For many young girls, ballet class is just another in a long list of after-school activities. But for girls in the West Bank, learning ballet isn’t just about learning to dance.
Sarah Bolick had studied dance as an undergraduate before signing on as an ELCA young adult volunteer in the Holy Land.
Supported in part by the gifts of members and congregations to ELCA Vision for Mission, Sarah’s work included helping teach English to students in kindergarten through eighth grade at Dar Al-Kalima School in Bethlehem, one of four Lutheran schools run by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land.
While she loved interacting with the kids at the school, Sarah was also excited to be able to put her skills to use teaching dance in an after-school program — something that is pretty rare in Palestine.
“The resources we had in the West Bank were pretty limited,” she explains.
As an American, Sarah was able to easily cross back and forth between Israel and Palestine, something the Palestinians with whom she lived and worked couldn’t readily do. And she was particularly struck, she says, by the disparity between the two areas. “Israel feels very Americanized, and they have everything you can want,” but Palestinians, Sarah says, don’t have that kind of access.
So the ballet class she taught after school was unique because of the scarcity of opportunities for kids in Palestine.
“After-school programs are not as big of a thing in Palestine,” she explains. It was new to many of the girls in her class “to be able to do things other than just go to school and home and to be able to develop hobbies.”
In addition, she says, “I don’t think any of them had ever had dance lessons, and I know a couple of the moms said there really weren’t places where they could learn that stuff.”
The dance classes, then, became not just something fun to do, but something the girls could have for themselves. “They really don’t have much of an opportunity to do those things, so I think it really made them feel good about themselves to learn about ballet,” Sarah says.
More than just something fun to do after school, Sarah shares, “the dance classes were really good for the girls and empowering.”