was when I saw the differently abled group on stage. We were all together on the stage, it was an exceptional experience and at that moment I just felt extremely proud of them. I could truly tell how happy they were and how confident and comfortable they felt. It really made me appreciate how they shared their bodies and feelings with everyone. Coaching and teaching a performance also made me feel grateful and stronger. I felt more secure and confident about myself because at this point I really had the feeling that I could do this.
In the group, there was a girl – Sandy – who had cerebral palsy. She couldn’t stop moving and her body kept shaking all the time. I used to sit with her in my breaks and we shared many stories. She was a teenager and things were a little bit tough for her in school, being this small girl who can’t stop moving and shaking. I shared a lot of things with her about me being a teenager and the struggles that I had with my body at that time, so she could accept that this happens to everyone and not only to her because she was born differently abled.
Throughout this performance and the preparations, we all shared movement. I also shared a lot of my feelings and values like how it is important to be strong when going on stage and how to be proud of oneself no matter what. I also shared this with the parents and stressed the importance of them appreciating their kids. It was a very emotional performance.
I also benefited very much from teaching in the villages. The first class that I held was not easy for me at all. I wanted to be very well prepared, I had papers with me and I was looking at them every five minutes to know if I’m on track or if I had missed any exercise. I was very nervous and I’m sure the students felt this too. Now, after some experience I’ve learned that sometimes you cannot stick to your plan 100%, sometimes things change, and sometimes it’s important to adapt to certain situations. For example, you would do an exercise and then you would have an idea and you would try it out in that moment things would go differently. Still, it is important to have a basic plan to which you can come back to whenever you want. I think I’m much more comfortable with teaching now and especially with timing. I used to plan every exercise out and calculate how much time it would take and now I’ve managed to develop a sense of time in the classes that would make it turn out fine.
When challenges occur during the classes, I usually try to stay calm. But if I were in a difficult situation, I would stop the class and explain that something happened that I do not appreciate and since I strive not to punish anyone I would just tell them that they can if they wish, go out of the room and take a few deep breaths of fresh air and when they’re ready they can come back to the class. Its important for me that this is not misunderstood as a punishment, and that’s why I often take the time to explain that it is just some time alone to calm down and reflect. Usually, after challenges like these I would talk to Nadia about it and she would advise me or help me find a solution.
I especially enjoyed the women’s classes, I feel connected to them and I feel really good when I give these classes. They make me feel so good about myself and I absolutely enjoy them. The most beautiful teaching experience for me were the women’s classes, because it’s a very diverse class, all of them have different talents and abilities and that’s what makes them a beautiful group. Regardless of their age or profession, when they enter the class, they forget about that and just become students and dancers.
When Summar, Yousef and I went to the villages and the refugee camps we saw how the people there have to live under very difficult circumstances. For example, we went to give classes in the Fasayel elementary school near Jericho. Fasayel is a Bedouin village under constant threat of demolishment by the Israeli Occupation Forces due to its proximity to a new Israeli settlement (illegal outpost). They did not have access to electricity or running water and they had a really hard life. So every time we go there, we appreciate them even more because despite their living conditions they are still able to dance and enjoy life. I believe that the three of us agree on this and we concur every time we go to similar places: We are the lucky ones to teach them and not the other way around. We are lucky to meet these people who inspire us.
My aim as a teacher is to provide a safe place and to build up a supportive environment through dancing. I found myself in dancing and it gave me a place where I belong. Dancing is my safe space. When I don’t know how to talk or what to do, I just dance. Therefore, I want other people to experience this feeling as well and to have a safe place they can return to anytime they want.
My biggest achievement as a dancer was the piece that I’ve created for the ‘Serendipity’ Performance. The participants were very creative, progressive and cooperative with me in creating this piece, which turned out to be wonderful. When I think about my achievements, there is also one class that comes to my mind, which was in a refugee camp. The first few classes there were really hard. In the beginning, the students were laughing the whole time and they did not take things seriously. After some classes, I gradually started seeing them as dancers and everything shifted. They were more serious, they were always present, they were very disciplined and I really enjoyed seeing this progress within them.
