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Palestine International Festival - Showing Another Face of Palestine
   2015-08-13 16:50:30    CRIENGLISH.com      Web Editor: Li Shiyu

The opening dance is a mixture of Dabke, the Palestinian folkloric dance, and other forms of dance, at the Palestine International Festival for Music and Dance in Ramallah, West Bank, on Tuesday, August 4, 2015. [Photo: CRIENGLISH.com / Zhang Jin]

A dancer hangs a Palestinian national flag at the highest point of the stage at the Palestine International Festival for Music and Dance. [Photo: CRIENGLISH.com / Zhang Jin]


The Palestine International Festival for Music and Dance which was held last week tried to show the world a different Palestine, that is artistic and optimistic. Luo Bin has more.

In Palestinian cities and villages across the West Bank, the enthusiasm of people has been ignited by the 16th Palestine International Festival. It is the largest annual arts and culture event in Palestine, and the first with an international edge.

Iman Hammouri is the director of the festival.

"In 1993 we started the festival to break the isolation imposed on our Palestinian people by the Israeli occupation, because we believe that the Israeli occupation is not only imposing a political siege, but as well a cultural siege, and wants really to create a stereotype by others about Palestinians and by Palestinians about others, so we wanted to break this isolation and to build bridges with other cultures."

Children aged 4 years old from the dance school related to the Popular Art Centre perform at the Palestine International Festival for Music and Dance in Ramallah, West Bank, on Tuesday, August 4, 2015. [Photo: CRIENGLISH.com / Zhang Jin]

A full audience sits the opening show. [Photo: CRIENGLISH.com / Zhang Jin]

Like past years, the first day of the festival is the graduation show of children from the dance school related to the Popular Art Centre in the West Bank city of Ramallah. Around 400 kids from the age of 4 to 16 have danced Dabke, the Palestinian folkloric dance in front of the audience.

Laila Alboukhari, a trainer at the dance school, says they teach the students Palestinian traditional dance with Palestinian folk music, which helps them to build their Palestinian identity and spirit.

"It's really important to use our culture, our art as a part of our identity, and also it's our scream to face the occupation. With our art, every year we are bringing the new generation of Palestinians more awareness about their culture and identity, and they know how to use it in an artist way, in a new level of fighting the occupation."

Besides, it's a good opportunity to exchange with artists from other countries who are invited to the festival.

"This is our chance actually to hear from other groups and also to let them see our work, our history and our culture. Maybe in the future we will build relationship with another dance school and we start to do exchange between students all over the world, hopefully. Also for the future we are looking how to introduce our Palestinian folkloric dance to be also international, like the ballet."

Palestinian girls wave keffiyehs, traditional Middle Eastern headdresses, during a performance . [Photo: CRIENGLISH.com / Zhang Jin]

This year, dancers and singers from Jordan, Iraqi Kurdistan, Armenia and Ireland have been invited to perform during the Palestine International Festival.

And the Palestinian audiences are happy to see arts from other places around the world.

"Regional, international exposure is important to ignite our knowledge and our information and our learning about what's happening all over the world. At the end, music and dance are international language, so mixing, knowing, exposing are very important to enrich our culture more and more and to relate it to the world more and more."

And what is also important, is to have fun from music and dance.

Laila Alboukhari, a trainer at the dance school related to the Popular Art Centre, is amused by the performance by her little kid students at the Palestine International Festival for Music and Dance in Ramallah, West Bank, on Tuesday, August 4, 2015. [Photo: CRIENGLISH.com / Zhang Jin]

The festival provides the Palestinian public with entertainment they crave for. The audience, from little kids to the aged, have all enjoyed themselves with big smiles on their faces and cheered loudly for every performance.

Serene Huleileh, one of the founders of a Palestinian dance group which also performs during the festival, says it is "extremely important" to have this kind of cultural events in Palestine.

"It's a breath of fresh air for everybody live in Palestine. It's also a space for young people. Look at those children, if they didn't have the Dabke school, if they didn't have the chance to express themselves and perform, what kind of adults are they going to grow up into. It's a great opportunity that they are getting because of the festival."

Dina Zu'bi, a 15-year-old dancer, says dancing has given her a new lease on life.

"It brings me joy, because I can express myself in different types of ways, and it's a very healthy choice. I've learnt a lot more than dancing, because I've grab more my culture and I've met a lot of people, and my life would not be the same without them."

Children from the dance school related to the Popular Art Centre show off their certificates of graduation after the opening show. [Photo: CRIENGLISH.com / Zhang Jin]

Although the festival has always been interrupted by the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, like last year's Gaza war, veteran dancer Serene Huleileh says the Palestinians insist on continuing with it until now.

"We have to keep dancing, and we have to keep moving and being optimistic. I think people only see what they see in the media, and they don't see this part of Palestine. And this is as much a part of Palestine as the occupation and the war and all the terrible things that are happening to us every day."

Iman Hammouri, the director of the festival, hopes all Palestinians can enjoy the festival.

"We encourage them to come and we always go to them as well, because we believe art for everyone, not only for those who can afford to pay, so we travel with the festival to different cities and villages."

For Studio Plus, this is Luo Bin.

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