Ballet in Palestine

Ballet in Palestine
The Ramallah ballet school is challenging conservative values in the occupied Palestinian territories.
2 min read
05 November, 2014
Ballet lessons are in high demand in Ramallah [Cultura/Getty]

Ballet in the Arab world, including the occupied Palestinian territories, is not exactly part of the local culture. It is a dance that often clashes with conservative social values, especially as it is associated with all that is feminine in a male-dominated society.

Shyrine Ziadeh, a 24-year-old Palestinian, is challenging social limitations by pushing for girls to learn ballet in Ramallah. She has even invented her own dance style. "I've come up with Palestinian ballet," she jokes.

Ziadeh runs the Ramallah Ballet Centre, which she built from scratch. The centre is full of student dancers, and she is constantly looking for new teachers because of the high demand. However, Ziadeh always worries her students will be forced to quit because of social pressures.

     Ballet is new for Palestine, and different ideas always have a hard time being accepted.
- Shyrine Ziadeh

Neither is she doing this purely for artistic expression. She says she is also trying to help her country.

"I am a rebel but in a positive way," she told al-Araby al-Jadeed. "I will keep on striving to develop this art form, and use it to help manage our country's problems."

Ziadeh does not just teach her students to dance, she also hopes to give them the confidence to overcome their difficulties, and teach them essential life skills.

"Ballet is new for Palestine, and different ideas always have a hard time being accepted. I am determined to keep teaching dance and developing on a personal level," she said. 
The ballet pioneer hopes to build up her skills by studying ballet abroad so she can return and further help her country.

Ramallah was an easier place to set up the school than other parts of Palestine, because it is one of the most open-minded Palestinian cities, she said. However, Ziadeh hopes ballet will one day be taught throughout Palestine.

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.