An intense moment during the programme was also when I did my first handstand with the help of Kamel. I was so scared and Kamel was always there, it was my first time doing a handstand and I felt like I was doing the greatest thing in the world.
What’s really special about I CAN MOVE is that we not only had the opportunity and chance to meet all these amazing teachers but that we were also an amazing group. Kamel, Yousef, Summar and I – we are all very different, we have our own personalities and our own way of thinking but in some way we agreed on dancing. It was incredibly nice to see all these different beautiful people sharing a space in a very artistic way.
I also loved the Shurouq Community Centre in Birzeit a lot. We created so many memories there – good ones and sometimes bad ones. I remember when we used to go there every Friday just to paint the walls and fix the doors and the windows. It was a disaster when we came there and then it turned into the most beautiful place I have ever seen. We did everything there. We danced, we shared food, we laughed, we were quiet, I was there when I was sick – we shared this place in every way. The trip to Sweden was also amazing. It was enriching to have had the chance to go to a dance university.
When I think about my personal development over the last years, I would say that it was really challenging and hard for me. Nadia used to send us TED Talks, videos and books to look at and in the beginning, when I watched e.g. a talk and felt that I’m connecting to this, I immediately rejected it because I just did not want to admit anything. So it was really hard for me to go into the process of dissolving my thinking patterns and to start being who I am.
I remember that Nadia once sent us a TED Talk about competitive behaviour versus working together as a group. The TED Talk said that people should work together and share their ideas. For some reason I instantly got mad and thought to myself: “No, if you’re in a business you shouldn’t work together with anyone, you have to compete and keep the best ideas to yourself”. Then I realized that this was because I was having a hard time with Yousef during that period. It was hard for me to understand that it was because of this current issue and this was a process that really challenged me and the way I think.
I always focus on the present. Each year is better than the one before. In every year in the programme I felt how mature I’m getting – not only as a dancer but also as a person. During I CAN MOVE I have learned a lot, I have met amazing people and I have received a lot of support. I am very lucky to be in this programme.
I want to connect to people through dance. I am not aiming for huge performances or to be a famous choreographer – I just want to dance with everyone. And I especially want to do this here in Palestine, I want to share dance with the Palestinians and I want to find myself as a dancer in Palestine.”
“It was by accident that I was in the dance studio and I saw a new group of people that were starting a new project, so Nadia invited me to try it, which I did and I really liked it. I found that it was the only place where I could express myself and escape from reality. While dancing, I could truly be myself without having to think about anything.
I did not really have any expectations at the beginning of the programme; I just expected to find relief in every class. I also did not expect to become a professional dancer, for me it was just a space where I could let go and find relief.
I learned a lot from the Dance Technique classes. One of the modules that I really liked was the one with Mohan Thomas and Maria Lucia Agon. This module was at the beginning of the programme. It focussed on fast dance movements and small, fast choreographies that we had to learn from. That was really challenging for me and at the same time I enjoyed it a lot and I felt that I was finally able to dance. A module that surprised me was the one taught by Malcom Manning. I did not expect this change at the end, because at first I did not understand why we were doing certain things in that way. But it turned out to be really good and very beneficial.
A very beautiful memory was the first day of working on the performance with the differently abled group. It was extremely emotional and overwhelming for me and I view it as a life-changing moment because it changed my whole way of thinking about others and myself. I had met the participants the day before but when we started working on the choreography it was on a completely different level, which was really emotional and deep and it was a very outstanding experience.
Teaching my first class in the villages outside the frame of a performance was very hard for me. I did not like the place, I did not like that it was so far away and I did not want to go there anymore because it was a rather conservative society, i.e. different to what I believed or grew up in. I resisted teaching there at the outset because it was challenging to face my prejudices and fears of the other. Looking back, teaching there has been one of the most enriching and eye opening experiences for me. I realised I need to practice what I preach. Openness means accepting the other and encountering each other free of prejudices, whether secular or religious, urban or rural, and just as much modern or traditional.
