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Dancing in Bethlehem: A Diary

Nicole Bindler
February 15, 2016

by Nicole Bindler

This is a revised and much-expanded version of a piece first published by thINKingDANCE

June 9 (2015)

I arrive in Tel Aviv at 2:30 a.m. I get through security without a hitch. I was advised to say that I’m going to Israel to hang out with friends because many people (including Diyar’s most recent international choreographer) have been deported for no reason other than their positive engagement with Palestinians. At security they ask me a lot of personal questions: about my ethnicity, about my profession, and about what kind of dance I do. When I try to explain what experimental dance-theater is they’re not interested and I’m dismissed.

An Israeli friend has connected me to his parents who will host me for the first night. This provides me with a plausible story about my plans for staying in Israel. His father meets me at the airport in the middle of the night and drives me to the tiny Tel Aviv apartment that he shares with his wife. He speaks continuously in the car, his soft, British accent barely discernible. One of the first things I glean is: “This country has become so racist.” The tension I had felt on the journey — as if I were a fraud in a sea of enthusiastic tourists to Israel — is dispelled by his lucidity and piercing honesty.

I go to the beach, where five couples are playing ping pong as a military helicopter lurks just above the shore. The drone of the hovering engine, swish of the sea, and pop of the rackets is a complex symphony. I ride the warm, briny swells with ambivalence: swimming between relaxation and regret. The Palestinians who I’m going to work with are not allowed to visit the Mediterranean.

June 10

I’m headed to Bethlehem to work with Diyar, a Palestinian dance group that performs Palestinian folk dance (dabke) internationally. I’ve been invited by Diyar’s director, Rami Khader, to choreograph a new piece with three young dancers about their experiences as women living in the occupied West Bank. I’ve visited Diyar before, to teach a workshop to children in 2014. I’m looking forward to a deeper process with the company by working with a small group every day for over three weeks to create something new, in collaboration.

My Israeli host drives me to the checkpoint, but Israelis aren’t allowed in Area A, where I’m headed, so he can only wait at the gate while I cross on foot. At the checkpoint I walk through a series of turnstiles. My big red bag gets stuck a few times and I have to wedge it through. I carry my passport in my hand but no one asks to see it. In fact, the soldiers barely glance at me. I realize that at this checkpoint they’re far more concerned with those traveling in the other direction, toward Jerusalem.

On the Bethlehem side Rami meets me and drives me to Diyar’s studio. He asks me about my Tel Aviv hosts. He wants to know what they think of him, this stranger on the other side of the wall. I explain their position, that they’re challenging the system from within by supporting the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement (as much as is possible from within the state) and that they have hosted illegal African refugees. But they also feel despondent. The situation is getting worse, not better. Rami nods in understanding. He says he hasn’t been able to cross that checkpoint in 12 years because it is very challenging to get a visa to enter Israel. When he leaves the country he must fly through Amman, Jordan. If Rami and my Israeli hosts had the opportunity to meet, they would probably agree on almost every point. But as it stands now, they’ll never have the chance.

At the studio I meet the three young dancers who I’ll be working with: Dima, age 18; Hala, age 23; and Christie, age 16. Rami has chosen these dancers for their talent, intelligence, enthusiasm, and availability. He had planned on including a few others who are Muslim, but I was only available to work with Diyar during Ramadan. The Muslim dancers are all fasting and cannot participate so the cast is entirely Christian.

We launch into our first rehearsal. I ask them questions about their lives as women in Palestine and the conversation is stilted. They report that there is nothing extraordinary about their experience as women: there are fewer opportunities for women than men in Palestine, as is the case everywhere. Of course men speak over them and don’t respect their opinions. Men do that everywhere.

I let go of the conversation and guide them through a contact improvisation leading/following exercise in which the follower moves with eyes closed. Afterward they report that moving with their eyes closed feels very relaxing, but that the role of the leader is challenging for them. I want to investigate that role further. Why is it difficult for them to direct?

