I first met Samar [Haddad King, Artistic Director of Yaa Samar! Dance Theatre] at the audition for bound in Palestine in 2014. I was shocked by the number of males auditioning for the piece, but not females, usually it’s the opposite. I thought to myself, what is going on in the Palestinian dance scene? Where are the females and where did these boys came from?
Working with dancers of different ages, backgrounds, and areas, made the experience of bound very rich and fulfilling. I was one of the few dancers coming from a contemporary dance background, and I found myself working with dancers from 13 to 30 years old. I kept asking myself: how would my life be if I had had the same opportunity as a kid to be part of the professional dance scene?
Working with Samar during the past few years has been a great learning process, and allowed me to be part of building a professional dance scene in Palestine. Through our work we are connecting dancers between the 48 territories and the West Bank, creating bridges between Palestine in different areas, in a time where bridges are only being destroyed.
For me, dance is my own way to resist the occupation and depression, it’s my way of healing my body and soul. For me to be able to dance in Palestine, and to connect with other people, has become as basic a need as eating and drinking. The studio has become our safe place where we can express our fears, thoughts, love, passion, frustration and more…
After working with Samar in bound, she asked me to join her as an assistant in non/static aesthetics, a project focused on dance schools in Palestine, and creating a community for young Palestinian dancers living within the 1948 territories (otherwise known as Israel). As a young Palestinian dancer I didn’t have this opportunity to meet other Palestinian artists, and to share our passion for dance, our problems, and to be part of a contemporary dance community.
Recently Samar and I started to work on a new solo – Hazzeh/(Shake)- which I performed at Al-Midan Theater in Haifa, alongside fellow YSDT dancer Ayman Safieh, who performed a solo piece of YSDT repertory entitled Noah. During the creative process for Hazzeh/(Shake), Samar and I worked together to build a creation from zero for the first time, developing a common language and a way to co-direct and choreograph. Under the guidance of Samar and YSDT, I am discovering new tools to express my concerns and feelings, and exploring my artistic voice in a safe creative space.
Yaa Samar! Dance Theatre, directed by Samar Haddad King, is one of the leading contemporary dance companies helping Palestinian dancers to consider dance as a profession, and a tool for change. Working with kids – and even young professionals like myself – to introduce them to the professional dance world and provide tools for artistic development is very important, and gives our dancers inspiration, and a goal to aim towards.
(Photo: Samaa Wakeem in rehearsal for bound, 2014, by Mark Rausch)