In this Saturday, April 18, 2015 photo, Sean Scantlebury , left, and Adil Faraj rehearse at the National Centre for Culture and Arts in Amman, Jordan after training together over Skype for six months. (AP Photo/Sam McNeil)
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As a boy in pre-war Baghdad, Adil Faraj dreamed of becoming a dancer, inspired by a Michael Jackson performance he watched on DVD.Iraq's once vivacious dance community was gutted by violent sectarianism, including the emergence of Sunni and Shiite religious extremists who rejected many forms of art and threatened artists, said Waleed Shamil, a history professor in the town of Dohuk in Iraq's autonomous northern Kurdistan region.Baghdad, a city of 7 million, now has only three theaters for performances and one cinema.Faraj said Iraq no longer feels like home, though he returned to Baghdad this week to finish a law degree.In Baghdad, Faraj's parents are proud but said it was sometimes difficult to have an aspiring dancer as a son.Faraj continued dancing, and increasingly participated in the digital world that was his classroom, social network and creative outlet.A friend interrupts the traditional setting with a boom box, and the pair dance for two minutes.Another time, a hefty police officer caught Faraj and a friend dancing in a park.After six months, Faraj joined the New York dancers for intense practice sessions in Amman – preparing for his solo and for a performance with his two American mentors, Sean Scantlebury and Mira Cook.
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