I ask them to choose a song from their iPhones, make a 30 second phrase to it, and then perform the phrase twice, once to the music and once in silence. They seem interested in performing Western contemporary dance vocabulary, but they’re not familiar with the history and critical theories of Western concert dance. We have different assumptions about dance — its role in society and how to use stage space, the face, voice, and presence — that we will need to unpack and find common understanding around in the coming days.

While performing Palestinian dabke is inherently a political act of resistance because of the suppression of their culture, it doesn’t necessarily convey detailed political ideas. Rami is hoping I can help infuse the company with the compositional tools of Western contemporary dance so that they can express more nuanced politics in performance. Folkloric dance is often performed at gatherings as a social glue, and does not always translate well visually on the proscenium stage. Diyar’s goal is to use a hybrid of Western and dabke dance to express complex concepts about cultural identity and resistance.

A taxi takes us to our different homes. There isn’t enough room for all of us plus my huge red bag so the driver ties it to the roof. It’s normally a five minute drive from Diyar (which is between Bethlehem and Dheisheh refugee camp,) to Beit Sahour where I’m staying, but the rush hour traffic is dense so it takes 30 minutes. We weave through the bustling downtown and the old city. There is barely enough room for pedestrians to walk among the cars.

[caption id=“attachment_40728” align=“aligncenter” width=“225”]View of a side street in Bethlehem's old city A side street in Bethlehem’s old city[/caption]

We curve onto a tiny street where Osama, one of Rami’s oldest friends, waits to show me the apartment he helped reserve for my stay. It’s a one bedroom with few windows, but it’s clean and has a full kitchen. The owner of the apartment who lives next door invites me over for tea. Her husband speaks to me in Spanish because he lived in Latin America for 30 years and speaks no English. She and I make small talk while her family watches men in speedos throw ladders at each other in a Mexican wrestling match on TV.

Later I discover there’s no hot water so I boil a huge pot of water and use a cezve to pour it on my addled body.

June 11

The dancers perform the phrase they’ve been working on, a hybrid of dabke and Western contemporary movement, to this song about women and beauty by Macadi Nahhas:

Because folkloric dance is performed with soft knees and elbows, they don’t have as much experience extending their limbs into space. I help them find the edges of their reach by practicing PNF patterns, based on the work of Irene Dowd. (PNF patterns coordinate movement through a limb’s entire range of motion in relation to other limbs. The patterns involve reaching into space and folding limbs in collaboration with each other to create multiple pathways in space and in the body. You can see them in many of the standing sections of Irene Dowd’s choreography Resonance, which is used for dance training.) Then we experiment with the phrases, performing them in different configurations and traveling through the space.

We create a leading/following contact trio where the follower has her eyes closed; we practice it to another Nahhas song about a Jordanian woman who was killed by her family for refusing to marry the man they had chosen for her because she loved someone else. While these ladies live in a community that would never treat women this way, this song moves them and inspires empathy.

We end the day by creating a “pure” dabke phrase of fast, unison footwork.

June 12

The goal for the first few days is to generate a lot of material without judging it or editing. We work briskly.

I teach them an improvisational score where we create shapes around the negative space of each other’s bodies and remain still for more time than we spend moving. This cultivates a high degree of sensitivity for spatial relationships between us, and also challenges their usual practice of constant movement. The use of stillness is new for them and it takes an hour to focus their attention so that they can remain still without fidgeting. We transition to more continuous movement but the deep listening and specificity of the shape score remains.

We end this third day of rehearsal exhausted, but with 30 minutes of raw choreographic material.

June 15

We continue to spend much of our rehearsal process traversing the deep chasm between our different cultural and dance norms.

Rami has invited me here to instill in the company new practices and ideas. He wants us to make a provocative, feminist work together. I want to gently prod the women toward the unknown but also learn from them and maintain a safe space. They’re accustomed to hierarchical structures where the choreographer tells them exactly what to do. That is what feels familiar and safe. I’m asking them to develop the dance with me based on their interests, goals, and dreams. I sometimes feel that I’m foisting a collaborative process onto them and wonder if there is a tyranny to this strange democracy I’m proposing.

