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Other visiting companies include Beijing’s Guangdong Modern Dance Company; Cia Brasileira de Ballet, Brazil’s classical ballet company, and, representing the United States, the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, which is on its first international tour in two decades. The tour was supported by the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, which maintains a sister-city partnership with Karmiel and Misgav.
While some companies in the United States have eschewed touring in Israel for political or security reasons, PBT’s artistic director, Terrence Orr, is looking forward to bringing his 20 dancers to Karmiel. “I feel that Israel is working on being really a free and safe society, and I think it’s a phenomenal experience to be able to be exposed to this,” he said. “A lot of people go to Israel with worries, but I’m not.”
Shalev-Fisher noted that the entire festival grounds will be sealed off and fenced and that attendees must pass through security checkpoints to enter. “For people who worry about those things,” she said, “they can be sure it’s secure.”
In Karmiel, the Pittsburgh company will perform choreographer Dwight Rhoden’s 2009 “Step Touch,” a tribute to the classic American doo-wop of the 1940s and ’50s, featuring a soundtrack by Charlie Thomas’s Drifters. “It’s a real American piece with a great feel,” Orr said. “I think the Israelis will like it.”
In addition to performances, the Karmiel Dance Festival features competitions for the best new Israeli folk dance and the best new Israeli dance choreography. There are also competitions in jazz dance and ballroom, along with “Hip Hop Starz,” which meets for the second time this year. There, crews of young Israeli street dancers decked out in T-shirts and baggy jeans will compete for top honors.
There’s more to the festival, however, than performances and competitions. Harkadot, or Israeli folk dance sessions, run virtually around the clock, some geared to special populations like wheelchair users and the blind. The city fills its tennis court with sand, and thousands dance until dawn, an ever-changing array of circle, couple and line dances drawn from a growing repertoire that would astound the pioneering generation of dancers. Many more people come to dance than to watch, Karmiel resident and festival photographer Alex Huber said.
A longtime business owner in New York who grew up in Israel, Huber and his wife, Shoshana, moved to Karmiel two years ago, partly to participate and volunteer at the festival. “A big part of it was the weather,” he said, but “a part of it was the dance festival and the nice people we met here.”
“Karmiel is not the Woodstock of Israeli dance,” said Melbourne, Australia-based folk dancer Aura Levin Lipski, who attended Karmiel two years ago and runs the website israelidances.com. “That makes it sound too disheveled. It’s more than that. It’s a true ‘People’s Festival’: every age group, every ethnic group, I think almost every disability and visitors from every corner of the globe come to Karmiel.”
“The idea is that all the people who are dancing will come to Karmiel,” said the festival’s artistic director, Shlomo Maman, one of Israel’s most prolific and prominent Israeli dance choreographers. “We will have more dances than the public can possibly dance. We dance from one morning to the next morning.”
Lisa Traiger is married to an avid Israeli folk dancer and writes on the performing arts from Rockville, Md.