In the villages I had to be attentive to various aspects beyond just teaching. First of all, it was necessary to create a safe space for the women in the classes. I had to make sure that the door was closed, that nobody would look into the room from outside and that nobody would come in. In addition to that, I had to put a lot of effort into adapting my way of teaching to their context. This meant that I had to adapt my approach and terminology to their culture and environment. I had to use scientific words instead of the colloquial words for body parts for e.g. the word “Hod حوض” instead of “khaser خصر” for “hips”. I also had to approach movements differently for example to introduce a hip movement, the usual belly dance exercise was unaccepted by the community, whereas when I divided the movement into small movements and then combined them to form the same movement mentioned before it was accepted.
Teaching these classes had a significant impact on my personal growth. In the beginning I resisted teaching in the communities due to me feeling imprisoned, because I couldn’t behave the way that I was used to and be myself. I had to pay particular attention to how I walked down the street, what I was wearing and how I was talking. This was an overwhelming situation for me. Nonetheless, after a few classed I noticed that the women enjoyed the classes and expressed gratitude. This was the moment when I decided that I wanted to continue teaching. It was a turning point where I was empowered to change my perspective and overcome the discomfort. I realised that I was an agent of change. Therefore wearing something different or speaking about things in a different way was a price I was willing to pay, as there was a lot for me to gain as well. The women’s happiness reflected on me, and I could walk out of each class happy too.
When I faced difficulties in the classes, I just kept going and observed what happened, which was the appreciation that we got from the group. As we face a lot of violence in our society, we also saw this in the children’s behaviour in the classes sometimes. It took a lot of research and effort to find the best way to deal with that, but I believe that it’s mostly about giving the children the feeling that I am here for them and that I love them and to show them the example of not being aggressive when they are. So if they showed any violent or aggressive behaviour with me or other kids I would never do the same. And since I am their teacher that shows them that I am a different person and that I will not deal with them the same way that other adults often do. I believe it is essential to show them love and support all the time.
A very beautiful teaching experience was when I did my first class with the university students with Sharek through PADICO. In the beginning, I was very scared because firstly they were not only adults, but also my age, and secondly I had to prepare a new class that differed from the other classes that I usually give. I was afraid of failure. When I saw the feedback from the participants, I was myself impressed with my achievement, as I did not expect the classes to turn out that well. It made me feel more comfortable about myself to see that I can do this work with people that are my age or even older than me.
Whenever I faced difficulties throughout the programme I reminded myself of how much I have achieved so far, I reminded myself of the good moments and the love and support we have received from the programme instructors and from each other as participants.
Often though it was hard to agree on something as participants amongst ourselves, especially when we used to spend so much time together and worked so many hours together. We are all different and that is what makes us strong. It is because and not despite our differences that we complement each other. Together we come up with creative ideas and achieve innovative results. Every time it was stressful for me I reminded myself of that.
My biggest achievement during the last years was a shift in thinking about others and the way I deal with other people. I learned how not to be judgmental and how to find beauty in each and every one – within the group as well as within the people we work with. It is also hard work to maintain this openness and sometimes I catch myself falling back into old patterns. Although this change of perspective just happened gradually over time somehow, it was really difficult for me to say it out loud. It felt like a confession of change to me. It was like saying: “Now I see it differently. I appreciate the way you are and I’m sorry that I didn’t see this before.” Every time I talk about this, I mention Nadia because I could go through all this change of perspective with her.
When it comes to my physical development, I had a big problem with my hips but now I can feel a huge difference regarding that. This was a very big and important issue that I needed to work on a lot. I can also say that I learnt the language of dancing from the I CAN MOVE programme. I didn’t have any vocabulary or I was just scared to use what I have. Throughout the programme I was able to develop a new language. Moreover, I definitely became more flexible and able to dance different new techniques that I had never heard of before and I think that this programme also prepared me to join performances and dance groups if I wanted to.
I really love this programme and it truly changed my life in various aspects and taught me many things. My relationship with Nadia was a big shift for me because we had a very hard relationship where I needed to learn how to deal with all these difficulties that could occur in a relationship with any person. Nadia was there for me every time. She received me with an open heart and open arms trying to explain to me and reminding me and the others that this is community work, which we are doing together. She emphasised that it’s not only about performing; it’s really about people working together. This needs work all the time, as people need to keep developing – they need to learn how to deal with emotions and issues that we all go through in our lives. Especially in this context of working with communities this is crucial, as the groups that we work with can be very challenging so this needs more energy and effort from us in order to foster fruitful outcomes.
