The Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company: Travel Journal

Israeli Companies, Photo Journals

Bruchim Habaim LeKibbutz Ga’aton – Welcome to Kibbutz Ga’aton, the home of the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company

The Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company has enjoyed a strong presence abroad, including a performance at Central Park SummerStage in July 2008, so some of you may have had the good fortune of seeing this energetic group perform.  But you may not know about the company’s unusual background.  As its name suggests, this troupe is based not in a city but on a kibbutz.

What exactly does that mean?

To find out, I traveled north last year to observe the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company in its natural habitat.  I first published this photo journal of my visit to Kibbutz Ga’aton on The Winger and on Dance In Israel’s beta version this summer.

* * *

I almost didn’t make it to Kibbtuz Ga’aton today.  After finishing my morning Gaga class in Tel Aviv, I found out that the train was not running from Hadera to Haifa, and I needed to get even further north.  But as they say, when there’s a will, there’s a way!  I caught a ride to the bus station in Tel Aviv, hopped a bus to Haifa, picked up the train from there to Nahariya, and then jumped in a cab to Kibbutz Ga’aton in the Western Galilee.

Why make the effort?

This wasn’t merely an outing to a beautiful part of Israel. Kibbutz Ga’aton is home to the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company, one of Israel’s oldest and most renowned modern dance companies. When the taxi pulled up to the kibbutz and I saw this sign outside the company’s office, I exhaled and smiled. It took me several hours today – and more than nine months in total – but I finally made it here!

The kibbutz movement in Israel has undergone a lot of change in recent years. While the kibbutzim used to function in a socialist framework, with everyone working on the grounds and sharing income equally, many of these communities have abandoned the traditional model. On Kibbutz Ga’aton, which has changed with the times, the building which housed the old communal dining hall is being renovated – and new dance studios, such as this one, are being created. Company dancers rent housing on the kibbutz, and though in the early years they labored on the kibbutz like other residents, now they work full-time as professional dancers.

The Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company was founded in 1970 by Yehudit Arnon, who moved to Kibbutz Ga’aton in 1948 after surviving the Holocaust and studying dance in Europe.  Under her direction, the group – known in Israel as the “Kibbutzit” – performed works by leading Israeli and foreign choreographers.  The company toured all over the world and has the posters to prove it!

As I followed the strains of piano music past these posters and into another set of studios, Yehudit – who still serves as the company’s artistic adviser – poked her head out of her office and invited me to watch a bit of the company’s ballet class.  It was a wonderful surprise to meet her and a great treat to see the dancers warming up.  But for what, may you ask, were the dancers preparing? It was 4:15 p.m. when I spied them doing petit allegro!

At 5:00, the company was scheduled to do an open rehearsal of Rami Be’er’s newest work, 60 Hz, which will premiere next week at the opera house in Tel Aviv.  Rami was born on Kibbutz Ga’aton and, as Yehudit proudly told me, he studied dance with her when was a young boy.  A former dancer with the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company, he has been its artistic director and primary choreographer since 1996.

I went next door with Yehudit to a small, new theater for the open rehearsal.  Residents of the kibbutz and company staff members filtered into the space, and many of them came over to Yehudit to exchange warm hellos and hugs.   We settled into front row seats and readied ourselves for the run of the dance – which, as with the other works of Rami’s that I have seen, combined highly athletic choreography with visually stunning sets and beautifully designed lighting.

Since the open rehearsal I saw this summer, 60 Hz has been
performed throughout Israel.  The Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company
will bring this production to the Suzanne Dellal Center in Tel Aviv
from December 29-31.

Todah rabah to Racheli and everyone who helped make my schlep to the north well worth it!

* * *

You can learn more by visiting the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company’s website and the website for the Galilee Dance Village, an evolving project which will make Ga’aton an even more vibrant center for dance in Israel.   And as always, visit Dance In Israel again for more articles about KCDC coming soon!

*This post was made possible thanks to a Fulbright student grant funded by the U.S.-Israel Educational Foundation and hosted by the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance.


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