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Ramallah Contemporary Dance Festival: “A thousand stories on my body”

Jerusalem24 – As a dancer, Hala Swaidan is probably more used to expressing herself through movement, but she speaks with just as much conviction.

“The body has a memory,” she says. “This memory reflects in our way of talking, in our body language, in our life. We go through so many things in our daily life stay in our body. I think these stories are hidden somewhere, and it’s time to show them.”

Hala is the coordinator of the 17th edition of the Ramallah Contemporary Dance Festival (RCDF) running from 15 to 22 June in various venues across Ramallah, with the theme: “A thousand stories on my body”.

A former performer herself, Hala (and all the festival organizers and performers) want to “embrace all these stories through dance”.

[Source: RCDF/Facebook]
Over the course of seven days, a total of 15 companies will embrace their own stories throughout 14 performances and one co-production between Sarreyyet Ramallah and a company from the US. In fact, this year’s edition will showcase five companies from Italy, France, and the US.

“It’s very important for the capacity-building of Palestinian artists to meet artists from all over the world,” she says. “And also for them to come and see the cultural scene of Palestine, since it’s very vibrant and very alive.”

As for the Palestinian audience (who have been growing in number year on year), this is also the chance to see other cultures and what their performances and their stories might look like.

Hala comments that the festival’s increasing popularity is a sign both that the festival is becoming very well-known outside of Palestine, and that Palestinians themselves are seeing dance more and more “as a profession”.

“We’re very proud that we have ten Palestinian dance companies from Ramallah, from Nazareth, etc,” says Hala. “This is actually a very important opportunity for Palestinian dancers to be known – on the Palestinian scene and outside.”

These opportunities come in more than one shape throughout the festival, explains Hala. In addition to dance performances, dance workshops (both for professional dancers and for beginners), a conference discussing dance in society and freedom of expression, and a movie screening (of course about dance), a new addition to this year’s edition comes in the form of the Dance Forum, “basically a networking event” which aims to propel Palestinian dancers into the international scene.

“We invite guests from all over the world, like choreographers, festival directors, dance teachers, to meet with Palestinian artists in order to give them an opportunity to present their work.”

Around 20 artists applied to the Dance Forum. The team received another 120 applications to the open call to participate in the festival this year.

And the audience, of course, Hala hopes will surpass even last year’s numbers.  “We would love to see [everyone] in the theater – and even if they want to try to dance and participate in the workshop.”

After all, each one of us is full of hidden stories.

“Al-Nakba is one of our stories,” she continues. “Being a prisoner is one of our stories. Sexual harassment is also a story. There are a lot of stories that are going on inside of our bodies that keep hiding, more and more.”

“But the body remembers, and the body knows, and the body holds a lot of meaning inside. It’s time to express it, and let it go, and talk about it.”

Listen to the full interview on Vibes.

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