Ballet in Iraq

April 15, 2014

In American and European cultures, ballet is typically viewed as a respectable art form, and you wouldn’t think twice about teenage girls taking lessons. But that’s not the case worldwide. The next episode of “Unreported World,” a series broadcast on the British network Channel 4, delves into the lesser known world of ballet in Iraq, where, according to the episode’s trailer, “simply going to school here can make [students] a target for religious fundamentalists who consider ballet little better than prostitution.” Public performances are out of the question because of ballet’s portrayal of women’s beauty.


Check out the two-minute trailer here to meet Leezan, a 17-year-old student at a music and dance school in Baghdad—the last remaining school of its kind in Iraq. Despite living in a war zone threatened by constant acts of terrorism, she continues to take daily lessons, even as her friends drop out. Though her technique may not be as advanced as students at many Western pre-professional academies, Leezan’s courage to pursue her passion in the face of danger is incredible. Her grit and dedication are traits all dancers should aspire to have, and her story is a reminder to never take dancing for granted.


The complete episode, titled “Dancing in the Danger Zone,” premieres this Friday on UK’s Channel 4, but you can stream it online beginning at 8pm GMT on April 18.