Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Dancer Ahmad Joudeh: From Syria's Ruins to the Dutch National Ballet

Ahmad Joudeh: Dance or Die

Back in 2014, I had the chance to interview, by phone, a dancer named Ahmad Joudeh who was then living under the harshest of circumstances in Syria. At the time, he was cautiously thrilled to have the chance to participate in the Arabic version of So You Think You Can Dance where he did quite well (though he did not win). You can watch his audition below or at https://youtu.be/5acMbA0Mqx0



Ahmad was applauded by the judges on the show, particularly legendary dancer Pierre Dulaine who immediately believed in Ahmad's dream and the power of dance to heal. Ahmad recognized Mr. Dulaine's kindness and encouragement during my interview with him which aired on KZSU 90.1 FM in 2014. You can listen to that interview below or at https://soundcloud.com/arabology/ahmadjoudeh2



Judge Pierre Dulaine also spoke to me about Ahmad in a separate interview which you can hear below or at https://soundcloud.com/arabology/pierredulaine2#t=12:57



It was very difficult for Ahmad to return to Syria after having tasted success on Lebanese TV through SYTYCD.  He nevertheless did so and continued to dance despite the tragic circumstances he was witnessing on a daily basis.

Two years later, in 2016, Dutch TV came to Syria and were so touched by dancer Ahmad Joudeh's story that Reporter Roozbeh Kaboly started filming him around Damascus and even went with him to the ancient city of Palmyra where Ahmad Joudeh literally danced in the ruins. That TV report aired on Dutch TV in August 2016. You can watch it below or at https://youtu.be/vqJQOMZCiwY



That Dutch TV report resounded with Ted Brandsen, Director of the Dutch National Ballet.  Funds were then raised to bring Ahmad to the Netherlands, an effort that was spear headed by Nicolas Mansfield, Director of Nederlandse Reisopera.

Ahmad Joudeh (right) with Nicolas Mansfield in Amsterdam

Another TV report soon surfaced in 2-parts, documenting Ahmad Joudeh's journey with sensitivity and courge.

Here is Part 1 of the documentary which aired on Nieuwsuur (Dutch TV) in August 2016: https://youtu.be/vqJQOMZCiwY



An unexpected outcome resulted from that documentary when, 4 months later, Ahmad Joudeh arrived to Amsterdam--an event that was filmed in Part 2 of the documentary "Dance or Die" which, like Part 1, aired on Nieuwsuur (Dutch TV). You can watch that footage below or at https://youtu.be/FIk2vfl_Sz8



Shortly after his arrival to the Netherlands, Ahmad began dancing with the Dutch National Ballet.



"This coming Saturday Ahmad Joudeh will have his debut at the Dutch National Ballet in Amsterdam," wrote Nicolas Mansfield on December 6, 2016.  "His story must be a lesson to us all. That it is good to dream of better things. And that these dreams can become reality. And that through the pain and devastation of war the message of hope will triumph. Many of the so-called 'leaders' of our world are masters of deception, manipulation and injustice. Through his dance Ahmad shows us the real power of peace. In my book that makes him a true hero."






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