Contemporary dance takes Ramallah by storm

Posted on 21. maj 2011

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First published by Palestine Monitor

In a trippy mix of flashing lights and shadows, rhythmic drums and sudden stillness, the UK Akram Khan Company enveloped the audience at the Ramallah Cultural Palace into a world that defied gravity and stimulated the senses, as they presented the dance performance, “Vertical Road.”

“This year’s festival was a continual success for the festival in general, and it was phenomenal to see the built up interest in contemporary dance rise to reach great levels this year,” said Hanna Kreitem, Media Coordinator for Ramallah Contemporary Dance Festival 2011.

“This was apparent by the ever increasing number and diversity of attendees, and fruitful discussions after the shows that showed interest in the culture of dance and culture in general,” Kreitem continued.

Sponsored by the British Council, Vertical Road was a part of its New Work New Audiences arts project, which seeks to use arts as a way of bringing intercultural understanding. The Akram Khan Company consists of dancers from all over the world, including Egypt and Tunisia to South Korea and Taiwan.

“British Council wishes to encourage peace through culture and arts to develop cultural understanding, trust, and dialogue,” said one spokesperson of the British Council at the beginning of the night.

The show began with the sound of wind blowing and rain falling filling the dark room, as the group of dancers – dressed in white fluttering robes – appeared on the dimly lit stage. A cloud of white dust evaporated from the group as they made their initial move and led the audience into a 70 minute game with sound, light and movement, using no other props than a handful of domino-like pieces.

At one point a pair of dancers, so closely wrapped around each other that they appear to merge, roll over the stage. The lovers are taken apart by another dancer who seeks to force the same intimacy with the girl. A battle of submission and rebellion follows to the sound of lightening as the other dancers watch the struggle without moving or interfering.

Their spectacle of struggle could easily be compared with the daily strife of Palestinians living under occupation. Kreitem explained to Palestine Monitor why he thought the show had such a resounding success in Ramallah: “The spirituality in Vertical Road found its way easily to hearts of Palestinian viewers, as they live every day in a world of despair and conflict, and fight against divinely extreme powers, similar to what the show was built around.”

Kreitem hopes the show inspires strength and optimism in their audience. “The ability to host the festival for the sixth year in a row proves that no matter what the political situation in Palestine is, Palestinians are willing to live their lives, while staying inline with the Palestinian cause and environment, using culture and dance as a resistance tool, to improve Palestinian moral, and build awareness internationally about Palestinian cause.”

Video by: akramkhancompany