The First Art Newspaper on the Net   Established in 1996 United States Saturday, September 21, 2019

'Syrian Billy Elliot' dances his way to a new life
Syrian choreographer Ahmad Joudeh performs on the Human Rights Square in Trocadero, near the Eiffel Tower in Paris, on July 20, 2017. FRANCOIS GUILLOT / AFP.

by Aurélie Mayembo

PARIS (AFP).- From Palmyra to Paris: "Syrian Billy Elliot" Ahmad Joudeh is set on showing the real image of his nation and erasing the horrors of the Islamic state group.

Joudeh was invited to Paris by singer Sanga, his friend and admirer, for a special one-off performance, using a song specially written for him.

Thursday's show at the Eiffel Tower was the first in what he hopes will be a series of collaborations, said the 27-year-old, savouring his first visit to the French capital.

"Actually I am trying my best to show the real image of the young Syrian people and not the fake one" projected by the Islamic State group, he explains in polished English over a beer.

Joudeh has come a long way from his childhood as a Palestinian refugee growing up in a camp in Yarmuk, Syria.

The story of Joudeh, who like the boy dancer in the 2000 Stephen Daldry film "Billy Elliot" realised his dream of becoming a dancer against the odds, is already well known far from his war-torn home.

He had his first break in 2014 in a television talent show "So you think you can Dance?" for young hopefuls from the Arab world.

His profile rose further when, two years later, he was the subject of a Dutch television report that has clocked up millions of hits online: "Dance or Die".

He has had those words tattooed in Sanskrit onto his neck, and they carry a special weight for him.

Footage of him dancing in the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra appears to have enraged the Islamic State group so much that they have threatened to kill him.

The sight of him dancing in the ruins of the Roman city the Islamists captured and sacked -- beheading, among others, the city's 82-year-old former head of antiquities -- was apparently too much for them.

But the tale Joudeh told in the Dutch documentary, against a soundtrack of nearby gunfire and intercut with scenes of him dancing on rooftops, touched hearts around the world.

Pursuing his dream
"Dance changed my life to get me from all the bad situations around me," he explained.

"Even in Syria, I danced to feel free from all the chaos and destruction around me. I felt I was in a big jail."

He was surrounded by the conflict, but as a refugee and a stateless citizen there seemed to be no way out.

Even as a child he had to fight to pursue his dream, not least against the opposition of his own father, who could not accept his chosen path.

But for him, dance was the solution, not the problem. "When I dance, if I'm sad, I get it out. If I'm happy, I get it out."

"They call me the Syrian Billy Elliot," he added.

He trained for years with the main dance company in Syria at the Higher Institute for Dramatic Arts in Damascus. In his spare time, he gave dancing lessons to children.

And he pursued his dream despite the war and the loss of loved ones.

Each personal drama, each tragedy only fuelled his art, he said.

It was the documentary that led to the Dutch National Ballet inviting him over to join their company.

While it was a wonderful opportunity, it has been difficult to adjust to life there knowing that his family was still back in Syria enduring very different conditions -- especially his mother, with whom he lived until his departure for the Netherlands.

He has been training hard to catch up for the lost time during the conflict in Syria. But nine months after his arrival there, he says: "I feel guilty for being happy."

But he also dreams of returning to Syria to help the people there, much as the actor Angelina Jolie has done, someone he admires for her humanitarian work.

And one day, he said: "I will go back to Syria to create the Syrian national ballet."
Because Syria needs art, not guns and conflict.

© Agence France-Presse

Today's News

July 22, 2017

Bavarian State Painting Collections restitutes 'The Raising of Lazarus'

Dali's trademark moustache intact at '10 past 10' position

Martin Gropius Bau opens exhibition of etchings by Lucian Freud from the UBS Art Collection

Edward Hopper House unveils new collection of the American artist's early years and memorabilia

Marc Straus now represents Otis Jones

Tchoban Foundation exhibits contemporary architectural drawings made by celebrated architects

Museum of the Moving Image honors Kermit the Frog and his creator

Accomplished museum leader named new Director of Chazen Museum of Art

Freeman's announces highlights from the Collector's Sale

University of Michigan Museum of Art welcomes new Director, Christina Olsen

Maison Gerard presents solo exhibition of Marino di Teana

Fresh to market western and sporting art offered on Bidsquare

PIASA to offer Haitian art, from 1940 up to now

Arnaud Lapierre's first permanent artwork in China is unveiled

'Syrian Billy Elliot' dances his way to a new life

Artcurial to auction 33 iconic prints by Francis Giacobetti

Collective Design shifts dates in 2018

7-story immigration mural in NYC raises funds for Tenement Museum

Art Stage Jakarta announces fair programme for 2017

Peugeot 403 convertible like the one made famous by Peter Falk as Columbo offered at Ivoire Nimes

Exhibition explores how popular culture has influenced recent contemporary art

Most Popular Last Seven Days

1.- Holocaust 'masterpiece' causes uproar at Venice film festival

2.- To be unveiled at Sotheby's: One of the greatest collections of Orientalist paintings ever assembled

3.- Bender Gallery features paintings by up and coming Chicago artist Michael Hedges

4.- Lévy Gorvy exhibits new and historic works by French master in his centenary year

5.- Artificial Intelligence as good as Mahler? Austrian orchestra performs symphony with twist

6.- Fascinating new exhibition explores enduring artistic bond between Scotland and Italy

7.- Exhibition explores the process of Japanese-style woodblock production

8.- Robert Frank, photographer of America's underbelly, dead at 94

9.- The truth behind the legend of patriot Paul Revere revealed in a new exhibition at New-York Historical Society

10.- Hitler bust found in cellar of French Senate

Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .


Ignacio Villarreal
(1941 - 2019)
Editor & Publisher: Jose Villarreal
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez

Royalville Communications, Inc
Founder's Site. The most varied versions
of this beautiful prayer.
to a Mexican poet.

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful