Leila Awadallah is the most recent artist to complete a Hinge Arts Residency for Springboard for the Arts.
She is a Palestinian American artist who dances, choreographs and teaches. Recently, she has been working on developing her own dance practice called Body Watani.
In a recent conversation about her work, Awadallah described the meaning of watani. “Watani means “my homeland” in Arabic. It’s often used in Palestinian artistries, poetry, and conversations about what our homeland means to us as Palestinians and how charged our relationship with the notion of home and homeland is, living from a context of settler-colonial occupation,” she explained.
When creating body watani, she spent time reflecting on her Palestinian roots and questioning what it means to be a Palestinian living in the United States. Her goal is to create dance that comes from those explorations and questions.
Body watani allows participants to use their movements to reflect upon their relation to land, people, place and lineage. She invites dancers to use their body as an instrument to connect with history and memory. “If my body was my home,” she asks, “what does my body know and remember?”
Most of Awadallah’s art focuses on populations who have a charged relationship with the concept of home, but she also touches on the importance of movement for all people. She invites everyone to experience the healing aspects of movement and understand the importance of using our bodies to express and explore deep emotion.
After spending much of her time this past summer developing the pedagogy and structure of body watani through various workshops, the Hinge Arts Residency gave Awadallah time to recharge, “It was a place to rest and reset a bit,” she said, “learning more about the community and feeling the river; spending time moving in different places — it was a very soft reflection period.”
“There are a lot of inspiring folks here who reminded me that there is so much love to give,” said Awadallah, reflecting on her time in Fergus Falls. “I think that having artists come to a community and share what they have also sparks new ideas. When we sit together and we talk about our work or our dreams or our inspirations, we affect each other.”
More about Awadallah’s work can be found at www.leilaawadallah.com.