Ballet school banned from opening in Gaza
Dina Saad, a 20-year-old student of English literature and a local radio broadcaster from Gaza city, along with her four colleagues, had felt optimistic - despite restrictions placed on them by local authorities.
"Unfortunately, two days before the launch, October 20, I was informed by local authorities - mainly security - that the school was banned and that we could not proceed," Dina told The New Arab. "As you see, my friend Laila and I, are having a normal day at this coffee shop, being prevented from realising our dream."
Dina's team have been planning since the beginning of the year to open a ballet facility for girls aged 3 to 10.
The Ramallah-based Culture Palace Center, in cooperation with an Australian NGO, Englo-cord, had previously sent ballet coach Rewan Younis, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, to visit Gaza.
"From late 2017, through May 2018, Rewan Younis stayed in Gaza for the training of some potential ballet local trainers from the region. By the time Rewan Younis left, we had three local trainers, including our team member Alaa Ayoub and Hanaa Abu Moailek," Dina Saad explained.
A recent move
Those who had trained under Rewan Younis began to train more potential coaching recruits, with the help of the Save the Humans foundation, an NGO in Gaza City, and a local gym.
"In terms of our actual steps to realise our dream, we managed to announce through social media about our desire to train ballet trainers and we managed to register and train 28 potential trainers," said Dina.
"During the training process, Rewan Younis was of help via video conference. We had some selection criteria and we were able to select only three potential trainers from early September to October 8, 2018, in the hope we could launch our desired school."
As both Dina, Laila and three others selected their school staff, the group was advised to ask for permission from local authorities. Other members of the group, mainly male recruits, were taking care of logistic support, including rentals and equipment.
"Actually, we were able to rent a place and buy some needed equipment for the school, all on our own," said Laila Abu Elias. "So far, we have paid from our own pockets a sum of 900 US dollars. We attempted to reach out to some potential local sponsors, like Jawwal mobile company and the Palestine Telecommunications Company, but unfortunately none has helped us out. But we decided to go ahead anyway."
Since early October, the Move Your Body team has been forced to postpone the launch twice.
"We were supposed to open the school by October 10, but unfortunately, I got warnings that we could not launch before we get the 'needed permissions'. I headed to the culture ministry in Gaza to get a licence, and made sure to get appointments with senior officials - but none of those appointments were kept. Every time, I was told that the official was 'in a meeting'," Dina told The New Arab.
In early 2018, Alaa Ayoub, who is on Dina's team, was able to train several girls between the ages of five and 10, but the training was short-lived and basic.
"It is really a sad moment for us that we can not proceed and I do believe strongly that this is due to the cultural restrictions being imposed one way and another on artistic activities here in the Gaza Strip. I wonder, I really wonder, what is the difference between the Palestinian folkloric Dabka dance and the ballet," said Laila.
"Art, wherever it is, bears a message and art should not be banned at any rate."
Rami Almeghari is a Palestinian freelance journalist living and working in Gaza.
Follow him on Twitter: @writeralmeghari