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Identity & Exchange

June 6, 2016

Leila Awadallah’s journey at the College of Liberal Arts has fueled her two passions: dance and her Palestinian identity and culture. A dance major with a professional position in the renowned Ananya Dance Theater, Leila has nonetheless challenged herself academically, noting, “The more I have spread out and put a lot of pressure on myself in different academic ways has ultimately energized me.”

As Leila began to explore her artistic voice and identity she felt it was necessary to deepen her understanding of being a Palestinian, Arab-American woman in the United States. She took on a minor in Asian languages and literatures (which houses Arabic studies) and today her dances are inspired by everything from the curves of Arabic texts, to Palestinian short stories, to imagery in Arab films. She credits her favorite class, Palestinian Literature and Film, with giving her not only historical and artistic context, but a sense of bravery in her work.

That bravery has won her acclaim. Her self-choreographed solo was featured in the University of Minnesota Dance Program’s spring dance concert and her piece “Almost But Not Yellow” has been selected for the American College Dance Association’s National Festival to be presented at Washington DC’s Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in June. Leila’s work was one of three pieces selected for their outstanding artistic merit to represent the North Central region. Artist adjudicators described the work as “a sophisticated, richly-layered work that invites you to discover it. [It] is full of enigmatic imagery that enhances its choreographic body.”