Reporting back from the Middle East: opening of T:HERE
Opening night of T:HERE is just days away, and I am amazed at all we have accomplished. Nina Haft & Company’s new friends and colleagues Ziad, Jehad, Nadeen and Dalia are now part of our journey – when we arrived in the Middle East, we only barely knew where we were… We all carry places inside of us. All 12 dancers, as well as Ziad and myself, carry Palestine inside of us in some way. For some of us, it is where we were born. For others, it is a place we long to return. For the rest of us, it is a place that teaches us about what it means to be Jewish or Filipino, or Italian, or any number of things, while calling America home.
Nina Haft & Company dancers made new friends when we visited Amman, Bethlehem, Ramallah and Jerusalem. It has perhaps taken coming back ‘home’ for us to put into context all that we saw. We saw great wealth as well as poverty; toney suburbs and trash-lined ghettoes. From taxi drivers to dance festival directors, everyone we met was in love with the land. Plainly put, I would never want my family to live the way people end up in the refugee camps. These families are waiting to go home. They have been waiting for 63 years; these are some of the oldest refugee camps in the world. There is poverty, blight, exhaustion, limited opportunities, staggering unemployment and the impossibility of dancing at the weddings of friends and family. Yet everyone dances! Dance and music and coming together is a daily and nightly priority, and we immediately knew we spoke a common language there.
Yes there is hardship, but there is also humor, resilience and resistance. Each generation keeps the family home, village, country and dream of going home alive. This is the art of living, the artist’s work — to keep home alive and within reach at all times, in the heart and mind.
Nina Haft & Company made T:HERE because we promised our friends in Palestine to share what we saw with you. This is our journey.
T:HERE is in it’s first incarnation. The piece weaves together photographs that the dancers took with contemporary dance and Palestinian folkloric dance (dabkeh). In a short time we have pulled together from a wide range of perspectives on aesthetics, politics and process. For the Nina Haft & Company dancers, learning the basics of dabkeh has resulted in new movement, new rhythms and new sore muscles! But that is not all we have learned. We stand with our new colleagues in resisting oppression and the Israeli Occupation of Palestine. With Arab Spring and the opening of the Rafah border crossing, we celebrate all who raise their voices and risk everything for freedom.
Our piece is still taking shape – please come see it this weekend! We perform T:HERE for TWO NIGHTS ONLY: June 3 and 4. We welcome your responses and feedback.
T:HERE a dance travelogue by Nina Haft & Company
June 3 – 4, 2011 at 8pm
SF International Arts Festival
Southside Theater, Bldg. D, Fort Mason Center, SF
Tickets: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/157827 [Use “HAFT” for online ticket discount]
Home. Exile. Resistance. An invitation, a landscape, walls, borders and checkpoints. A young life cut short, a funeral. New understandings of resilience in the face of oppression and Israeli occupation. In 2010, Nina Haft & Company traveled to the Middle East, where they met the Palestinian people striving for the right of return to their homes and land of origin. This is our journey.
Dancers: Josie Alvite, Lisa Bush, Rebecca Johnson, Carol Kueffer, Edmer Lazaro, Mo Miner, Juliana Monin, Frances Sedayao
Guest Artists: Jehad Al Shamarkheh, Nadeen Elshorafa, Dalia Marina, Frank Shawl
Direction: Nina Haft, Ziad Abbas