Often reduced to figures and percentages in the media, Copenhagen is giving refugees a voice... through the medium of dance. Six refugees will take part in the ballet Uropa, to be presented at the Royal Danish Theatre from January 29, as Danish daily Politiken reports.
Named after a contraction of "Uro" – meaning "instability" in Danish" – and "Europa", the ballet is a show based somewhere between fiction and reality, giving performers a chance to speak of their past, their daily lives and what they imagine for the future. Stage director Christian Lollike explains:
"We speak a lot about refugees. If we're from the left, we often see them as victims. If we're from the right, we see them as people who are coming to take our property. It's interesting to see how they themselves see their situation."
Changing the face of refugees
The Danish director was surrounded by controversy back in 2012 for having put Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik's manifesto on the stage, despite criticism from the families of Breivik's 77 victims.
Lollike called upon the Red Cross to make contact with people to take part in the ballet. All ten of those contacted agreed.
But there are to be only six refugees on stage in January; two were forced to leave the country after their requests for asylum were rejected, another was arrested by police then expelled from the country, and the last was forced to flee to another country.
The remaining group, from Syria, Pakistan, Eritrea, Myanmar and Uganda, have been "asked to create a performance of their situation, life and future", according to the playwright.
Among those taking part is Muhammad Ali Ishaq, who in 2013 fled Pakistan due to his sexual orientation. He sees the experience both as a personal outlet and as a way to change the face of refugees to the general public:
"As refugees, we are all in the system for various reasons. But we are also in the same boat. We notice that the word "refugee" has negative connotations, that we're considered as a kind of parasite.
We are enjoying shelter in Denmark, and have many more advantages than in many other countries, but the image of refugees must change. I hope that the ballet will help this."