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Dutch National Ballet’s Dance for Peace

Posted on July 11, 2017

AhmedJoudeh Main

Dutch National Ballet (DNB) has set up a fund to support talented dancers from Syria and other conflict zones.

The fund was inspired by Syrian dancer Ahmad Joudeh, who was featured in the documentary Dance or Die, created by journalist Roozbeh Kaboly in summer 2016. Born in 1990, Ahmad grew up in a Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus, where he wanted to dance from an early age, doing classes in secret because his father disapproved. He trained at the Enana Dance Theatre and at the Higher Institute for Dramatic Arts, both in Damascus. From the age of 17, he gave ballet classes to children, free of charge.

On seeing the film, DNB director Ted Brandsen wanted to bring the dancer to the Netherlands, setting up a new fund for donations to support his journey.

Brandsen said: “Ahmad persevered with his passion for dancing under the most difficult circumstances. I found it very moving. He looked like every other dancer with the same passion, only he was living through the war in Damascus.” The company did not have the means to bring Ahmad to the Netherlands: “We’re not subsidised for that. However, we do have the contacts and we know how to bring dancers over from abroad. I thought that if I had been moved by the programme then so would many other viewers. There would be people who wanted to help. So we set up the fund.”

Donations will at first pay for Ahmad’s study and maintenance expenses, but aims to go beyond that. “We expect to be able to collect more money than we need, so that we can help other dancers and artists in Syria as well,” Brandsen explained. “The fund aims to use Ahmad’s network for doing so.”

Ahmad has now started training at the National Ballet Academy in Amsterdam. He made his Dutch stage debut in December 2016, in DNB’s production of Coppélia. Two documentaries about him can be viewed below.

To donate, or for more information, visit

Pictured: Ahmad Joudeh. Photographs by Michel Schnater.


Zoë was born in Edinburgh, and saw her first dance performances at the Festival there. She is the dance critic of The Independent, and has also written for The Independent on Sunday, The Scotsman and Dancing Times. In 2002, she received her doctorate from the University of York for a thesis on “Nationhood and epic romance: Ariosto, Sidney, Spenser”. She is the author of The Royal Ballet: 75 Years and The Ballet Lover’s Companion.

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