On the second Semi-Final of ESC2021, I was fascinated by the beautiful dance performance of the ballet dancer Ahmad Joudeh. I had to watch it over and over again. I had no clue about his incredible and unbelievable life story until I googled his name. And I have to admit I couldn’t hold back my tears. His life story touched me deeply.
Ahmad Joudeh was born in the Palestinian refugee camp Jarmuk on the outskirts of the Syrian capital Damascus. His father was the son of a Palestinian refugee and his mother came from Palmyra, Syria. Nevertheless, Ahmad grew up as a stateless refugee. He spent the first few years isolated in the camp, where he also attended school.
Ahmad first came into contact with dance at the age of eight as a spectator of a school performance of Tchaikovsky's ballet Swan Lake. After this experience, he wanted to become a dancer. He taught himself to dance and was accepted into the Syrian ballet company in Damascus at the age of 16. He completed his first professional training until 2015 in the fields of ballet, gymnastics, and modern dance.
In the course of the civil war in Syria in 2011, Ahmad's family lost their home and five relatives in a bomb attack. Because of his activity as a dancer, he was exposed to threats from Islamist extremists. They threatened to behead him or shoot him in the leg because his profession was against religion. But he pursued dancing further and had the words "Dance or Die" in Hindi tattooed on his neck. This was done out of appreciation for Indian culture, which knows a god of dance. If terrorists had tried to carry out their threats and behead Ahmad, they would have had to look to his motto when they donned their swords.
In 2014 he was a contestant in the Arab version of So You Think You Can Dance. He made it to the semi-finals. But because he was a Palestinian without national identity, he was told he could not win. Nevertheless, his appearances brought him to the attention of Dutch filmmaker Roozbeh Kaboly, who produced a documentary that aired on Dutch television.
Ahmad Joudeh became known to an international audience outside the Arab region from August 2016 through a report by Dutch/Iranian artist Roozbeh Kaboly. He discovered Ahmad on his University's Facebook page. The television journalist traveled to Damascus and documented the daily life of the dancer and his family during the Syrian civil war for the Dutch broadcaster NOS 'news program.
Kaboly's report was subsequently shown in other countries, including France and the United Kingdom. Moved by the television report, Ted Brandsen, artistic director of the Dutch National Ballet, initiated the “Dance for Peace Fund campaign” to invite Ahmad Joudeh to the Netherlands and study at the national ballet academy there.
With a student visa, he could legally leave Syria and move to Amsterdam. In his new home, he made his debut with Brandsen's ballet company in December 2016 in a production by Coppélia.
Ahmad is living in Amsterdam since October 2016 and has received Dutch citizenship in 2021. His book (Dance or Die) was among twelve selected books out of over 160 submissions from more than 30 countries at the Berlinale 2019 in Germany.
Isn’t this an incredible and touching life story with a strong message? What an unusual life. What an exceptional and strong character! What an extraordinary talent! What an amazing soul and personality!
Stay tuned for my "One-hour Zoom Interview" with the King of Dance Ahmad Joudeh! We will be talking about the release of his memoir "Dance or Die" on 21. September 2021, his passion for dance, and his message to young refugees and people, who are against refugees!
Meanwhile, watch the following inspiring videos. You are about to witness an exceptionally talented and inspiring soul. You are about to get amazed!
Read the second part of the blog series!
Source: AhmadJoudeh.com / Wikipedia / Youtube
STAY TUNED FOR MY ZOOM INTERVIEW
WITH MY SPECIAL BLOG GUEST
DANCER AND WRITER AHMAD JOUDEH
ON JULY 21TH 2021!