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A Veteran Dancer’s Viewpoint of Karmiel Festival 2009 Danny Ben Shitrit 29.8.09 

The three days of Karmiel Festival have come and gone; the annual celebration has been concluded. Festival organizers can show signs of relief while they look backward with pride. Indeed, there is a lot to be proud of! The festival went off safely and soundly with the teams assigned to the various activities performing their tasks in the best possible manner. The hundreds of thousands of visitors, who filled the town, undoubtedly enjoyed a charming, well maintained and welcoming place, a place where Karmiel citizens lived serenely in concert with the festival. We know that three days in which a town is packed with so many dancers and visitors are not to be passed at ease. The festival brings with it a whole host of problems: sufficient parking, augmented municipal control, access limitations, huge queues in shopping centers, and frequently, the unbearable noise of dance sessions lasting until dawn. At the same time, three days of festivities stimulate both the day and night life of the town and boost the local economy. Karmiel providers and residents deserve our appreciation for their endurance and understanding. For their efforts, Karmiel Festival positions the town of Karmiel as the Capital of Dance and Folk Dancing in Israel.

Karmiel 2009 was different from the Karmiel of past years. Indeed, the opening and closing ceremonies in the amphitheater were exceptional as a result of the wealth of knowledge and experience of the producers and organizers gained from prior festivals. Thanks to the progress of frequently changing and improving technology, we have moved many steps forward. The dance groups are professional, having invested a considerable amount of time and financial means to achieve perfection both in the dancing itself, as well as in artistic settings (those of us who had the opportunity to see “Noah”, know what I am talking about). While this kind of progress is often taken for granted, we should remember that today’s festival, for which Karmiel is host, and to which an estimated 400,000 dancers and visitors come from all corners of the county and abroad, is the result of 22 years of accumulated experience.
The main difference from previous years is the joining of Irgun Harokdim (Israeli Folk Dancers Association) with the activities in Karmiel. The Folk Dancers Association defined a goal of improving elements related to Israeli folk dancing not only from the point of view of a dance instructor but also from the dancer’s standpoint. The main concerns are: nourishing the heritage and tradition of local folk dancing, controlling the quantity of new dances introduced, improving the physical conditions in dance sessions (dance surface, limiting sound loudness, safety, and air-conditioning), and keeping entrance fees at a fair and popular price level, for example. And the difference caused by their involvement could be felt. Karmiel is now a better place for the dancers than it used to be in the past.

The first point achieved was a price reduction for entrance to the main events; instead of the 40 NIS as last year, Karmiel 2009 was 10 NIS. In my opinion, the festival is earning more this year than in the past, thanks to this meaningful discount. This seemingly paradox is simple to explain.

When the price stood at 40 NIS, many visitors sought a way to enter the events without charge – for example, through all kind of “invitations” which were sent in large numbers to organizations, city counsels and other related people, which in turn forwarded those invitations to their friends and relatives. When the price dropped to 10 NIS, and invitations became very limited, nobody felt the need for an invitation or bothered to get one.
In addition, there were more venues selling tickets, and the fact that the Folk Dancers Association voluntarily performed ticket sales encouraged the entrance to the main event through pre-paid and paid tickets.
The lack of invitations, the ease of accessibility to tickets, followed by the lower ticket price, eliminated the need for man power to handle this logistic.

Another point is the fact that steps had been taken to improve the contentment of dancers in dance sessions. This year there were more sessions in closed air-conditioned halls and an additional air-conditioned hall was opened.

The scattering of sand over the hard tennis field surface significantly improved the dancing ability; attention should be paid to the fact that the increasing dust in the air caused breathing difficulties and eyes irritations to numerous dancers. This issue needs to be addressed before the next festival.

Undoubtedly the cooperation between the Falk Dancers Association and the Folk Dance Instructors and Choreographs Association, was a main factor in the improvement of conditions in Karmiel. As a result of the efforts of the Folk Dancers Associations, both the instructors and the dancers realized their common goals: to turn the dancers into full partners in the various dance sessions, partners in decision making for the sake of the financial compensation of the instructors as well as for the enjoyment of the dancers. It is a new day. It may have once been convenient for the instructors to not have an organization in front of them which represents the rights of the “other side”. Today there is a partner organization which asserts the well being of its members and whose needs are similar to those of the instructors’ association. Continued constructive dialog and mutual appreciation will improve the current situation. The instructor/dancer relationship should not cease when the dance session is concluded, but continue with long lasting connections of respect and appreciation. I believe that both associations should sit together to manage the current and urgent issues, such as the number of new dances to be introduced in the sessions, efforts to increase the number of dancers, and to urge the Ministry of Education and Sport to recognize folk dance as a unique and important element of the present Israeli culture.

For the future of the Karmiel Festival, an important point both associations and the municipality of Karmiel need to discuss is the scheduling of the festival season. The current time of year is not convenient, to say the least. In fact, the extremely hot weather is oppressive to the festival dancers. The difficulty to rehearse, as the result of the long time gap between the end of school and the beginning of the Festival, resulted in this year’s lack of performing children and teenagers, a deeply felt phenomenon. Serious consideration should be given to a change in scheduling the festival to dates either earlier in late spring or postpone it to Sukkoth holiday as it was just three years ago. (The festival had to be postponed because to the second Lebanon war). The time of year turned out to be wonderful, to the pleasure and enjoyment of the participants. It is a shame to not make use this holiday and have our festival during much more hospitable weather.
Bravo to both the Dancers and Instructors Associations for their effort and achievements in making Karmiel 2009 a success.
There is a great deal to be done, let’s join forces and get to work on the next festival. See you next year.


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