They assure me that while it’s foreign, they want to make the dance together as a team. In my constant search for consent, I slip into another alien land for them... the land of incessant checking in about feelings. I’m concerned that the power differential between us — our age difference, my Western identity and role as choreographer — will prevent them from saying no to something they’re not comfortable with. They politely indulge me even as they tire of me asking if everything is okay.

June 16

There have been many interruptions. Curious children enter the room all the time to ask questions. Hala, Dima, and Christy are on a Mediterranean clock that includes two hour lunches. I’m trying to balance many priorities: making a dance that is meaningful and multi-layered in only three and a half weeks, imparting the skills to perform the dance while also building relationships and learning from them. How much do I accept their working methods and habits? How much do I push?

June 17

We have a breakthrough. Rami comes to watch a run and the dancers conjure up the rigor to perform in rehearsal with the attention and presence they would have onstage. He says: “I’ve never seen anything like this before. I can feel them feeling. They’re so present and they’re conveying so much through their movement. Usually when we dance we’re just focused on the steps.” The dancers begin to realize the significance of presence and how performance is a practice that must be cultivated in the studio.

Rami is surprised to see that the dance is developing into a lament about land loss and the Nakba, told through the eyes of women, as opposed to a feminist manifesto about women’s rights. He encourages us to follow our interest, even if it veers from the original plan. He suggests we use the sounds of curfew during the dance. We play sounds of the Israeli military ordering people home as the dancers perform tableaus of iconic Palestinian images. Then we add the sound of fighter jets to a section in which the dancers braid each others’ hair. As they perform these sections, the women begin to recognize juxtaposition as a powerful tool to illustrate the simultaneous banality and terror in their lives.

We create a new section with sea sounds and water bowls at the edge of the Palestine they’ve created with rocks placed on the stage. They dabble their fingers in the bowls and travel to the Mediterranean in their minds. They have all been there (only an hour away) just a few times. They tell me they were unable to relax because they felt like foreigners in their own home.

June 18

I offer the dancers a yoga practice to warm up that I sorely need. At the end I give them a period of ten minutes to move as they wish, to allow their bodies to be their teachers. They stare at me wide-eyed, with no sense of how to proceed. I ask them to close their eyes and sense from the inside what their bodies need. What comes up when they listen to their bodies is pain, which is a strong disincentive to do this kind of contemplative movement practice. I broaden the practice to include permission to sleep. Their breath slows as they settle into the floor.

As we work together, they ask me about my influences and what we’re actually doing here. I show them videos of Deborah Hay, Pina Bausch, and Butoh dance. Christy describes our improvisational practice as moving without thinking. I propose that moving is the body thinking and she is delighted to affirm the intelligence of her flesh.

June 19

Today our morning driver is listening to 60’s psychedelic funk. When he picks me up at 8:30 a.m. he’s waving his hands and snapping. It’s incongruous with the hot, quiet, dusty Beit Sahour morning. We stop behind a van blocking the street as they unload three bloody, dead pigs. The driver keeps dancing in his seat.

We ascend a hill lined with rocks, grass, trash, and cypress trees, so steep we’re reclining more than 45 degrees in our seats. We pick up Hala at her house, nestled among olive trees with a view of rolling hills and Israeli settlements that have been creeping toward her for 10 years.

A view of the settlements on the hill across from Hala's home

In the morning we create a new section where Hala stands in the middle of the rock-map of Palestine and charts the cities on her body. She suggests she name destroyed villages instead of existing cities, but we realize we have to find out their names and locations because we only know of a few. Rami laments that many young Palestinians don’t know the names of the villages destroyed in 1948.

At lunch Rami tells us a story about how he recently led a ritual at a panel in Germany, naming dead children from last year’s war in Gaza. Someone approached him after and said “it’s probably better to kill terrorists before they grow up.”