Further, going to the USA that was another important point in my life, especially on a spiritual level where I could really find myself and gain a new perspective to look at this world. I am really thankful to the project that gave me this opportunity.
The most intense moment was when I came back from my trip to the USA and we went to Sweden. I suddenly felt that the programme was starting to end. It was really emotional and hard for me because I felt that I am about to leave something behind that I really like and love. It was the moment of realizing that I have to start letting go of this project that made me sad. But then I talked with Nadia and we concluded that even if the project is finished it doesn’t mean that we would stop teaching the community groups or that we would stop doing projects. It would just take place in a different setting.
Every time I remember I CAN MOVE, I remember how I used to say goodbye to the teachers, from the first teacher to the last one, and how I could really develop working with my emotions. I have learned to deal with my feelings in a different way than I did before, which was great for me because I always had difficulties coping with that. I CAN MOVE encouraged me and others to use art as an instrument to express ourselves. It empowered us to make a difference in our own lives as well as in our communities. During the programme, I could really feel a development where I stopped seeing my emotions as a problem but instead I found ways to view them as something that is a part of me and that I accept.
My aim as a teacher is to be part of a change, a change where people could really love themselves and appreciate what they have. I want to show that dance can be used as a way of expressing and sharing feelings with others. It’s not just about me performing or showing what I can do, it’s about sharing something in a different language. So what I am going to do is: I will not stop dancing and expressing myself through it. For me, it’s a way to release. It’s not just that I want to be the most flexible dancer; it’s something that I do for myself, something that is very essential and important in my life. I just want to keep doing that and I wish to spread this idea that dance can serve as a space for self-expression and that it can give you a voice to share your feelings without speaking.“
“When I started participating in the I CAN MOVE programme, it was just something I wanted to try out. I did not exactly know what the programme was about, but when I went to one of the classes in the middle of the module, I found it very interesting. So I joined the class the next day as well as the following day and from that point on I came regularly. I liked that there was an artistic sense to it and you cannot find many opportunities like that here in the West Bank. At first I joined it more because of the contemporary dance aspects rather than because of the pedagogical aspects. But the more I got involved, the more I became aware of having this amazing chance of going through all these experiences which made me grow more as a person and expand my vision towards the world and I felt a duty to share the same experience I had with other people.
A very touching and beautiful experience was working with the differently abled group. I also have family members who are differently abled and therefore it was also a tool that I could use in my daily life. Working with this group and sharing my time as well as sharing what they are going through affected me on many levels. A memory that I will never forget was when there was a boy suffering from cerebral palsy whose name was Yousef as well. He was fully paralysed except his eyes and I felt that somehow we had a connection and that I was able to communicate with him through a very special bond that we shared. At the same time his family was very excited that their son was participating in such an activity that is usually not available to differently abled people. That was a very special moment.
Furthermore, I enjoyed working in the villages as a dance teacher in communities where the people do not have many chances to go outside their villages and to see something that is different from what they are used to. I would say that this was as well very special for me and it is something that I will always remember.
I joined I CAN MOVE during Semester V, in the beginning of 2014. It was 2 years after the programme had started; therefore I could not gain as much experience and knowledge as the other trainees, who had been in the programme from the beginning. I did not have the knowledge of the first modules where they talked and practiced pedagogy and teaching. My first class in the villages was very intense, because I did not have a lot of experience in teaching, and no experience in teaching children unlike the other trainees. Previously we had collected some experience through teaching each other but it was quite different, because when you know someone on a personal level it is a lot easier for them to cooperate with you than if you work with people who are completely new to you.
