Ahmad Joudeh

Dance or Die

Ahmad Joudeh

Dance or Die


Ahmad Joudeh - Story in Brief

The beginning

Ahmad Joudeh was born in 1990 in Yarmouk, a Palestinian Refugee Camp in Damascus, Syria. Since his father is a son of a Palestinian refugee, Ahmad Joudeh was born as a stateless refugee, although the mother is Syrian from Palmyra.

Ahmad Joudeh became fascinated about dancing when he saw a ballet performance for the first time in his life at the age of eight. Ever since, to become a dancer was his dream. 

Ahmad Joudeh with Albina Belova, his teacher

Enana Dance Theater (2006-2015)

At 16, totally self-taught, Ahmad Joudeh auditioned for the main Syrian ballet company, Enana Dance Theater in Damascus, and was accepted. There he was trained in ballet, gymnastics and modern dance.

His mother supported his dream of becoming a dancer. His father disapproved. Because of this disagreement, his father left the family.

Ahmad Joudeh travelled extensively with the company in places including Qatar, Algeria, Tunisia, Jordan and Lebanon.

The home of Ahmad Joudeh and his family was destroyed by a bomb, 29 December 2012.

The civil war in Syria

The civil war in Syria, which broke out in 2011, had devastating impacts on the life of Ahmad Joudeh and his family. Five of his relatives lost their lives. Ahmad Joudeh and his family lost everything, as their home was destroyed by a bomb.


Photo: Anouk van Tiel

"Dance or Die" - Tatoo on the neck

Ahmad Joudeh encountered not only life-threatening situations, but also constant threats by extremists simply because of his dance activities. As declaration of his determination to keep on dancing, he had the words Dance or Die tattooed on the back of his neck, the spot where the blade would be applied in case of execution. For Ahmad Joudeh, to dance is to exist. To give up dancing was not an option.

"So You Think You Can Dance" (SYTYCD) in Lebanon (2014)

Ahmad Joudeh was invited to participate in the Arab version of "So You Think You Can Dance" (SYTYCD), a TV dance competition, in Lebanon in 2014. He became a known dancer in Arabic world with the prominent performances. He was told, however, that he would not win the final because he is stateless.

See Dances 2014 - SYTYCD.

SOS Children's Viillages Syria (2014-2016)

Witnessing a child killed in a battle, Ahmad Joudeh decided to work for children orphaned in the war. He joined fundraising activities for SOS Children's Village Syria and held dance lessons for the children of their villages.

Higher Institute of Dramatic Arts, Damascus, Syria (July, 2016)

Ahmad Joudeh graduated from  Higher Institute of Dramatic Arts, Damascus, Syria, in July 2016.

He completed the study and training in dance and choreography.

2016.01.25 the contemporary exam



Yarmouk Camp © Documentary ‘Dance or Die’ - Roozbeh Kaboly (Witfilm/NTR)

Reportage 1 by Roozbeh Kaboly on Dutch TV (August, 2016)

Ahmad Joudeh became known to outside the Arab world through a reportage about his life in Syria under the civil war made by Roozbeh Kaboly, a Dutch journalist. The reportage was broadcast first on 6 August 2016 in the Dutch National TV news programme Nieuwsuur of NOS. It was shown in many countries afterwards, including UK and France. 

The reportage includes Ahmad Joudeh's dances for the souls of those who had lost their lives in the civil war at the Roman amphitheatre of Palmyra, a UNESCO World Heritage. This was probably the last art performance at this theatre before it was destroyed later in the year.

Reportage1 by Roozbeh Kaboly.

Ahmad Joudeh in Amsterdam (© Documentary ‘Dance or Die’ - Roozbeh Kaboly (Witfilm/NTR) )

From Syria to Amsterdam (October, 2016)

Touched by watching Reportage 1, Ted Brandsen, the Director of the Dutch National Ballet, organised The Dance For Peace Fund, which invited Ahmad Joudeh to The Netherlands. Ahmad Joudeh moved to Amsterdam in October 2016.

Reportage 2 by Roozbeh Kaboly

Roberto Bolle and Ahmad Joudeh

Private Lesson by Roberto Bolle (November, 2016)

In November 2016, Ahmad Joudeh received a private lesson by Roberto Bolle, the international star ballet dancer whom Ahmad Joudeh admires as his idol. 

Article with Video
le Repubblica
Roboert Bolle said:
In November I was at the Dutch National Ballet and they told me that there is a Syrian boy who wants to meet me. We met, it was Ahmad: he was trembling, he was crying, he was excited. Then he revealed everything to me and it was moving for me.

This article includes a video of the private lesson. 


