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Article: In the Slippers Corner with Gila Paz

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Gila Creates a "Goldmine" of Folkdance
This time we met with Gila Paz, the dance instructor whose name means “gold” in Hebrew. She has created dances which have become leading hits in all the sessions all over Israel. Gila exudes a personal charm with tranquility, pleasantness and humility. She is welcomed on every dance floor with applause. Her special dances, which bring great enjoyment to the dancers, are Quizas (Perhaps), Gan Chorpi (Winter Garden), and Besheket Kazeh (This Type of Quiet.)

Gila, where did all this start?

I was born on the religious kibbutz, Nir Galim, and as early as the age of seven, I found myself dancing and appearing at kibbutz events. Eventually, I got married and went to live at Masuot Itzhak. I had three children, divorced, remarried; presently, I am married to Shai and live in Hod HaSharon. Along the way, I left the religious world. I am a graduate of the Adler Institute and I earn my living from through coaching and cosmetics. However, I continue to be actively involved in “folk dancing for the soul.” Now you have a short version of my CV-in one breath!

Tell us about your love of folk dancing.

I have been a fan of folk dancing as long as I can remember and eventually my hobby became my great love. As far back as my childhood, I gyrated on every possible dance floor with great enjoyment and with a feeling of great satisfaction. About thirty years ago, I attended a dance instructor’s course and actively led dance sessions for kindergarten and older children in the Ashkelon region. I had 5 groups a week and I found myself going to and from the groups teaching dances, creating choreography for events, and organizing mass dance sessions and large events, as I was asked to do for festivals and for other various occasions. This became a sort of private madness, a type of vocation and contribution to society and the community, and never for money at all.

How are you involved in folk dancing today?

Today, I am involved in folk dancing just for the fun of it; I lead a session at Sde Boker, where my daughter lives. Once every two weeks, I hold a dance session there (which is really for her.) I have a close knit group of friends; weekends we come together for folk dancing and workshops. The group’s common denominator is the love or folk dancing – especially for a particular repertoire. From time to time I substitute for Tuvia Tishler. Naturally, I continue to create folk dances for which I have received positive feedback.

Since you have already touched upon this subject, what is the secret to the enormous success of the dances you create?

A dance is born from a song that I hear - a song which touches my heart both by its words and melody. In fact, I do not choose the song, the song chooses me. The song must effect me; it must give me the feeling that I am joined to its words, its rhythm and the charm it expresses. It is no secret that a good dance will succeed if the song supplies the strong foundation, the positive infrastructure upon which the whole building will be constructed. The quality of the dance is very important for me; the creation of the dance steps is made with great care and effort to make the dance flow and be integrated into the beat. The steps should express, as much as possible, the words as well. I am never in a hurry; I don't have a problem investing as much time as it takes. Even then, in order to be sure and at one with myself, I consult colleagues, famous veteran choreographers, asking them to express their opinion and contribute from their experience. One such choreographer is Tuvia Tishler and I want to take this opportunity to thank him for his help.

The great investment of time, as you described it, is not consistent with the flood of new dances which confronts us.

That's right. In my opinion, a very large number of new dances are being created at the present time; it seems the whole matter has spiraled out of control. I have no doubt that the quantity comes at the expense of the quality and, at the end of the day, this adversely affects the whole field. We have reached a situation where hundreds of dances are created every year and most of them disappear after a relatively very short period.

Don't get me wrong, we must create new dances because they are the breath of life of renewal, of refreshment, and excitement. But, to my great sorrow, we are not far from a situation where it will not be possible to go from session to session because the repertoire will be so different between sessions; this may cause the dancers to lose the will to continue dancing. Already today, there are quite a few dancers who have left folk dancing because they cannot keep up with the pace of new material. When, G-d forbid, someone misses a few sessions due to mourning or illness, and finds it very difficult to return and learn all he has missed, his frustration can lead to his leaving for good.

What do you think should be done in order to overcome the situation you describe?

The only way I can think of to overcome such a situation is to restrict the number of new dances in the first place. In my opinion, it is perfectly reasonable to permit a choreographer to create a small limited number of dances every year. In this way, a choreographer can operate an internal filter and circulate his best dances, according to his own personal taste.

In your opinion, are there dance instructors who feel "compelled" to create dances in order to be "in"?

If there are any instructors like that, that is unnecessary in my opinion. Let us take for example Shimeon Mordechai who without doubt is considered one of the best dance instructors in Israel. Wonder of wonder, he is considered one of the best instructors yet he does not create new dances. On the other hand, there are choreographers who create excellent dances, but do not lead any dance session.

It is mainly the young instructors who think if they do not create new dances it will be difficult for them to integrate and become an established leader. However, I am not sure that this is true. To sum up my words on this topic, we must have some kind of regulation, and for everyone’s benefit, the sooner the better!

We have witnessed the warm reception you receive at many sessions. How does it feel to be given such a welcome?

Without doubt it is a very pleasant feeling. It is recognition by the dancing public of the great investment I have made and awards a "quality stamp" acknowledging the quality of the dances I have created. I have been invited to visit several dance sessions all over the country in order to teach my dances and dance together with the dancers in the center of the circle. The storm of applause and great warmth I receive really warms the cockles of my heart and gives me a feeling of enormous satisfaction.

Why do you not lead your own dance session?

At the moment this is not on the agenda. I very much enjoy what I do and the way I do it, without my being committed to a schedule, or to any obligation whatsoever. I won't say that it has not been considered at all, but at this moment, it is not on the agenda. Who knows? Maybe it will happen one day.

We have very much enjoyed speaking with you and getting to know you better. We hope you continue to enjoy what you are doing, in your own way, and that we shall all be lucky enough to enjoy beautiful dances from your workshop - dances such as those you have created until now. If the dances you generate in the future are in the same quality format you have described, we have no doubt that they will be successful. We would like to wish you continued enjoyment from your activities and deeds and, of course, see you soon on the dance floor!

Interviewed and Submitted by: Atara Tsur Goldring and Adi Habab