About NH&Co.’s Middle East Tour

Dance is a powerful medium for investigating how we share space.  As dancers, we acknowledge boundaries and at times reinvent them.  We negotiate the available space between us while listening to rhythms, melodies and silences. In response, we choose our movements and so speak through our most personal of voices – our bodies – about how we see the world.  This practice of speaking and listening with our bodies, indeed our whole selves, offers a model of communication that is rarely engaged in diplomacy, let alone full-blown war.  The world needs more of this kind of speaking and listening.

In April 2010 we are traveling to Jordan, Palestine and Israel to perform, teach and meet with other dance artists.  We will be performing at the Amman Contemporary Dance Festival, the Ramallah Contemporary Dance Festival, the Ibdaa Cultural Center in the Dheisheh refugee camp near Bethlehem, and also in Jerusalem.  As a choreographer with a substantial body of work in new Jewish performance, my goal is to cultivate relationships with Jewish and Arab artists, to exchange ideas and artistic traditions, and to lay the groundwork for collaborative projects between Jewish and Arab choreographers in the Middle East and the United States.

While on tour, we will post blogs, video and photos of our travels that you may reach from this site.  Upon our return we will begin creating new work inspired by this cultural exchange, which will premiere in 2011 as part of the Middle East Moving program in the San Francisco International Arts Festival.  There we will share the stage with Leyya Tawil’s Dance Elixir, and with companies from the Middle East.

Dance can be a catalyst for social and economic justice.  During my 2007 study tour in Israel and Palestine, I was struck by how many of the Israeli choreographers I met knew little or nothing about Palestinian dance, while the Palestinian dancers and choreographers I met in Ramallah and Bethlehem were uninterested in learning more about Israeli culture.  This cultural divide is an unusual one among dancers, who normally exchange with one another quite freely as artists and educators.  As a visiting American Jewish artist, however, I enjoyed free access to both Israeli and Palestinian dance and was invited to exchange with dancers on both sides of the border. I returned to the U.S. feeling compelled to give witness to what I experienced and to find ways to bridge such divides between Jews and Arabs in my own community.

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3 Responses to “About NH&Co.’s Middle East Tour”

  1. NH&Co:

    I am looking forward to hearing about the tour through your blog. Best wishes for success in the ME.

  2. Hi Miss Haft!

    This sounds like a fascinating tour. I’m very interested to see what your experience will be this time around.

    I miss our daily routines back in winter. You and Reese made class so fun; it was my joy of Tuesday and Thursday. Just wanted to let you know as well that I haven’t left East Bay – I’m still chugging along with my coursework, looking forward to summer.

    I’ll bookmark this blog and keep updated. Break a leg!

    -Justin Swofford

  3. Y’all should be coming back soon. I hope you’ll have a gathering with a lovely semi-formal Q&A. Love, Seemer

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