Ahmad Joudeh and his farther (© Documentary ‘Dance or Die’ - Roozbeh Kaboly (Witfilm/NTR))

Reunification and Reconciliation with his father (November, 2016)

Ahmad Joudeh visited his father at an asylum seekers centre in Berlin, where the farther was staying after fleeing from Syria. After 11-year long separation, they were reunified and made reconciliation.  

Reportage 3 by Roozbeh Kaboly.

Ahmad Joudeh as a priest in Coppelia at Dutch National Ballet

"Coppelia" - First Stage at the Dutch National Ballet (December, 2016)

Ahmad Joudeh made his debut at Dutch National Ballet in the production of “Coppelia” in December 2016.  

Reportage 3 by Roozbeh Kaboly

"One in a million", 23-25 June 2017, Geneva

"Dance or Die", 20 July 2017, Paris

"Sacrifice", 5 October 2017, Geneva

"Sacrifice", 8 May 2018, Coucy

"Sacrifice", 20 June 2018, Brussels

Dancing beyond borders (2017-)

Since 2017 Ahmad Joudeh has been active as a dancer not only in The Netherlands but also in other countries within Europe (France, Switzerland, Norway, Spain, Italy, Denmark, and Belgium) and UAE.
See Agenda and Dances.

His story was reported around the globe.
See Media.

He has also been active in supporting Syrian refugees. 

New Year Show with Roberto Bolle on 1 January 2018, 21:25 on Rai 1

Ahmad Joudeh danced with Roberto Bolle to "Inshallah" sung by Sting himself in a TV programme "Danza con me" of Rai1, 1 January 2018, 21:25.

A teaser ad with a message of Ahmad Joudeh

Inshallah (Roberto Bolle - Danza con me)
Registration to RaiPlay.it is needed.
It is free of charge.

2018.01.01 Inshallah

See Agenda 2018.01.01

Together in solidarity, Brussels, 20 June 2018

UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award, Geneva, 1 October 2018

UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award Cweremony, Geneve, 1 October 2018

Dance4Life, Milan, 28 November 2018

Dance4Life, Milan, 28 November 2018

For refugees and their children (2018)

Ahmad Joudeh contributed towards raising awareness for the situation of refugees and their children.
The majour contributions in 2018:

A charity show for children in Syrian by SOS Childrens' Village Italy
Milan, 28 November 2018
See Agenda 2018.11.28

Together in Solidarity
An event hosted by European Parliament and sponsored by UNESCO Brussels Liaison Office
Brussels, 20 June 2018, UN World Refugee Day
See Agenda 2018.06.20

Nansen Refugee Award Ceremony of UNHCR, The UN Refugee Agency Geneva, 1 October 2018
See Agenda 2018.10.01

Autobiography “DANZA O MUORI” (Dance or Die) (2018)

On 6 November 2018, an autobiography of Ahmad Joudeh, “DANZA O MUORI” (Dance or Die), was published by DeA Planeta Libri, an Italian publisher.

For more, see Book "DANZA O MUORI”.

"Lik og Del" (Like and Share) (2019)

In the first half of 2019, Ahmad Joudeh works for Kilden, a theatre in Kristiansand, Norway, for the production of "Lik og Del" (Like and Share), in which he takes one of the main roles and contributes as a choreographer. (See Agenda 2019.02.22-04.27)

International Emmy® Award to Documentary "Dance or Die" (2019)

On 25 November 2019, one of 2019 International Emmy® Awards, one in the category of Arts Programming was awarded to a documentary “Dance Or Die” by Roozbeh Kaboly, a Dutch journalist, featuring the life of Ahmad Joudeh from July 2016 to October 2017: his life in Syria under the civil war, his travel to Amsterdam in October 2016, and his life in Amsterdam.

Documentary “Dance Or Die”


Announcement by The International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences 

Our best days are yet to come

Under the pandemic (2020)

In May 2020, Ahmad Joudeh created a video message expressing his prayer for better days after the pandemic.

While the performances were cancelled, he prepared for the publication of an English version of his memoir "Dance or Die".

Dance or Die Foundation

Nationality, Eurovision, Foundation, and Memoir (2021)

In February 2021, Ahmad Joudeh obtained Dutch Nationality. In May 2021, he performed at the intermission of second Semi-Final of Eurovision Song Contest organised by European Broadcasting Union, EBU.
See Agenda 2021.05.20 

In the same month, a non-profit organisation Dance or Die Foundation was established with Ahmad Joudeh as the Artistic Director. 

In September, the English version of his memoir "Dance or Die" was published. 
See Book "Dance or Die" 

The Song of the Bird

World Economic Forum (2022)

In May 2022, the image of Ahmad Joudeh dancing to "The Song of the Bird" was projected onto a huge screen behind Yo-Yo Ma and Emanuel Ax playing a Catalan folk tune about freedom at World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2022 .