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An interview with Victor GabayAdi Habad 9.11.10 

"The increase in the number of new dances should be taken into consideration"
An interview with the chairman of the Association of Folk Dance Instructors and Choreographers, Victor Gabay

Interviewer: Chairman of Israeli Folk Dancers Association, Adi Habad.

Victor Gabay, 49, dance instructor, choreographer, and happily married father of three, lives in a well groomed house in Beit Dagan.

How were you introduced to the folk dancing; how did it all begin?

I was exposed to folk dances at the Hanoar HaOved VeHaLomed youth movement where I had been very active as a guide. From time to time we had a visit from Ezra Cadir, an accordianist; we danced while he played. Afterward, I continued to dance at a school guided by Michael Barzily. In 1982, I went through a course for dance instructors at the Agricultural School in Camp 80 with Tamar Aligaon. Later, I danced in the dance troupe of Bat Yam and was asked to manage the Moetzet Hapoalim troupe. At our first performance, a gathering of hundreds of IDF officers, we won much applause and appreciation.

Where do you conduct your dance sessions?

I am currently running three dance sessions:
Monday – A dance session held at the Sportan (club) in Petach Tikva. It is a session intended for experienced dancers who know a wide variety of dances. The repertoire is very diverse and includes older dances, those touching on nostalgia, folk dances of the '90s and new dances. Couples dances are dominant in the dance session.
Wednesday – This session has moved from Neve Monson to Yehud. It is a very old session, stretching back 20 years. Naturally, the session has an atmosphere of a family and there are strong ties between the dancers and the dance session. The emphasis of the repertoire is on the middle of the road dances and new dances.
Thursday – The dance session has been held for the past three years in Bet Shemesh. It has a young and vibrant character. The style includes a variety of nostalgic dances, '90s dances, and fewer of the newer dances. The dancers in this session have a special love and devotion to Debka and line dances.
Complete details on Victor's dance sessions may be found on the Dancers Association web site at http://www.harokdim.org/search/choice.php [A.Ch] In addition to these sessions I organize marathons and other activities that are advertized by various media, including the Dancers Association web site.

We know that you are one of the Markidim taking part in camps abroad. Would you please tell us about them?

Indeed, I’m traveling to camps overseas. I must say that each camp has its own unique character and style. I go to camps in Toronto, as artistic director, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, Lille in France, Hungary, Switzerland, Germany, and elsewhere.

We hear from foreign dancers that dance sessions abroad are different in social and organizational aspects. Can you elaborate?

Yes, overseas, partners and circle rounds are relatively short compared with those in Israeli sessions. This enables dancing with several partners. Socially, I think it is amazing. The method was developed this way: at the beginning of the dance session dancers set with each other which round to dance together. It provides an exceptional solution for all the dancers, especially for those who have difficulty finding a partner because of the partner shortage. There is no doubt that this method also creates introductions between dancers within the dance session and contributes to the social relationships.

In Israel, too, there is also a serious problem of a finding a partner. Why not try that method here?

I know that there have been attempts in the past. Unfortunately, it did not succeed. I am personally very seriously considering opening a session with a pattern similar to that used overseas.

Do you have to bring only new dances or also old dances to camps abroad?

It depends. There are camps that insist that only brand a new dance is presented – that the dance was not presented earlier in Israel. There are camps where you can incorporate a dance workshop of older dances. There are jokes saying that some dances are choreographed during the flight to the camp. I do not know if this is true, but certainly this phenomenon "contributes to" the multiple versions of a dance.

As a dance leader, how attentive are you to their requests of the dancers in preparing the repertoire?

Each session I conduct has a unique repertoire.
I am known as a dance leader who makes the effort to accede to requests of the dancers. However, there are some exceptions. For example, I will not accept a request of dance when it is clear to me that the dancers do not know it and many will be forced to sit and not dance.
You are a respected choreographer. Many of your dances are well received and are expected to remain and become valued classics.
Not every dance I composed is registered, but I have composed a total of 200 dances. Some dances are good and some are danced less often. I do not push and promote the dances I compose. For me, the joy is in the creation. I refer to the dance as compositions for the enjoyment of all dancers and dance leaders-- take a gift from me and enjoy the dance. Many of the dances I have created are danced in Israel as well as in the camps held abroad.

