Over recent years growing numbers of activists as well as NGO workers have been coming to Palestine. Opportunities for educational scholarships, advocacy work and cultural tours on the international level have also grown for Palestinians. This two-way movement of people along with the development of virtual networking brings with it a much wider exchange of ideas than Palestine has ever witnessed before. The complexities of this situation are many and deep, bringing both positive and negative outcomes.
Among the many results of this process is the development of new and non-traditional arts and cultural practices. From circus schools to hip hop groups and from parkour to yoga, a myriad of non-traditional cultural opportunities are available to Palestinians today.
These projects have been adopted at a grassroots level in Palestine with varying levels of success which is often at least partly related to how such ideas are used. Among the most successful have been those which have been able to successfully intertwine forms of Palestinian identity within a non-traditional practice.
It is in this complex arena that 10 years ago the Sareyyet Ramallah club first launched the Ramallah Contemporary Dance Festival. The 2015 festival ran from April 15th-26th in Ramallah and Jerusalem. Previous festivals have included other cities across historic Palestine but a lack of secured funding restrained this year's event.
Various international dance companies, mainly from european countries, travelled to Palestine to participate in the festival which included formal theatre-based performances, workshops and one street-based show.
Despite being a long-established festival, attendance numbers were down on previous years and many among those in attendance were from the ever-growing (non-Palestinian) NGO and consulate staff community. Those Palestinians who did participate in workshops or attend performances clearly enjoyed the events, although their numbers were not huge. Only one Palestinian company performed in the main theatre-based shows and following the cancellation of a Tunisian company, no other Arabic company performed which possibly left the program feeling a bit detached from local roots.
Many of the internationally performers spoke of the warm welcome they received in Palestine whilst also expressing some disappointment at the lack of wider Palestinian participation in events during the 2015 Ramallah Contemporary Dance Festival. Amongst the most popular events locally were those in which a political or societal link could be found to Palestinian life. The festival was certainly enjoyed by many people, although the percentages of Palestinians involved, and their numbers, were not as high as would have be hoped for, even in today's Ramallah.