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Fly Leezan from Iraq to the U.S. to Fulfill Her Ballet Dream

Organized by: Mary Fernandez

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EVENT DATE Jun 30, 2014

THE STORY:

[Please watch the video of Unreported World's "Dancing in the Danger Zone" to the left]

Iraq is a dangerous place for a ballet dancer like Leezan, who is fighting to keep the art of classical ballet alive against the "rising tide" of sectarian violence in Baghdad.

Reporter Evan Williams (of Channel 4's Unreported World) says Leezan is one of the two last ballet students at Iraq's only music and ballet school. Each day, Leezan risks her life by crossing Baghdad to reach the school. Not long ago, Leezan's close friend and a musician at the school, Ali Nouri, was killed by a car bomb on his way to school.

Religious extremists believe that ballet is a sin, calling it "another word for seduction." It has not always been this way in Iraq; the Arts, especially ballet, used to be appreciated. Now, the students and teachers at the ballet school live in fear of being bombed–unable to hold public performances or tell anyone that they teach ballet–and the students are dropping out.

Leezan believes that there has to be a place for this beautiful art. Her dream is to perform, but that is impossible in Iraq. At the very least, she hopes to continue her passion for ballet by teaching at the school, but her teacher there says her chances of that are very slim. Leezan must either leave Iraq, or she can forget about ballet... forget about her dream.

Leezan's courage to do what she loves in the face of danger is a great lesson for all of us. Therefore, as a gesture of friendship and gratefulness to Leezan for her work to preserve the art of classical dance in Iraq, the Willis Ballet (a 501C (3) Texas Non-Profit Corporation) has granted Leezan Salam a $10,000 SCHOLARSHIP to study with one of the world's leading authorities on classical ballet, Professor Emeritus Peggy Willis-Aarnio. Leezan's training will begin at the 17th Annual International Teacher's Congress of Prof. Willis-Aarnio, held at the Harmonic Motion School of Classical Ballet in Rockwall, Texas this July, 2014.

Ms. Salam has graciously accepted the "Hands Across the Sea" Scholarship (which includes private classical ballet training and 4 courses on how to teach classical ballet). Now we are seeking funds for her and her father's airfare and hotel accommodations while she is in the U.S.

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Mary Fernandez

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