Circus News

A Women’s Circus School Is Growing in Gaza

If all goes as hoped, hundreds of Gazan girls will soon be swinging from trapezes.

“I FELT AS FREE ASa bird,” says Hend Al-Khodary.

Last October, the 22-year-old woman was working as a translator for Jennifer Higgins, 30, an Irish circus trainer who works as a consultant in Gaza for a psychological support project. During her free time, Higgins was training a group of young men at the Gaza Circus School—which has all male students, as the Islamic society requires gender segregation. The only circus school in Gaza, it’s an initiative implemented by young residents, and has been operating since 2011.

Higgins had always encouraged Al-Khodary to practice circus, but she refused. She had never thought she could do any circus movements, as she believed that circus requires a lot of flexibility and fitness. But when she tried it, she was surprised by her abilities.

“One day, we waited for the boys to leave the training hall, then Jenny helped me climb the circus silks,” she says. “The feeling was amazing.”

Al-Khodary invited two of her friends to join her in circus training at Al-Mishal Cultural Center in Gaza City. The circumstances were not perfect, with no electricity and a poorly equipped stage, but the young women were very excited to experience this art and to discover how it feels to be “flying high,” as Al-Khodary describes. “We felt flexible and creative.”

After two weeks of training, the Gaza Circus School organized a show at Al-Mishal Cultural Center, but Higgins and the three women were not allowed to perform. “Local authorities didn’t allow any girl to perform as it’s not allowed to have any kind of mixing at public events,” says Al-Khodary. “It was a big disappointment.”

Link to Full Article at Atlas Obscura.