A Joint Dancing to Connect program in Kfar Menachem, Israel with dancers from Ramallah, Palestine and Bochum, Germany as a second part to the Dancing to Connect workshops in February in Germany.
Battery Dance Company’s teaching artists worked with 60 students – from Israel, West Bank and Germany -- in two series of workshops earlier this year. Using the universal language of dance, these students of 16 – 18 years old built teams that crossed religious, social and geographic boundaries. Together, they created choreography that spoke to the issues of inclusion and exclusion. As the process went forward, the differences between the students melted away.
The first session of 5 days took place in the working-class city of Bochum in the German State of North Rhine Westphalia (for more on the Bochum program, see Bochum, Germany). The students from Israel and the West Bank had flown to Germany a few days earlier and had toured Berlin before coming to Bochum.
Over the course of the next several days, they worked with Battery Dance Company teaching artists and were introduced to the craft of choreography. Given the fact that only a few of the students had taken formal dance classes in the past, everyone was on a similar level – they knew very little about the medium of dance and choreography. The professional teaching artists coaxed the students into creating movement by giving them a variety tasks that built from individual creative movement phrases into group choreography. The workshops completed, the students took part in a grand performance in the auditorium of the Pestalozzi Realschule, attended by dignitaries from the state government, U.S. Consul General and German recording artist Peter Maffay whose foundation, Encounters, provided support for the project.
During the second session, the migration was reversed: the German students traveled to Israel, stayed in Jerusalem and commuted each day to Kfar Menachem, a rural town to the South West. The students were accompanied by representatives of the Peres Center for Peace and of Encounters (Germany) as well as Jonathan Hollander, and two BDC teaching artists. Each day, they worked at the Savit Regional High School with its excellent facilities, once again using the language of dance to build teams and trust. A performance was held at the high school, attended by Israeli and Palestinian families, government officials and community members. The emotion was palpable on the part of the students as well as the families who saw something they never would have believed possible – young people of three societies between which historical events have created seemingly impenetrable barriers working physically and artistically towards a unified goal.
"As Project Manager at the Peres Center for Peace, I have seen a lot of projects with teenagers. But this time is special. It is so hard for youngsters at the age of 16 or 17 to express themselves in words or in other ways and the work of the (dance) company made them all connect and express themselves in a way that I think amazed every one of the adults involved. You have to remember that Israeli and Palestinian kids are unable to connect with each other in everyday life; they are coming to the meeting with each other with a lot of stereotypes and a lot of misconceptions and to see them dancing together and creating something that is joint project -- they are realizing that they are all teenagers and human beings first and foremost" ~Libby Lahar, Project Manager, Peres Center for Peace
"I had the great chance to see and to feel what happens between the students (in the Dancing to Connect project.) First they were alone and didn’t touch each other and had problems based on their identities as German, Israeli and Palestinians; but then they began to be open, to open their hearts and to realize that each one’s contribution is important to the group; “I am part of the group; and if I am to succeed, then everyone must succeed.” ~Silvia Zens, Headmistress, Pestalozzi Realschule, Bochum