Without much experience I took this role of being the teacher of a big group, so I would say it was very challenging in the beginning. Nevertheless, it was interesting to accept that challenge and to overcome my fear of teaching. It was a great experience. Over time, when I gained more experience by actually teaching, I became more confident, I developed a sense of what I need to focus on and found out where my strengths as well as weaknesses lay. This made it easier for me and gradually more beneficial for my students at the same time. Furthermore, we had a support network within the collective of the trainees as well as great mentorship from YANTE during the last period which was also very much helping in growing and overcoming difficulties.
I really liked the modules that we had during the programme. They varied, some of them were for differently abled persons, other ones focussed on dance technique or choreography; each module was special in its own way. One module that I benefited a lot from was a module by Lina Höhne where we worked on the creation process. I believe that it helped me on many levels. The module with Petra Frank, the Dean of DOCH-University, really surprised me. In the beginning, I did not know what to expect from it or what kind of work it would be, but it turned out to be a very special class that focussed on the creative process and really encouraged thinking outside the box.
A big achievement for me was being able to be in the villages and experiencing people’s trust. The local school was very cooperative with us. The head principles were very enthusiastic about the programme and we were given gradually more opportunities to hold additional classes. Furthermore, having a large number of children attending our classes was great as I felt that I was participating in their life and adding value to the education system in their schools.
The most beautiful teaching experience was realising that the number of violent incidents happening in my class was reduced without having to shout or use any of the inappropriate teaching methods that I personally went through in school while growing up. I wanted to take these experiences as a tool to gain the perspective of an observer and to reflect on my observations: Violent teaching methods are based on a fixed hierarchy in which the teacher delivers the total truth to the students while they listen. In this concept, if you start to discuss something, it is perceived as being impolite and unappreciative rather than an expression of engagement, interest and one of your perception, ideas and views. As the teachers themselves have also experienced this one-sided delivery of information as children, they often tend keep on practicing methods that are in-line with this concept of hierarchy. I understood that if violence were maintained in education, the outcome would be students who are less interested in the subjects. Violent teaching methods will enforce negativity towards the teacher and the subject and will therefore hinder the students from experiencing the taught subject in a positive way.
Through teaching as well as research, I learned a lot about patterns of behaviour and I was able to collect information and grounded statements, which helped me in encouraging change through my teaching. For example, I found patterns of gender specific teaching within schools: Boys were taught to be “manly”, e.g. they were told not to cry when the teacher shouted, whereas girls were taught to be “feminine”, e.g. to be shy and quiet. By changing a few variables during class, I was able to challenge these perceptions and saw positive changes among the children. I learned that using non-violent communication skills could actually be extremely helpful. When I first started teaching there was an injury every day because the children used to hit each other, but with time and working with non-violent communication, less of these accidents happened and that really touched me.
Regarding my personal development, I could see a lot of changes. I have been working on myself for a long time, it required constant training but it was one of my priorities. Most of the teachers that taught me were really happy with my improvements and development in such a short period of time and from one class to the next.
I would not describe myself as a teacher in the first place At the moment, I am focussing on performing. I believe teaching is important for everyone who is a dancer. It is not only a way to work in a field where your passion lies, it is also important to learn how to deal with groups and different people. I can see myself teaching in the distant future or within the framework of teaching in exchange for getting taught. Recently, I have been able to use teaching as a way to exchange material and gain experience in the dance field. When it comes to my aim as a dancer, I want to perform as much as I can physically do.
As I am looking forward to continuing my studies in the dance field I have to say that I gained a lot of experience in dance technique and choreography through I CAN MOVE and I think that the variation of the programme was very beneficial for me, since it was based on how to create an artist rather than on simply creating a performer who knows some moves and can perform them. I CAN MOVE gave me the chance to build up my own artistic identity. The last semesters of the programme were significant in that regard, as they dealt with how to establish one’s position as a freelancer. This was very interesting and new to me as freelancing is not very common in Palestine – especially not within the arts field. We were encouraged to find people who can support our work on different levels – e.g. financially, through providing space or by helping with organising. Even though I do not actively work in the dance education field right now, I was able to stay in these networks and obtain contacts that helped me find dance companies or supported me with organising classes. Further, the books that we read during the programme had a great impact on my development as an artist. They awakened my interest in finding my own research patterns, which helped a lot in creating my artistic identity.