What is your message to your present and future dancers?

I really love what I do and I devote myself to the enjoyment of the dancers. I'm very responsive to the requests of the dancers and do everything to make them leave the dance session with a sense of elation. Those who have not as yet danced with me are certainly welcome.

Let's continue with a question about your role as chairman of the Association of Folk Dance Instructors and Choreographers. What made you run for the chairmanship?

During the previous term I was the chairman of the choreographers committee. One of the subjects I handled was the registration of dances. During that period there were many social and legal problems within the association that made us look bad. At the same time, friends turned to me and asked me to run. They had faith in me -that I could make changes which were inevitable. I considered the matter carefully and decided to compete for the position in order to mobilize others and help change the situation.

What was the agenda and program of activity which you brought with you to the job?

First of all, my goal was to resolve the conflict with a group of friends who had disengaged from the association. To my great pleasure we were able to solve the differences and the problem by the cancellation of mutual claims. Today, we are one strong body representing folk dance in this country and abroad.
Another issue at hand is to solve the problem of copyright; federations and other music copyright owner’s rights groups demand royalties from us for the use of their music at our dance sessions. It is a complex issue and it is currently receiving intensive staff work.
Another area which I emphasize is dancing with the population with special needs. This group deserves to receive special attention and strengthening of their programs. This year we are going to open a training course for dance instruction for dancers with special needs. I believe that this will increase the number of dancers from this unique community.

There is currently a very harsh criticism coming from the dancers regarding the "flood of new dances.” I would say there is angry criticism from the vast majority of the active dancers. How are you going to put sanity into the existing chaos?

All new dance courses ("hishtalmuyot") are currently blocked because of new dance disagreements with music copyright owners and the federations. This has created a significant reduction in the number of new dances - although the number continues to be high. The issue is not simple because you cannot prevent the creation of new dances; and on the other hand, I agree that there is no room for so many new dances each year. The criticism from dancers who quit dancing because they are not willing to cope with the load of new dances, and criticism from leaders who find it difficult to cope with the pressures on them from all directions, has reached me.
The increase of new dances is a subject which we have to consider, and, suffice it to say, that much thought is being devoted to ways of dealing with this subject.

The bottom line- the last Karmiel Festival was successful. However, there were comments that require attention. How are you going to deal with the deficiencies?

Those who do nothing – are never wrong.
We had a debriefing meeting immediately after the festivals to draw some conclusions. For the next festival we are confident that all comments are addressed and we will do our best to produce a better festival.
Yet we must remember that the enemy of good is the best.

Why isn't instructor training done by the association? The goal is to maintain uniformity in the level of admission and graduation requirements in training of graduate instructors, isn’t it??

Training should be done by an educational institution recognized by the Ministry of Education. However, in order to raise the professional knowledge level of graduates' and maintain uniformity among institutions, the association has decided to determine the subjects of study and methods of teaching, including the syllabus. We will also determine the course entry requirements, including basic knowledge of folk dancing, expression, ability to stand in front of an audience and so on.
At the end of the training the students will take the same exam, and the same threshold of achievement will be attained in order to become an authorized dance instructor. Examiners will also be an independent professional body having been appointed; they will monitor the ability of graduates as they become dance leaders.
As you know, Victor, there is a long list of topics on the agenda that need attention. With this interview, we have touched upon some of them. Thank you for bringing to this conversation such a pleasant atmosphere; I would like to wish you, on behalf of the dancers and the Dancers Association, continued success in your role as chairman of the Association of Folk Dance Instructors and Choreographers. Your success is the success of all of us; we strengthen your hands in your work toward enhancing the pleasure of dancing in Israel and abroad.

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