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An oasis in Baghdad

The Baghdad School of Music and Ballet is an oasis in a city full of bloodshed, instilling a love of music and dance in young Iraqis. “You wouldn’t think we are in Iraq,” a teacher says. (Alexandra Zavis / Los Angeles Times)
Young dancers practice at the state-run Baghdad School of Music and Ballet. The ballet department has seen enrollment dwindle to 15 as it has had to fend off attempts by the Culture Ministry, which is controlled by Islamists, to shut it down altogether. “I am afraid that we are going to lose the art of ballet itself,” a teacher says. (Faleh Kheiber / EPA)
A teacher leads her young charges at the Baghdad School of Music and Ballet. Despite recent setbacks, principal Nadja Hamadi remains determined, noting: “Iraq is the cradle of culture.... These wars are only temporary things. We have to preserve our culture and start anew.” (Faleh Kheiber / EPA)
A musician works with her teacher at the Baghdad School of Music and Ballet. The school, which offers instruction in classical and Arab instruments, opened in 1968 under a modernization drive during Saddam Hussein’s early years in power. (Faleh Kheiber / EPA)
The Baghdad school is one of the few left in the Iraqi capital where children of all ethnic and religious backgrounds can learn together. (Faleh Kheiber / EPA)