Report from Israel

The 19th annual Karmiel Dance Festival was held from 10 to 13 October 2006. To be more precise, it began on Tuesday evening with a parade at 18:00 and ended on Friday morning at 6:00 AM.

Usually held in the heat of July, the festival was postponed until the Succot holiday due to the war in the north of Israel during the summer. The weather was among many factors contributing to an especially calm and enjoyable experience this year.   

The festival grounds cover several square kilometers in the center of Karmiel.  There are simultaneous open harkadot, professional and amateur performances, food and merchandise vendors, non-dance activities for all ages, promotional displays and all the support services needed.

The entire campus is secured and every entrance in guarded, as you would find anywhere else in Israel. 
The festival is a huge project, with year-round full-time staff.  Thousands of attendees require sleeping and hygiene facilities.  Home hospitality is available for NIS150-200 (~US$40.00) per night. 

Text Box: The Venues  The Amphitheatre has grassy area for some 30,000 attendees and a stage large enough for nearly 1,000 dancers.  The backdrop is hill typical of the Galil.  The stadium used for local outdoor soccer is fitted with a stage complete with lighting and audio.  Four adjoining full-size tennis courts are the site of the ‘open’ harkadot, where each hour from midnight until 6 AM, a different markid is in charge, under the supervision of an evening event producer.  Simultaneously, nostalgia harkadot are held at the mantas, in an indoor gymnasium, several hours each night of which are accompanied by live music.  Another dance venue is the roller skating rink where day and night outdoor harkadot, salsa and disco parties are held.  Situated above that there is the high school, where hundreds of dancers are accommodated and the new sport hall, where dance exhibitions and the folkdance contests are held.  There is Venger Hall, a new, air-conditioned performance venue where sing-a-longs and special performances are held.  There is the Karmiel Cultural Center where other professional performances are held.  Food and merchandise vendors, donkey rides, massages, the markidim tent, and more.

Many events occur simultaneously. 

Unfortunately, the schedules available are not organized by time, but by venue, so it takes a bit of calculating to get the full range of choices of events.  

I will attempt to describe how the time passes for a folkdancer, especially one attending from outside of Israel.

Upon arrival, one checks into sleeping facilities or sets up a tent.  Irgun members check in and receive ID tag and passes.  Irgun membership is no longer available on the spot.

Opening Night

Opening night is a televised event where the longtime Mayor of Karmiel, Adi Eldar, introduces dignitaries, including MK’s, sister-city delegations, major donors and, of course, Shlomo Maman, Artistic Director of the festival. 

This year, an honorary citizenship was presented to Arcadi Gaydamak. 
See:   http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3313875,00.html

Dancers and well-known singers, including Yehoram Gaon and Yaffa Yarkoni, fill the stage.  The show is closed by a fireworks display.  It was suggested by some, that balloons lit from below, would have been an excellent substitute considering recent hostilities.  Then the recreational folk dancing begins.

Into the wee hours

New this year on the tennis courts was a huge set of banners showing an ‘official’ Irgun list of some 900 dances from which the chosen markidim would attempt to play from and which would not be repeated over the course of the three evenings. 

There was even a short-lived attempt to place a tick mark by each dance. I had photos of this, but my camera disappeared the next day. 

Other than the Irgun logo, there was no attempt to list the origin of the list.  In my opinion, it is an excellent idea and I hope it will continue to develop. 

It is estimated that some 10,000 dancers are on the courts at 00:30.  By 02:00 or so, the crowd is a more comfortable 4,000. 

It is a particularly challenging surface.  Up at the mantas, the best of nostalgia filled the dance floor accompanied by live music. 

The best part is when the living choreographers join in.  In no particular order, Tamar Al-Yagor, Eliyahu Gamliel, Yankele Levy, Bentzi Tiram, Shoshana Kapelovitch, Yonathan Karmon, Yankele Dekel, Seadia Amishai, Marco Ben-Shimon, Shlomo Maman, Avi Amsallem, and so many others. 

Other dance venues fill with salsa, hip hop and disco.  At six in the morning, on the tennis courts, one might catch Gadi Bitton, Yaron Carmel, etc., dancing Debka Gid, Halvai Alay, Mechol Gruzini, Hamsa and the like.

Daytime events

Beginning at about 11:00 on Wednesday and Thursday, one will find many choices of dancing and entertainment. 

Stages at the cultural center, stadium, sport hall and Venger Hall are filled with dance and music of all genres, including troupes from abroad.  The skating rink and mantas have various permutations of folkdance; women-only, leaders from abroad, dancing with the choreographers, young markidim and international. 

Particularly good this year were non-stop debkas led by Yaron Elfassi immediately followed by a Teimaniada, where we even got to dance Eheye Asher Eheye (well, Eyal Levy and I danced in the center and several hundred dancers followed)!  In the late afternoon, children and parents dance together on the tennis courts.

Some years ago, the dance competition was moved to the sport hall where tickets are sold and entrance is controlled.  Prior to that move, the contest was held in the mantas, where there simply was not enough room for the dancers or the observers. 

In the current setup, celebrity judges including Nurit Hirsh (over 1000 songs composed) view 10 dances presented by amateur dancers.

The event is held in memory of Oshri Hever, an army aged youth who loved dance and was tragically killed in an auto accident.  His family participates in the event. 

Avner Naim did a superb job as emcee of the entire proceeding.  The judges vote on the spot and once the votes are collected, the choreographers are introduced to much applause. 

Some, though not all of the winning dances over the years, have entered the repertoire of regular sessions.  A dance that meets the criteria of expressing an Israeli ‘folk’ feel, may not translate well to the average dancer.  This year’s winner, Oren Ashkenazi’s creation Hora Shovava, is destined to be danced for many years to come.

There is also a choreography competition.  This is for performing troupes and performance pieces.  The winning group is often featured in the closing show, as was the case this year.  Barry Avidan placed first in this contest as well as second in the dance competition.

Wednesday evening’s big show was Ballet Israel’s production of Don Quixote.  Prior years have featured the National Troupes of Korea, Chile, Latvia and others.  Bat-Sheva and Bat-Dor have performed in past years.

Closing Performance

The closing show began with Adi Kedar announcing that he would NOT be awarding another honorary Karmiel citizen award, followed by much laughter.  More excellent choreographies by many artists were presented. 

The centerpiece of the show was a tribute to Shoshana Damari, a regular performer Karmiel.  The show closes with thank-yous, flowers and more than 1,000 dancers on stage and fireworks.

Of course, open dancing continues until 6:00.  Many choose to remain for a few hours in Karmiel to rest before the journey home.  In any case, the goal is to get home safely and sleep. 

Israeli Dances.com thanks Aaron Rosenberg of Netanya, Israel, for this report.

Aaron would be pleased to hear your feedback, comments and questions. 
Write to him at rakdan10@yahoo.com

About the author:
Aaron Rosenberg started Israeli Dancing in 1974 and has been a keen devotee since then.  

In 1981, he began an annual December tradition of hosting a dance event in South Florida for those who could not attend the Boston Folkdance Marathon.  In 1983, he started the tradition of a Veteran’s Day (U.S. - November) event.  Before the days of dance videos, Aaron regularly traveled to Israel, attended Hishtalmuyot and demonstrated the dances to Ruth Goodman in NYC the next day.  

Aaron went on Aliyah in 2003 and has recently opened "NostalgiaPLUS"

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