Karmiel Festival 2009: Israeli Folk Dance and More

Events, Israeli Festivals

Karmiel Dance Festival

Karmiel Dance Festival.  Photo by Mati Elmaliach.

When many people hear the phrase “Israeli dance,” they think of Israeli folk dance.  And while the Karmiel Festival includes all sorts of dance done in Israel – including contemporary, jazz, and ballroom – it’s Israeli folk dance which forms the core of the country’s largest dance festival.

Shlomo Maman, who has been involved with the festival for ten years and took over the artistic directorship from Karmiel’s founder Yonatan Karmon, explained that the idea to have some mix of dance styles was present from the festival’s start in 1988.  “The main issue of the festival is the Israeli folk dances, but it’s very important for us to bring other groups,” he says.  “All meet together which makes this very big and very interesting . . . everyone will learn from the others.”

This year, the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company, Ido Tadmor, Rina Schenfeld, Vertigo’s second company, and a group of dancers from the renowned Paris Opera Ballet will make appearances at Karmiel.  Yet the bulk of the festival – which boasts 5,000 dancers and 80 events over a mere 3 days – is composed of concerts, competitions, and even classes in folk dance.

Karmiel Festival

Karmiel Dance Festival. Photo by Mati Elmaliach.

This year’s festival is built around a motif of song festivals.  For one folk dance competition, choreographers are creating dances to songs from the festival HaZemer HaYisraeli, while for a jazz competition, choreographers are using songs from the popular Eurovision contest.  Other choreographers are using music from a children’s song festival for a program of children’s dance troupes.

While the town of Karmiel is in the north of Israel, the festival is dedicating its opening performance to Tel Aviv in honor of the city’s centennial.  An extraordinary array of 1,500 dancers will be performing pieces that tell the story of dance in Tel Aviv, from the popularity of dance in old-time cafes and modern clubs to the pioneering efforts of Baruch Agadati, Mia Arbatova, and other teachers and choreographers.

Another highlight will be the closing performance, an annual tradition in which each folk dance group presents its best piece of choreography from the past year.  Like the opening concert, this will be a celebration on a grand scale, with 2,000 dancers participating.

As he prepared for the festival’s opening, Maman reflected, “What’s important is that people will come and will be happy and will have a good time.  I think if people come one time, they won’t stop – they will come again and again every year.”  Maman’s prophesy appears to be true: a whopping 250,000 people are expected to attend the 2009 Karmiel Festival.  Sounds like a good time indeed.

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One thought on “Karmiel Festival 2009: Israeli Folk Dance and More

  • B”H
    Can you send me links to their dancing on video, so I can see them from my computer? Thank you. Lovely photos.

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