Backflipping for freedom in Gaza, the Camps Breakerz Crew aren’t letting rubble-strewn pavements stop them dancing in the street. These B-boys and B-girls in occupied Palestine are headspinning and body rolling their way to hope, peace and positivity.
Living in Gaza’s Nuseirat refugee camp, Moh ‘Funk’ Ghraiz started Camps Breakerz in 2004 with his brothers Ahmed ‘Shark’ Alghariz and Abdullah ‘Jay’ Alghraiz. Moh had learned to breakdance at the age of 14, when living in Saudi Arabia, and taught his brothers the basics when he returned to Gaza. They practiced in their bedroom, in the street, or wherever they could find space – and soon found a crew of dancers to join them in finding a new way to feel free in occupied territory.
They dance to express themselves, to resist cultural stereotypes, and to break the boundaries they find themselves in. Most importantly, they bring breakdancing to kids living in the refugee camps and other war-affected areas of Gaza – so they, too, can find a different kind of freedom.
“Camps Breakerz Crew challenges the wrong impressions of the people of Palestine, since that is mostly what the media focuses on. We don’t teach dancing only, but also life and how to live freely in an open-air prison like Gaza. Imagination through dancing takes our students and ourselves beyond the borders, to reach far away.”
Their moves aren’t just an impressive feat of acrobatics. Their choreography is designed to express how oppression and conflict feels, creating a way of communicating a collective experience of war – and a way out.
“We dance for Palestinian unity, for ending division. We also danced for Women’s International Day, to show the importance of women in our community. We dance for breaking the siege on Gaza, by visualising the Israeli walls around the strip, and to spread awareness amongst our audience.”
After their dance centre was destroyed in the 2009 war, they raised $10,000 in 2012 to build a new one. Boys and girls of all ages are welcomed to weekly classes with trained instructors – giving them the chance not only to dance, but to escape the day-to-day difficulties and dangers of life in the Gaza Strip.
Next, the Camps Breakerz crew are looking to expand their crew of six. They’re seeking out B-girls in particular, and recruiting from all over the world – so that the Camps Breakerz message can spread beyond Gaza.
For Moh, creativity is a way to broadcast positive messages that can create powerful resistance:
“When we started the crew, we never thought we would have such a big impact and reach so far away. We basically started to make people happier and integrate dancing into society. Somehow this attracted politicians, journalists, and activists to us. We realised that believing in our talent and creativity was part of us having a global role. Any artist or talented person can do the same if they believe in themselves – they can stand up and successfully face greater powers than themselves.”
AtlasAction: Got moves? Get in touch from anywhere in the world if you’re a B-boy or B-girl interested in joining the crew. Or if you want to host a dance act with a difference, email Camps Breakerz to book them for an event. And to support the dance school, donate via their website.
FutureLeague interview ►Camps Breakerz was chosen to be part of #CultureFutures by Common Wealth – theatre that breaks the middle class mould, that celebrates the universal and the stories-less-told.
AtlasChart of the arts ► Check out Common Wealth’s Top 3 projects changing the world through breakdancing, trash-matching and the magic of orchestra.
Nature-geek, urban forager and all-round wordy sort. Freelance strategist and copywriter for mission-driven organisations. Often found reading while walking.
This project has been selected as part of CultureFutures, a new storytelling project that maps creative and cultural projects with a social mission – and the artists, collectives and entrepreneurs behind them.
Atlas of the Future is excited to join forces with Goldsmiths Institute of Creative and Cultural Entrepreneurship and the British Council Creative Economy.