In spite of the frequent assaults on his dignity, Rami remains steadfast in his commitment to human rights for all. On the same trip he led a discussion with his students about the Holocaust and took his students to see a Nazi concentration camp.

June 20

Rami will be traveling to Germany for another Diyar production until the day of the show and he’s trying to set us up with a good production team to finish the project without him. He is a rock and I have trepidation about him leaving. A rough draft of the piece is complete and he wants to sign off on all the material before he leaves because as an outsider, I may have some blind spots about how the piece will be read by local audiences.

He watches a run of the piece and approves of all of our choices except he says that a couple of moves that the dancers perform are Orientalist. He says Edward Said would be rolling in his grave. I can’t tell if he’s being overly conservative, or if their thrusting hips and cocked heads will in fact undermine the positive, feminist message of the dance. The dancers agree to minimize their hip thrusting.

June 21

Rami asks me to stay after rehearsal to watch their dabke practice. The air in the gymnasium is thick with cologne and hormones. Thirty young people practice a new dance about Palestinian scouts who play Arab music on the Scottish bagpipe. The instrument made its way to the Levant during the British mandate.

The gym was created one year ago and is the only facility in Palestine dedicated entirely to women’s sports. Last week Rami was heavily involved in organizing a week-long event called “Diyar Sport Week” where over 800 women athletes from across the West Bank competed in soccer, volleyball, handball, and swimming.

Rami is a visionary. His next big project is to create a culture of bicycling in Bethlehem in order to increase mobility for residents who don’t have cars and to improve people’s physical and psychological well being. He’s working on acquiring funding for a pilot program including bicycle donations and microloans for aspiring bike repair shop owners. He’s planning group rides and races, and discussing the creation of bike lanes with the municipality. I have no doubt that he’ll make it happen.

When I arrive home at dusk my neighbor is waiting outside for me, concerned because I’m usually home long before dark.

June 22

I have a day off and decide to go to the Educational Bookshop in East Jerusalem to buy gifts for the dancers. I take bus #21, which travels along a settler road from Bethlehem to the Damascus Gate. Only Palestinians with special permits are allowed to travel to Jerusalem. It’s an off hour and there are only five of us on the bus. At the checkpoint two Israeli soldiers wearing machine guns on their shoulders and scowls on their faces get on the bus and ride with us for the remainder of the trip. It seems like an inane misuse of labor to assign two soldiers to guard five people, one of whom is an infant.

I buy graphic novels by Joe Sacco and Marjane Satrapi for Dima and Christy. Hala has been sharing political art with the cast on our Facebook group page so I buy her Gannit Ankori’s book on Palestinian art. While this book is problematic in its Israeli-centric perspective on Palestinian art, it contains a broad anthology of work across media from folk art to experimental work and has some gorgeous images. Here are some images Hala has shared with us. This one by Syrian-Palestinian artist Yasser Abu Hamed is called Family Portrait:

Reproduction of Yasser Abu Hamed's "Family Portrait"On my way back I take bus #124 to the main checkpoint I walked through on my first day. The bus is stopped by six Israeli soldiers who come on board to check everyone’s IDs. Three women, one with two small children, do not have the right paperwork to have been in Jerusalem. Even though they’re returning home to Bethlehem, they’re detained.

In this video you can see the bus driver and a few passengers waiting to see what will happen to the women and children in custody. Two women are led away to be detained and sent back to Bethlehem (even though the bus is headed there!)

Another woman with two children (the one in the white dress is crying) ends up filling out some paperwork but they’re eventually allowed back on the bus. We wait for 40 minutes as these women are interrogated and humiliated outside.

I step outside and ask the soldiers how long we’ll be here and what they’ll do to the women. One soldier shoots me a venomous look and replies with a non-answer: “Don’t worry, everything will be fine.”

