Ballet survives in war-torn Iraq
Ballet survives in war-torn Iraq Students practice at the dancing studio at the Baghdad School of Music and Ballet in Monsur district in Baghdad (AP photos)
Ballet survives in war-torn Iraq
Lexile: 670L

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Ann Khalid did not feel well. But she insisted on dancing a brief scene with her classmates. The 12-year-old is determined to one day have a career dancing and teaching ballet. That's no easy path in Iraq. It's a country torn by conflict.

"My school and my church are the two things I love the most in Baghdad," Khalid said. She wore her black leotard and white ballet shoes.

If she has a shot at her dream, it's because of the Baghdad School of Music and Ballet.

The school has managed to survive decades of turmoil. Still, the violence is a part of daily life.

"Where else in Iraq can you walk into a school and listen to a small boy playing Antonio Vivaldi on his violin?" boasts the school principal, Ahmed Salim Ghani.

Male and female students take classes together. That is rare in Iraq.

"The second you walk through the gate, you find yourself in a different world. One of art and culture," Ghani said.

Amid the country's violence, many believe ballet is immoral.

The school removed its large street sign to escape attention. Children hid their musical instruments when out in public. Security has improved, but bombings continue.

The school now has around 500 students. But few are dancers.

Leezan Salam graduated this year. When she started ballet at the school, there were around 30 girls with her. By the time she reached 10th grade, "we were only three."

Khalid, the 12-year-old, says the moral questions surrounding dance don't dent her enthusiasm.

"My parents are happy for me to dance," she said. She's the daughter of artistic parents. Her father is an actor. Her mother a television director.

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