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American dance ensemble performs in Bethlehem

May 5, 2010 6:12 P.M. (Updated: May 6, 2010 6:28 P.M.)
Bethlehem - Ma'an - Aspiring dancers in the occupied West Bank took advantage of a unique opportunity over the weekend, when US officials brought a New York-based dance ensemble into Bethlehem for a workshop and performance.

On tour in the region and participating in the ongoing Ramallah Contemporary Dance Festival, Yaa Samar! Dance Theater performed Sunday at a Bethlehem cultural center located just meters from the Church of the Nativity.

Seven dancers from the 10-member company capped off the workshop with a fast-paced and thoughtful performance created for the 2010 tour. Led by Palestinian-American choreographer Samar Haddad King, the crew's set incorporating modern American and Arab themes caught the audience off-guard more than once, notably during the aptly titled solo act "Ramblings of a Young Girl."

"Contemporary dance is a subjective, broad field, and our pieces are inspired by the goings-on in Palestine, absolutely," King said in an interview ahead of the show. Pointing to "25 Steps," a 15-minute number inspired by the ever-changing moods at Israeli military checkpoints, she said many of Yaa Samar!'s now-mainstay renditions would never have been possible without having visiting the region.

"At the same time, I think we're broadening the scope of what dance is in Palestine," added Zoe Rabinowitz, the company's associate director. She said a workshop sponsored by the US Consulate was mutually beneficial to the Palestinian and American dancers. "At the least, it was an opportunity for dialogue with different people," she said of the event held with the local Diar Dance Company.

"Modern dance is a unique form of American artistic expression and we are pleased to see a growing interest in it among Palestinian dance professionals, amateurs, and the public," said Cynthia Harvey, the US Consulate General's cultural affairs officer in Jerusalem. She told Ma'an that the visitors had "demonstrated their commitment to this region, and to the people here."

Introducing the dancers, Harvey added that the US Consulate General in Jerusalem was "pleased to be able to share this performance with you, as one of many cultural exchange events that we sponsor throughout the year, which serve to bring Americans and Palestinians closer together through the exchange of ideas and sharing of various art forms such as modern dance."

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On the Net: Yaa Samar! Dance Theater homepage: http://www.yaasamardance.com/
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