June 23

Lightness and darkness live side by side here. By my apartment there is a pink VW Bug, like a candy drop, parked against the backdrop of blue sky and illegal Israeli settlements encroaching up the hill.

Pic of the aforementioned pink VW bug

I’m taking a day trip to Ramallah to meet some friends. I decide to walk through the checkpoint and take bus #124 to the Damascus Gate, then a service (shared taxi) to Ramallah. I’m told by Osama and Rami that the trip should take about an hour.

My first hurdle is that the checkpoint is closed when I arrive. There are 100 people waiting to get through a single turnstile that unlocks with a green light about once every five minutes. The crowd swarms around the turnstile. There’s no line, no order, and people argue about whose trip is more urgent. The Palestinian travelers, some of whom are commuting workers and many of whom are going to pray at the mosque for Ramadan, turn against one another in this senseless, sadistic human experiment.

When the crowd becomes rowdy, a soldier runs out on a catwalk above to yell menacingly. I capture this on video.

I decide to try another checkpoint but when I ask a taxi to take me to bus #21, he convinces me to let him drive me to the Mount of Olives checkpoint which is close to the Damascus gate. We weave through winding roads around dusty, expansive hills. After an hour of circling through ever smaller and smaller roads I realize he’s lost. It ends up taking three hours just to get to Jerusalem and I never make it to Ramallah.

Instead I decide to spend the afternoon reading under a tree in the grass outside of the Old City of Jerusalem. A group of Palestinian boys run across the grass close to me and then practice Parkour on a hill. Later, another group of boys cross the lawn and walk uncomfortably close to me. When the first group is finished they swarm around me and stomp their feet close to my head. One of them notices that the book I’m reading is in English. He says “englizeeya, englizeeya!” and then they walk away. They had thought I was an Israeli, but once they realize I’m not they leave me alone.

June 24

I have dinner with Nahed, who was the first yoga teacher in Palestine and who will be hosting me for a yoga anatomy workshop in a few days. She takes me to a restaurant near the Church of the Nativity and everyone in the place stops to talk to her.

I met Nahed in 2014 during my first trip to the region to participate in a collaborative Israeli/Palestinian yoga project. I later discovered that the risks and challenges that the Palestinians faced in that project were far greater than the Israelis. At the end of the day the Israelis could go home to their Tel Aviv apartments and avoid challenging the status quo.

I ask Nahed about her involvement in this project and she thoughtfully describes why she has decided to step away from it. She feels that collaborations can be a way for Israelis to assuage their guilt without taking concrete action against the apartheid. This is not to say that all Israelis avoid the hard work of challenging their government, but that those in this particular project seemed to be. This project was also divisive in her Bethlehem community where many people perceived it to be a form of normalization of the occupation. She adds that both sides are not ready yet to meet and work together because a lot of healing is needed that must be done separately.

In spite of Nahed’s decision not to work with these Israeli yogis on public projects, she maintains personal ties to them and meets with them as an individual practitioner. I’m impressed by her ability to reevaluate the situation and make a strong choice while maintaining her friendships with Israelis.

While she’s able to sustain these friendships she does encounter racism among her Israeli colleagues. She tells me a story about being invited to attend a class in Tel Aviv. Most of the people greeted her warmly except for the one Israeli who asked: “You live in Bethlehem? Are the people there normal?”

In spite of experiences like that, she expresses compassion for Israelis, how they must be suffering to be able to commit such atrocities when they serve in the army. I’m enthralled by her capacity for empathy in the face of her situation. She lives next to the wall. She’s reminded of her imprisonment every day.

June 25

We have our first rehearsal in the theater and spend the whole time mapping out the space. The dancers find this tedious because they’re not used to spending a whole rehearsal on spacing. Their dances are usually firmly grounded in center stage. All they have to do is find the center stage mark and sense the strong downlight focused there.

This dance uses the whole stage space, including the edges of the back curtain, the lip of the stage, and all four corners. Sometimes the dancers creep toward the center, as if the edges are an unpleasant place.

