Dance Review: Ramallah Contemporary Dance Festival

There is a growing effort to exploit arts and culture toward political and national goals.

PA flag 298.88 (photo credit: )
PA flag 298.88
(photo credit: )
Ramallah Contemporary Dance Festival Nazareth & Haifa April 23 & 24 The sixth edition of Ramallah's Contemporary Dance Festival (April 21-May 10) is being held under a title which declares Jerusalem (Al-Quds) as the cultural capital of the Arab world in 2009. Heavily supported by the European Commission, Palestinian Authority, UNESCO, municipalities and others, the festival was able, for the first time, to expand its activities to several other cities in the West Bank. It also ventured and cooperated with Arab cultural centers outside the West Bank: the Mahmoud Darwish Cultural Center in Nazareth and the Al-Midan Theater in Haifa. Perhaps wanting to camouflage the welcomed cooperation, the festival's publications list both Israeli cities under "Palestine," selling an alternative reality to the members of almost 20 attending foreign companies. There is a growing effort to exploit arts and culture toward political and national goals. We ought to know that this tool is particularly effective with nations or governments that are in great need to change and polish their national images. This festival takes place under Masahat, a Lebanese organization that works toward establishing a dance network in neighboring countries. So, concurrently with the Ramallah festival, there are similar events in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. The only question that remains to be answered is how much demand there is for these contemporary dance festivals. Judging by the first two performances I saw, the picture is rather gloomy. The targeted wide Arab-Israeli audiences remained indifferent. Too bad. Most could probably enjoy Botega, the Italian, semi-hip-hop group with its seven talented dancers. It may not be the top of the line in this particular genre, which meshes strong floor techniques with theatrical aspirations, but it brought plenty of good energy. So did Spring Dance Theater from Korea. With slow, too-introverted symbolist gestures, vague direction and reserved presence, it finally grew on viewers, with shy finesse, modesty and dedication.