I CAN MOVE helped me to build up confidence and truly believe in what I do. This helped me a lot when I went to auditions, as that was very scary in the beginning because there were a lot of talented artists from different backgrounds with a lot of experience in dancing. Although I may have had less experience than others I had a strong belief in what I did – and this had many positive effects on who I am today.“
“It all started when the youth club was closed. I had just walked out of high school in Ramallah. Not having football practice that day, I had been looking forward to an afternoon of table tennis and videogames at the local club.
Instead, I wandered aimlessly to the room next door – a dance studio – and poked my head inside where a group of young Palestinian men and women were practicing modern dance. When they spotted my curious expression they invited me to try out some moves. I stood among the others and when the teacher showed us some foot movements, I slowly mimicked her as if I was in a dream. It was at that moment that the 14-year old me discovered who he wanted to be.
I’m now 18 years old and completed the programme that I joined immediately after my unexpected immersion in the dance session. The thing I discovered through this period is that dance makes individuals more aware of their own physicality and body language and of people around them. But of course with every dream you follow come a lot of challenges.
My traditional Muslim upbringing made it difficult to break the news to my parents. In fact, like a Palestinian Billy Elliot, I didn’t tell my mother and father that I had been dancing.
It wasn’t very acceptable in my neighbourhood, at school or with friends that I was leaving every day after school to go to a dance class, but I know they only reason they don’t understand is because they haven’t tried it yet.
There were fun aspects to it that I couldn’t share with a lot of my friends. Like hearing everything in either three-four or four-four time or clicking your bones in public or mentally choreographing simple routines to pretty much every song you hear.
During the I CAN MOVE programme we got the chance to work with a lot of teachers – that was one of the best things about it. In that way, we were able to gain a lot of knowledge from various people. Each one of the teachers gave us all of their knowledge and experience – it was a diverse setting that was very enriching and we could benefit greatly from it. There were many beautiful things I learned in dance, especially:
Dedication. Being a dancer requires a great amount of dedication. You have to be at every class and practice a lot if you want to improve your skills. It’s one of those activities for which you need the right environment to practice. On top of that, there isn’t really any “off season” for a dancer either. You pretty much dance 12 months a year, seven days a week.
Perseverance. This is where I learned that you have to suck every fail or painful moment up and just keep going. There are going to be times where all you want to do is quit because things are really tough. In these instances, you have to remind yourself to keep going because the end result will be worth the effort.
Self-image. When you go to a competition, there is always going to be someone who is better than you, older than you, skinnier than you, prettier than you, and more experienced than you. You have to learn to accept who you are as a dancer and learn that where you are at is okay because in the end, you are doing the best you can do. This took me a while to figure out. It took me some time to realise that you are not always going to be the best, but as long as you learn to love who you are, you will live a happy and prosperous life.
Discipline. In most dance studios, you are required to follow a certain set of rules. This may seem somewhat strict for an extracurricular activity, but in the end it teaches a dance student how to apply discipline to all other aspects of their life. And one of my favourite rules was “never lean against a wall in class”.
Team Work. I was a competitive dancer for more than three years. I have also participated in many types of group dances where you are required to work with a large group of other dancers. It is not just about you in these types of dance, it is about everyone working together to become one. Your group isn’t going to do well at a competition unless everyone contributes the same amount of effort as everyone else. Thinking about others instead of just about yourself was a huge lesson for me to learn, and I recognise it is quite important in life.
Passion. As modern dance legend Martha Graham once said, “Nobody cares if you can’t dance well. Just get up and dance. Great dancers are great because of their passion.” Dance has taught me what it truly means to love what you do. Having a passion for something gives you the motivation to keep at it and push on even when things get rough.
In addition to being taught, we were also able to teach. That way we got the chance to develop our teaching skills and to work on them. The first class I taught alone was in the Ramallah Municipality; I taught children aged six to twelve. It was really hard and a big challenge for me to teach alone for the first time, but with time and feedback it became easier. I believe that the only challenge is to be patient – everything comes with time, dedication and hard work. Eventually I could reach a point, where teaching a class came naturally to me. I was not nervous or stressed out anymore and I could just go and enjoy it. I think the easiest way to overcome difficulties is to enjoy what you are doing. If I enjoy giving the class as a teacher, the students will enjoy it as well. And dance is expressing whatever you are feeling, it is not a set routine of things and it cannot be right or wrong – it is just moving.
