by Fares Akram
GAZA, Sept. 17 (Xinhua) -- The ballet room is modest and hot. The young Palestinian girls hoping to be future ballerinas are sweating as a Ukrainian instructor warmed them up. Most of the 10 children had no pointe shoes and some were unshod.
The dream to create a ballet dance school for children in the Gaza Strip was almost unreachable. But this year, a group of enterprising people, together with confident parents who all loved this art, started ballet classes for girls under 10.
The aim is to open a specialized ballet school. The challenges are sticky since the territory is ruled by Islamic Hamas movement, which was criticized several times for seeking to enforce its own interpretation of Islam on the society since it took over the coastal enclave in 2007. Hamas, commenting on those classes, saw them at odds with Arab and Islamic culture.
"We are seeking to present something new," said Ghada Darwish, one of the people behind the venture. "Ballet is a universal art," Darwish added, recalling how ballet dancers enthralled the world at the opening of the Olympic games in London. "It should find its space in Gaza."
Ruaa Al-Shanti, 8, said she loves the ballet and she has always dreamt of being a ballerina. She heard about the school from one of her mother's friends.
The children spend a good part of class time, practicing the techniques they have learned. Some wearing one-piece swimsuits, others in T-shirts and shorts, and only two luckily managed to get the ballet dress and tutus from outside. Another part of the class involves working on aerobics skills in order to emphasize bearing and sense of balance.
The ballet lessons remain an affair for a tiny slice of the community, as most of the 1.7 million people here are suffering the consequences of the stagnant economy and restrictions on movement.
Last month, a UN report warned that Gaza may not be "a livable place" by 2020, citing shortages of water, food, schools, hospitals and jobs.
The attendants of the ballet classes have working or business- owner fathers and go to private schools that require a lot of money, Darwish explained, noting that as school year has started, the number of trainees dwindled to around 12.
Tamara, the Ukrainian trainer, said the girls are welling to learn and they perform good. The woman, married to a Palestinian and moved to settle here 10 years ago, said that the society should accept ballet as they accept sports, because ballet is like gymnastics.
The Gaza society is conservative by its nature, and this left its effects on the turnout of children to the ballet classes that are being hosted in a private secondary education college.
"Some people want to send their children here, but they are afraid of the society's reactions... Others preferred to wait," Darwish said.
Arab Mohammed, the mother of a ballet student, said her four- year-old daughter became behaving better after taking some ballet classes. "I urge all parents to enroll their kids at the school to help them develop their thoughts. This will help the kids develop their mental and physical abilities."
Hamas had a different view. Mustafa Al-Sawaf, the deputy culture minister, said the Palestinian people "reject the so- called ballet because it is shamelessness and corruption." Moreover, Al-Sawaf urged the Ministry of Education "to investigate the ballet classes," which are hosted by a private school.
Darwish said it was expected that Hamas may try to prevent opening a ballet school, banning public shows or even inciting the families not to send their children to such classes. However, she believes that Hamas will allow ballet art one day after they "put some regulations."