Dance or Die: From Stateless Refugee to International Ballet Star

Imagine. Sept. 2021. 240p. ISBN 9781623545130. $24.99. DANCE
Born in a Palestinian refugee camp in Syria, Joudeh eventually performed ballet around the world. In this stirring memoir, he describes a childhood filled with music and art, and his life-changing discovery of ballet. Though his father believed dancing was an inappropriate pursuit for a boy, Joudeh continued to dance, with the support of his mother. After enduring physical and emotional abuse from his father, Joudeh attempted suicide in his late teens; at 22, after receiving death threats from ISIS for teaching dance, he had “Dance or Die” tattooed on his neck—a message to potential executioners. In 2014, Joudeh attracted attention when he was featured on an Arabic version of So You Think You Can Dance; then Roozbeh Kaboly’s 15-minute documentary about him caught the eye of the Dutch National Ballet, which Joudeh eventually joined in 2016. His artistic success, contrasted against the Syrian refugee crisis, is riveting reading that offers a unique view of the experiences of displaced people.
VERDICT An important story about the transformative power of the arts, and the generational struggles of being a refugee.
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