I’m writing this as I leave Ramallah via the Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv, Israel. We arrived at the airport over three hours early, leaving extra time for heightened airport security and the possibility of delays at the checkpoints. At one checkpoint, there were about 20 Palestinian men waiting outside in the 4am darkness for buses that would take them to work on the Israeli side. They’re not allowed to cross over by car, and there was no bus in site. Our Jerusalem-born Palestinian driver told us this has been the case for the last 4-5 years. Luckily, we zipped through the checkpoint…no unloading of our luggage, extensive questioning or having to get out of the car to prove that we are dancers, as I heard a Norwegian group had to do last year.
My response to this short time in Israel and Palestine resonates physically. From the little I gathered through conversations with Irsaelis and Palestinians, I leave simply with a heaviness in my heart. It literally beats less freely when subject to the tensions these people face on a daily basis, where a machine-gun carrying soldier, a wall and barbed-wire fences are the norm. I also leave with a heightened sense of the violent acts that happen on a daily, even minute-to-minute basis between nations, cultures, neighbors, families, and even within our own selves.
At the very least, I can be responsible towards myself and the people I interact with everyday. It almost feels like a violent act to jump from a conflict-stricken nation to focusing solely on me, myself, and I, but it’s here where I truly have the immediate power to make a difference–to attempt to undo all that I’ve acquired that supports fear, judgement, violence, manipulation, and separation, and to literally turn myself ON to the fierce clarity of love, forgiveness, and growth. It’s a physical reaction. If I can pay attention to this simple feeling of when I close down, when my heart literally beats less freely, I can also ask myself in the moment what other choice I can make to support space and movement.
As a dancer, I know and actively seek out this feeling of space and movement. It’s my body in coordination and cooperation, in dialogue with itself. It’s the feeling I get after taking class or having a good performance, where time is spent in deep attention and awareness. Simply put, I physically function better. My heart has space. The Institute of HeartMath says the frequencies of one’s heart can be felt up to 12 feet away from the body. It’s a measurable interaction with others that is happening constantly.
So I begin here. It is in this awareness that I find responsibility and service in dance, in this form, in this art, in this exploration of the body. It seems like a good first step to help change the world.
Peace in the Middle East. There are so many stories and perspectives that I am unaware of, but I know what’s happening in my heart.
“It never hurts to think too highly of a person. Often they become ennobled and act better because of it.”