RAMALLAH, December 13 (JMCC) - After years of lobbying and hard work, the Palestinian Circus School has moved into its new home in Birzeit village, north of Ramallah.
The school teaches juggling, acrobatics and other circus arts to children and young people around the occupied West Bank, providing a rare creative outlet, reports Al-Akhbar
"We started with nothing," says Jessika, "We had one box with a few diablos, and sticks and balls, and that was all. And we had volunteers."
The school started with only a few students, but after numerous performances around the West Bank, it soon gained momentum. Several of the original students became volunteer trainers at the school, and in 2007, thanks to various international fundraising projects, the team managed to rent a training hall and started teaching in Jenin, Ramallah and Hebron.
Now, five years later, the school has over 165 students between the ages of 9 and 20. There are also plans to establish a professional academic three-year programme, so that students can gain qualifications in circus and performing arts in order to start their own businesses and careers.
The school has now secured a permanent school building, donated by Hanna Nasir of Birzeit University. The historic 19th century building and surrounding land, previously abandoned and derelict, have undergone a US$148,000 refurbishment funded in part by the Belgian government.
"It was really hard to get this place, our place," says 14-year-old student and trapeze artist Hazar Azzadeh. "We moved more than five times in Ramallah and finally we are here, our own place… it’s a great feeling."
Inside the new school, the smell of fresh paint lingers in an airy studio with panoramic views of the surrounding olive orchards. Boxes of batons and juggling balls are stacked high, safety mats and spotlights line the walls, and a costume rail holds an array of wigs, masks, striped trousers and colorful sequinned waistcoats.
Outside, trainers and children enjoy a large playground and circus apparatus, complete with a trapeze and tissu, or aerial silk, a long purple ribbon on which a student twists and spirals with immaculate precision and balance. The playground is full of children and young people in matching PCS t-shirts, honing their skills and performing skits for each other; comedy juggling routines, balancing acts, contemporary dance and mime, all ending in the debkah, a traditional Palestinian folk dance, performed by students from al-Fara’a refugee camp.