An outstanding experience with I CAN MOVE was when we taught the differently abled persons. I had never had any interaction with disabled/differently abled people before and at first, I thought it would be hard to teach them and that it would be impossible for them to do a dance like I do, but I realised I was wrong. While dancing with them, I discovered that they are capable of doing many things with their bodies that I cannot. That was the most touching and fascinating experience I had.
The most tense experience was also during rehearsals with the differently abled persons. Together with a fellow trainee we had a group of 10 participants, with whom we were supposed to choreograph a piece. It was a big challenge for me as one day my colleague was absent and I had to work with the group by myself. Equally challenging was my first performance, because I did not know if I would make any mistakes or how it would all go. I was under a lot of pressure before the premiere of the performance, which focussed on street-children and child labourers. It was also my first time on stage. I was very content as I think all of the participants looked fabulous and were shining. It went amazingly well.
We worked on our first performance with the choreographer Royston Maldoom. It was amazing to be with one of the greatest people in the dance field. We also worked with Mags Byrne and she is great as well. It was really impressive to be taught by what I would describe as the best. We also had very outstanding teachers like Malcolm Manning and Matthew Smith, I learned a lot from them. The way they taught us changed my understanding of dance, as I learned that instead of it being about big movements it is all in the detail. Other classes that I enjoyed very much as well were those held by Lina Höhne. She has a beautiful energy in class. It was the way she taught dance with love that captured me and that is what I believe makes a teacher a better teacher.
One module that really surprised me was the one taught by Malcolm Manning, because I did not expect it to be that different from the other modules. Having him as a teacher felt like meeting a genius. He was able to move a finger through touching another area of the body, he was able to move a foot through touching a hip – his movements were so detailed, he absolutely knew how the body functions. I never thought that I would meet someone with such amazing in-depth knowledge about movement.
We also had two modules on non-violent communication and I could not benefit from the second one, which was taught by Nora Markt, as much as I did from the first module by Natasha Aruri. It was a lot of information but it was not something that you would use in life or in dance. However, we live in a very violent environment, so I think that is why the programme wanted to give us this knowledge.
When I think of my biggest achievements in the last years, three things come to my mind: The first thing was when the internationally acclaimed magazine “The Outpost” wrote about me. They interviewed me and took photos of me. I would say that was one of the biggest achievements of my life, as I was only 17 at that time. Especially given the fact that the magazine is widely published throughout Europe, the USA and even in Australia.
The second big achievement was that I was able to go to Sweden with YANTE. It was a very intense and special learning experience for me and for the entire group.
More recently, I was selected by an Estonian group to dance with them at the Ramallah Dance Festival 2016. They had never been to Ramallah, they did not know me before, but they had read the magazine and they were impressed by my abilities and picked me for a performance they did on April 15. I was very proud of the fact that someone in a far away country like Estonia would read about me and select me for a performance.
Through the I CAN MOVE-Programme I learnt to set a goal for every year, work hard for it and achieve it. My lifetime goal is to invent a new way of moving. Maybe not literally; but I want to create something special that leaves a legacy. As for now, my aim is to study dance at a good University.
I want to dedicate my life to dance. I know it sounds a bit strange, but dance is an addiction. At YANTE I learned that it’s about more than going to a studio and dancing; only by thinking of dance you are already dancing. I want to become a dance performer and teacher. I simply love teaching – it feels amazing to give something to other people. As I have received a lot from the I CAN MOVE programme, I feel that I want to give something back in return.
If I was asked to describe my journey as a dancer I would put it like this: In the first year it was training, in the second year it was fun and from the third year on it became my life.” This was only possible thanks to YANTE and the I CAN MOVE programme.
I made my best friend,
I fell in love for the first time,
I met my hero, and
unlike the belief of many people that you cannot choose your family, I broke the rule and chose YANTE to be my family.