The PAC “dance school” offers on an annual basis a set of dance courses in the field of popular, creative and modern dancing, such as Palestinian Dabke, Ballet, Salsa, contemporary and Jazz. The courses are for children aged from 6-14 years, in addition to teenagers and adults from both genders who desire to learn the principles and techniques of these creative arts.
The dance school also manages specialized training workshops for dancers and Dabke trainers on aspects of drama, rhythm and percussion, physical fitness, and training methodology - under the supervision of professional, local and international choreographers and dancers. The dance school has also helped to establish Dabke dance groups in various parts of the West Bank.
The PAC is the first institution, beginning in 1991, to organize courses in popular dance and other dance styles in Palestine. Training courses are held at the hall of the Centre on a daily basis. Additionally, PAC is currently working to develop a curriculum for the dance school.
Palestine International Festival for Music and Dance (PIF) is a creative cultural and arts project which communicates with the outside world and contributes towards breaking the cultural siege which has been imposed on Palestine and Palestinian people for decades. The Festival at its core has a cultural and artistic quality and provides the Palestinian public with entertainment they crave for. The PIF was founded in 1993 to organize the first international festival and the largest annual arts and culture events in Palestine, contributing to the revival and restructuring of the artistic and cultural scene in Palestine.
The festival has hosted international music and dance groups from countries, such as Spain, Italy, Greece, Chile, Egypt, France, Morocco, Tunisia, Algiria, Iraq, the UK and Turkey, including Anatolian Nar Group (Fire of Anatolia), Stomp, Pavoci Group, Celapion Group, Jal Jallaluh Group, singers Lutfi Bushnaq, Saber Riba’i, Ahlam, Rasheed Taha, Shab Fadeel and singer Ilham Almadfa’i. Not forgetting the many local music and dance groups which were also provided with opportunities to be showcased as well.
The festival has attracted large numbers from various villages and cities in the West Bank and also from within the Green Line, thus strengthening interaction and ties between the Palestinians from different regions. From the year 2000 till 2005 the Popular Art Centre was not able to organize the Festival due to the strenuous political and economic situation.
In the year 2005, the Centre revived the PIF not only in Ramallah city but in the different cities, villages, and refugee camps in the West Bank, to overcome the restriction of movement due to the establishment of The Apartheid Wall and military checkpoints imposed by the Israeli Occupation.
As part of the Centre’s mission to preserve the folk performing arts, the Centre organised the annual Palestinian Heritage Festival from 1989 to 1992 which was the largest local festival at that time. The Centre revived The Heritage Festival in 2008 to encourage local folk groups from the various parts of Palestine to perform their productions. The Centre has expanded its activities to cover four governorates to overcome the restrictions of movement and access, The Apartheid Wall and the military checkpoints imposed by the Israeli occupation.
The Festival is also becoming opportunity to portray the creative performance of new groups trained and established by the Centre.
Due to deteriorating political and economic conditions in Palestine, all cinemas were forced to close in the 1980s. To maintain this important entertainment and educational activity, the Centre set up a Cinema Club in 1996. The Centre established a cinematheque and an adjoining café to serve patrons who visit the Centre. The Cinema Club includes a library that rents a large selection of movies on subscription basis. The Centre also rents the hall to groups and institutions that provide educational and other awareness raising activities and workshops.
In pursuit of its vision, The Centre recognizes the importance of audiovisual methods as an effective tool to develop arts training, and aims to develop the work of the Cinema Club to target young people and children and those who benefit from the dance school. The Centre aims to use the cinema to convey information and open up horizons and prospects through screening films on international dance groups and educational films that will consolidate training and assist in conveying ideas and new dance methods
The Centre has worked since November 1994 to implement the “Palestinian Traditional Music & Song Archive” project to collect and record popular and traditional music and songs from Palestinian villages, refugee camps and towns in order to preserve this rich heritage and to enable individuals and various cultural institutions such as universities, research centers, and various arts groups to make use of this compiled material research in the areas of Palestinian folklore and culture.
The project’s importance is further demonstrated as it preserves and protects Palestinian heritage from loss or outright destruction which may happen due to several factors, including the Israeli occupation’s tireless attempts to occur the Palestinian identity through suppressing the heritage of the Palestinian people or stealing it and claiming it as their own. Additionally, there is concern that this heritage might be lost as the older generation tends to forget, and the pace of social change accelerates.
The Centre has built an audiovisual library to archive Palestinian traditional music and songs. The Library has recordings of popular verse called “Zajal”, performed during social occasions, music of popular traditional musical instruments, religious hymns, popular female songs, and video film footage of local musicians, singers, and traditional ceremonies. The Library is open on a daily basis to serve the public and researchers.
This includes a total of 220 hours of recordings of traditional music and songs that are used in various occasions in Palestine. In addition, a set of photographs and video film footage has also been documented. The recordings have been edited and stored on DAT tapes in cooperation with the Birzeit University Media Training Unit.
Through its programs, the Centre caters for children and youngsters as they define the future of community action. In 1990, The Centre began to offer the “Art For Everybody” program to develop an appreciation of Palestinian children’s art, by focusing on children in refugee camps in the district of Ramallah and al-Bireh, and then the rural regions. “Art For Everybody” offer children an opportunity to participate in drawing, music, dance and puppet making, theatre workshops, and entertainment picnics. The program has thus far drawn, more than 1,000 children.
In 2000, the Centre prepared an integrated program for children with the aim of alleviating the impact of psychological and social distress due to the Israeli aggression, in terms of raids, shelling and movement restrictions and curfews during the Second Intifada. The program’s other basic goal was to direct the energy and potential of children in positive directions by creating an environment of participation in activities that match their ages. The program also includes expressionist art workshops in music, popular dance, drama, drawing and popular games.
In line with these workshops, the Centre embarked on a training course for trainers in various arts fields with the main goal of developing the capacities of people working in the field of art education, and achieving improved sustainability at partner centers. As part of the vision to maximize the effectiveness of youth centers and clubs in the community, the Centre expanded partnerships with community based organizations (CBOs) to assist them in developing capacities through training their young members. Such work enables the institutions to better serve the society in the context of cooperation and partnership.
Based on our belief in partnership building and sustainability, the Centre, through its programs, is very careful to establish cultural and arts nuclei in the marginalized areas, and upgrade the capacities of youth centers in villages and refugee camps, and through the implementation of various training courses in the fields of Dabke, music, drama and drawing. The Centre has also succeeded in forming groups in the targeted centers.