The annual Ramallah Contemporary Dance Festival officially begins on Thursday night. The opening performance will be given by the super sassy British troupe Ballet Boyz at the Ramallah Cultural Palace. This is the seventh year of the festival and marks the continued growth of the range and scope of its activities. This year, performances will be held in Nablus, Hebron, Jerusalem and Ramallah.
Big names in this year’s program include Nawel Skandrani Dance Company of Tunisia, The Royal Flemish Theater, Suzanne Miller and Allan Paivio Productions and Francesco Scavetta.
For the past several days, international dance artists have taught workshops in the facilities of Sarayyet Ramallah- First Ramallah Group, the festival’s host organization. These workshops will continue throughout the festival. Sarayyet Ramallah is responsible for a wide range of activities both in Ramallah and beyond. The organization initiated the Masahat Network for Contemporary Dance, which includes Maqamat Dance Theater in Lebanon, Tanween Dance Theater in Syria and the National Center for Culture and Performing Arts in Jordan. Sarayyet Ramallah also runs the Sarayyet Ramallah Dance Troupe, the youth company, Danadeesh Dance Group and the Ramallah Dance School.
Sarayyet Ramallah’s mission statement:
To contribute to the building and development of a strong civil society in Palestine through the development of the children, youth, and adults’ skills in the scouts, sports, arts and culture fields while using the scout codes, democracy, citizenship and tolerance as guidelines for an educational approach.
Over the course of the coming three weeks, companies from Europe, North America and Asia will make their way to Palestine to perform, mingle and most importantly, be present in this event. A number of studio showings and presentations of local choreographers’ work will be held throughout the festival. Another anticipated event is the second annual Dance and Society Conference, which will host leading dance presenters and company managers from around the world such as Farooq Chaudry of Akram Khan Company, Annie Bozzini, founder and director of the Choreographic Development Centre Toulouse in France and Murille Perritaz, director of Reso-Dance Network in Switzerland. Workshops on production, dance photography and dance film will be hosted during the conference. The festival’s program also boasts screenings of major dance films such as Wim Wenders’ Pina.
While looking over the Facebook page for the 2012 RCDF, I thought of something that German choreographer and teacher Peter Pleyer said to me in an interview. “Dance is international, multicultural integrational. In Berlin, where I work, nobody talks about nationality or borders. People talk about cultural differences but you can have those within a nation. There is something about the physical meeting. It’s a very big tool for integration. If that’s what we’re working for dance can help a lot,” he said.
The festival will take place thanks to the support of a number of organizations such as the European Commission, the Ramallah Municipality, A.M. Qattan Foundation, and the Prohelvetia Swiss Arts Council. The French Consulate General in Jerusalem, the French Cultural Centre, the Goethe Institute, the Netherlands representative office, and the British Council have also contributed to this year’s edition of the RCDF.
The festival’s artistic director is Khaled Elayyan. RCDF will take place from April 19-May 3.