LeilAwa [Leila Awadallah] is a Palestinian, Arab-American dancer, choreographer, filmmaker and cultural activist based in Minneapolis, Mni Sota Makoce and Beirut, Lebanon. She holds a BFA in Dance and minor in Arabic Language and Literature from the University of Minnesota. LeilAwa founded the project: Body Watani (body-as-homeland) and is developing an offering of Arab Rooted Contemporary dance, both of which engage with dance forms, rhythms and rituals of SWANA, ancestral memories, and embodied reflections on settler-colonial occupation and indigenous resistance.
LeilAwa’s work and research has been supported by Jerome Foundation, Springboard for the Arts, Arab American National Museum, Mizna, Lebanese National Theatre, Amalgam, Camargo Foundation, Cedar Tree Project, Walker, Rhythmically Speaking, Threads Dance Co. and SAGE. Leila danced with Ananya Dance Theatre, performing locally, nationally, and internationally in Ethiopia, Palestine and India; is a founding member of Kelvin Wailey, 3wadallahs and Solidarity Rising; and a collaborator with Theatre of the Women of the Camp.
LeilAwa (lay-luh-wuh) merges my gifted name, لیلى , with my family lineage, عوض اللھ , to embody a self that is both rooted in histories and becoming into futures. I dive deep into intersections of arts and activism, beginning with body and breathing outwards to examine the ways dance engages with human rights, invites healing, invokes critical thinking, and physicalizes practices of decolonizing our bodies / lands through re-membering and re-imagining. This emerging project: Body Watani is a pathway, a container with soft edges, space for artists / peoples to reflect on this notion of body as a site of living homeland. Through this fellowship, I will take steps to establish Body Watani as a project-based dance company split between Minneapolis and Beirut, building community, creating workshops, growing collaborations, and initiating the company’s first full piece, Terraena: hakawati of the sea. As well as prioritizing Arab, SWANA, and Mediterranean dance / cultural / political studies. SWANA [South West Asia and North Africa] is a decolonial term used when referring to the ‘Middle East’ or ‘Arab world’ (which is not all Arab) to locate geographically rather than ethnically.