Dance or Die

Artists in resistance

  • Films
The 2022 archive


The exceptional story of Syrian dancer Amhad Joudeh, who has turned his art into a bulwark against ISIS.

Dance or die © Witfilm


ARTE, the European public culture channel, celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2022! Aiming to bring Europeans closer thanks to culture and to innovative programmes that encourage reflection, it is more necessary than ever. To understand the great upheavals our world is facing requires analysis, decoding, and contextualising. It is in that state of mind that ARTE is supplementing the programme of the Festival d’Avignon with a series of screenings at the Collection Lambert dedicated to politically-committed artists.

Dance or die”: Ahmad Joudeh had those three words tattooed at the base of his neck, “where they cut off your head,” like a challenge to ISIS. With the war and the advance of the Islamic State in Syria, this young classical dancer who grew up between Palmyra and Damascus lost everything—part of his family, his house, but also the right to practice his art. Yet he turned dance into a weapon of resistance against barbarism. After videos in which he dances through the ruins of Palmyra went viral, the “Syrian Billy Elliot,” as he’s come to be nicknamed, managed to leave his country for the Netherlands, where he continues his training with the prestigious Dutch National Ballet.
It is this extraordinary story, which brings together art and political commitment, that Dutch journalist Roozbeh Kaboly retraces in this film shot over several years, following the young man’s odyssey. A poignant documentary which received an Emmy Award in 2019.


Documentary by Roozbeh Kaboly (Netherlands, 2018, 55 min)
Emmy Award 2019, in the category "Arts programming

Presented by Marie Labory (ARTE Journal)


Co-production Witfilm, NTR, Dutch CORE

Practical infos


Dance or die © Witfilm