Damascus, January 2010
"Juggling is my favorite. I also love acrobatics!" exclaims Ward Saloom. Ward is one of the approximately 20 Palestinian and Iraqi refugee children who have been selected to take part in the first Damascene Circus School. The children will undergo demanding training over the next few months in preparation for a spring show.
The students reported that they are eager to take on any challenges that may come their way during their preparation for the performance. "I attended a workshop a few weeks ago. I learned a lot of exciting things. We are now working on perfecting old tricks and learning lots of new tricks too," Ward explains. "I like sports and I want to learn new circus tricks too. My goal is to perform acrobatics in the final show," says Bailasan Al-Assi.
UNRWA organises the circus training for the refugee children in coordination with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, the Danish Centre for Culture and Development, and the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Local teachers have been trained by Danish circus professionals in order to effectively prepare the students for the performance.
The instructors promise that the show will not be just another traditional circus performance. Dance teacher Sara Papendick reports that the teachers have been drawing their influences from a diverse array of movement techniques of varying cultural origin. She says: "I'm teaching hip hop and break dance. We have two colleagues who are teachers of acrobatics and juggling. We are combining modern dance styles and circus techniques in order to make new circus.
"It is going to be a huge show. We want to mix new circus styles with live music. One of our ideas is to blend our use of Danish music with Arabic music to create an alternative effect for the audience," Sara continues.
Sara is upbeat in her report of the children's current progress. She claims that the students are motivated to learn and are quick to absorb the new information. "The children are very open to what we are teaching. They haven't seen anything like this before- they are really enjoying it," she reports. The enthusiasm of the students combined with the dedication and creativity on the part of the teachers, is bound to make for a great performance this coming spring.
Text and photos by Karoliina Romanoff