I bring up the idea that if we’re telling the story of the marginalization of Palestinian women, we need to use the margins of the stage space. There are often activities in the center, but what’s interesting is how those activities relate to what’s happening at the periphery. How can we bring what and who exists at the margins into the light?

During a break we see the flyer has been posted on Facebook and 100 people have already RSVP’d to the show. The dancers are buoyed and their patience for stage blocking is renewed.

June 28

I teach a yoga workshop at Nahed’s studio on the intrinsic muscles. The participants are a varied and enthusiastic bunch. One Bethlehem native is a conceptual artist. Another pair are young agriculturalists from Hebron who have never done yoga before and show up in immobilizing skinny jeans. One woman is an American who lives in Jerusalem and works for the U.S. State Department. Another is a Sufi activist who lives in the Old City of Jerusalem in a house his family has been in for 400 years.

After class many people ask for advice. One woman wants help modifying backbends because of pain due to a herniated lumbar disk. One man wants help lengthening his hamstrings so he can sit cross-legged more comfortably. Another asks me how he can move objects with his mind. Unfortunately, that is outside the scope of my practice.

June 29

Nahed lives in a grand four story house next to the wall, which was built after they moved in. She says she watched the wall go up over a month until her view of Jerusalem disappeared. Their house is right next to the checkpoint. You can see people walking up and down the ramp toward the turnstile from their living room window.

Nahed and I go on a walk through the hills of Beit Jala.

The hills of Beit Jala

And the settler roads that segregate the Israelis from the Palestinians.

View of a tunnel leading to Jerusalem on a settler road

I’ve never seen such extreme contrasts of vitality and dark-heartedness alongside each other as I do here.

June 30

The dedication to the project that Rami and the dancers have demonstrated is not shared by the technical director, who perhaps doesn’t understand how brave the work is for the women. He canceled the tech rehearsal because he didn’t want to come in that day.

The dancers are volunteering 80 hours of their time for this project while only receiving a small stipend, free transport, complimentary lunches, and dance training in exchange. Meanwhile the tech staff (all men) are paid a living wage for their time. The technical director is paid Diyar staff but the lighting designer and videographer fees are coming from the money I raised. The tiny budget does not allow for an hourly wage for the dancers and they’ve volunteered their time because they want to have this experience.

In my experience, dancers always seem to work the most and get paid the least in productions. The fact that these female dancers are paid the least for this feminist work makes me feel that there is a misalignment between our stated values and the way we’re conducting the production. I take responsibility for my role in this because I feel I could have advocated more for them (and I am committed to paying them industry-rate wages when they come to the U.S. to tour in 2017).

I discuss this disconnect candidly with the dancers, but because this is how it always is for them, they’re unfazed. I carry the indignation on my own and regrettably snap at the technical director when he breezes through the tech booth and messes up the sound levels and light cues that the lighting designer and I have created.

In spite of this the dancers perform beautifully. They’re fully invested in the work and their optimism carries me. We perform improvised solo versions of the dance for each other as a way of integrating our experience and understanding it more fully. In her solo, Christy creates a circle of rocks and places a violin in the middle, wrapped in a keffiyeh, and performs a slow funereal dance around it.

I’m hot and sore so I spend $20 to swim in the glorious, sprawling, deliciously cold swimming pool in the Jacir Palace Hotel. It’s right next to the water-parched Aida Refugee Camp. My guilt and self-condemnation pile up on themselves.

July 1

Two hundred people show up to see the performance on a Wednesday night during Ramadan, which is a great turnout. The trio dances beautifully, yet I see how the piece is still unfinished. The poignancy of the grief about the loss of the land and yearning for the sea is cut short by an upbeat ending that needs more explanation. But how can we expect to have a finished work in three weeks? Even though the piece needs some filling out with content, the dancers fill in the holes with their convincing and committed performances. They are in it. The dancers have integrated so many new ideas: they’ve broadened the use of their faces to include an array of emotional states, they’ve taken advantage of the entire stage, and they’ve created original movement in the improvised sections. Most of all, they maintain a piercing presence for the duration of the piece, including the gruelingly slow sections.

At the Q & A there are many questions: Why are the dancers naming rocks as cities? Why are there water bowls? Is that supposed to be the sea or does it represent water scarcity? Why do so many of the scenes repeat with different music? Why is there so much stillness and silence?

I realize that many people in the audience have never seen anything like this before. Even though about half of the movement vocabulary and music is classical Arab dancing, the gestalt of the piece is a totally unfamiliar beast. Confounding an audience is not always a bad thing, but in future performances of the dance we plan to have more opportunities for the audience to engage with the ideas and techniques used in the work through readings, talks, and pre-show discussions in order to support their viewing of the work.

We celebrate our achievement over ice cream and try to hold on to the positive response we received from some women in the audience who said they saw their feelings reflected from the stage.

July 2

I feel accomplished and thrilled to be going home but at the airport things start to unravel. I arrive three hours early to give myself ample time for dinner before my flight. At the first security checkpoint I’m flagged because I have an Egyptian stamp in my passport.

At the next station I’m funneled to the line where suspects have their bags thoroughly inspected. As I watch them wand every surface of my belongings my heart sinks when I realize that I neglected to put my Palestine guide book in my checked luggage. A woman with piercing eyes fires questions at me like bullets.

She looks at my Body-Mind Centering notebook and yells: “What is this?? Body? Mind? What?” I say: “It’s like yoga.” She asks for an itinerary. I give it to her.

She yells: “Why did you go to Amsterdam??” I say: “That’s where the layover was.”

She wants to see pictures of my time in Israel. I have none. She reads my datebook and journal. She finds that I was not a tourist in Israel at all, but working in Palestine the whole time.

“Why did you lie?” she screams menacingly. Because everyone told me I wouldn’t make it in if I told the truth, I think to myself. I say nothing.

She calls her supervisor who interrogates me further. I explain that I didn’t tell the truth because I was trying to avoid the very unpleasant interrogation that is happening right now. He disappears for a while, presumably to internet search my name for affiliations. I have no idea how long I’ll be here or if I’ll miss my flight. The feeling that I don’t know the rules of the game or exactly what’s at stake is what makes the situation feel so terrifying. No one will tell me how long I’ll be here or what I need to do to prove my innocence.

He returns and tells a woman to search me. She orders me into an x-ray machine. She orders me to sit outside the machine. She orders me into the x-ray machine again. She orders me to sit. She orders me into a small room with a curtain. Two other women give me a pat down with a wand.

They spend about a third of the time with the wand on my breasts. The women order me to sit down and they leave. They return with the same wand and repeat the pat down. Lots of breast action. They order me to sit down and they leave. They return with a different wand and repeat the pat down. Lots of breast action. Some crotch. They order me to sit down and they leave. They return with the second wand and repeat the pat down. Lots of breast action. Some crotch. They order me to sit down and they leave.

They return and order me to sit outside. They wand all my belongings again. They tell me I can pack my things. My plane has begun boarding. I run through the airport to the gate.

At JFK’s baggage claim my luggage doesn’t arrive on the belt. The airline workers are profusely apologetic and perplexed when I tell them it’s not their fault and I don’t care.

Nicole Bindler’s choreography has been shown throughout the U.S., Canada, Argentina, Berlin, Tokyo, Beirut, Bethlehem, Mexico, and Quito. Her work has been supported by the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage, the Leeway Foundation, and the Puffin Foundation. She is a member of the adjunct faculty of the University of Pennsylvania, University of the Arts, as well as Temple University in Philadelphia. She is also a member of the Jewish Voice for Peace Artist Council, Mascher Space Cooperative, and writes for thINKingDANCE. She is raising funds for Diyar to tour to the U.S. in July 2017. Learn more about her work at her website.