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Article: In the Slippers Corner with Rafi Ziv

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Raft Ziv Hosts the Givatron in Nes Ziona
Original date of publication September 5th 2010

A few months ago, a new dance session opened in the Nes Ziona Sports Center. The new session is under the management and instruction of Rafi Ziv who is considered to be one of the leading instructors and choreographers in Israel. The center itself is stunning in its quality and without doubt, it is one of the most beautiful halls for folk dancing in all Israel. The extraordinary environmental conditions include easy accessibility via Road 431, amazing air conditioning, the rich array of refreshments throughout the evening, plenty of parking, extraordinary maintenance of the hall by the hall manager and the maintenance staff, exemplary cleanliness in the restrooms, and more, not to mention Rafi's extraordinary repertoire. Hence, it is no wonder, that within a relatively short time the dance session in Nes Ziona has become one of the biggest and foremost in the country. On September 14, Rafi Ziv will be hosting the Givatron in the Sports Center in Nes Ziona. In honor of that occasion, I decided to speak with him, outside his session, “in slippers” (or dance shoes, if you wish).

Rafi, you are certainly aware of the great success of the dance session in Nes Ziona. What do you think has contributed to its success?

In my opinion, several elements have combined. First of all, for a long time there was no significant dance session in Nes Ziona. Second, the hall where the dance session takes place is really extraordinary - one of a kind. One must recall that dancers from different regions of the country attend the dance sessions and marathons which I lead; many of those dancers have chosen to come and dance permanently at the Nes Ziona session. To all these reasons, we should add my consistent experience in listening to the dancers and meeting their expectations. In my opinion, all these melded to create this success.

How do you choose and adapt the repertoire to the dance session in Nes Ziona?

I have come to know the dancers who frequent the session in Nes Ziona and I endeavor to refresh the repertoire all the time. I integrate “timeless” dances into the repertoire alongside relatively new dances, but all in a suitable dosage and with sensitivity to the enjoyment of the dancing public.

You speak about your being attentive to the dancers and their requests. How can you please everybody when some of them ask for the complete opposite from their friends requests?

First of all, this is a good opportunity to explain that I cannot please all the dancers all of the time. There are some for whom the air conditioning is too high, and at the same time, there are those for whom it is too low; there are those who ask for faster dances in order to expend energy, and there are those who at the same time ask for less hectic ones, etc. etc. I ask the dancers to show patience and tolerance towards their friends. For my part, I shall continue to do as much as I can to accommodate everyone.

You are not only a dance instructor but also a choreographer. What is your opinion about the large quantity of new dances and the fervent complaints by the majority of the dancers?

To my regret, I can only admit that the amount of new dances which are created every year is too great. This makes things very difficult for both the dancers and the dance instructors. It s is one of the reasons I hardly created any new dances last year. In my opinion, there needs to be some kind of mechanism to oversee the quantity and quality of the dances. We must not stop the creation of new dances, but we must somehow supervise the number and their caliber.

In addition to dance sessions, you hold very successful marathons throughout the year. What is the secret of your success here?

In the past, there was a tendency to organize marathons with a repertoire which included mainly well-known dances, aka "middle of the road" dances, as well as new dances. My guideline in creating my repertoire was first of all to think what I as a dancer would expect at the marathon. I went with my gut feeling and built a repertoire which on the one hand had simplicity, but on the other hand, I dared to vary and integrate more classic dances. In addition, I also bring to the marathons the great experience I have accumulated from my experiences in camps abroad. I am happy that the marathons which I organize are successful.

You mentioned overseas camps in which you participate. Tell us a bit about that.

I am invited to several camps abroad - in Europe, Australia and America. The camps last from two to five days. It is a fascinating meeting with dancers both from world Jewry and dancers who do not have any connection to Judaism or to Israel. It is an amazing experience which combines folk dancing at its best together with an extraordinary social interaction. One of the things which contribute to the social mixing is the short rounds and exchange of partners in each round, so that almost all of the dancers and almost everybody has a partner at some time. It is clear that the changing of partners has a positive effect and contributes a lot to the socialization of those attending the camp. More than once, I have wondered if it would not be possible to adopt this system in Israel as well. But at this stage, I do not think that it would work. I would mention that within the framework of the camps new dances are taught and classic dances are reviewed.

You chose to invite Hagivatron, a group which has become a symbol for expressing, in the most outstanding manner, the love of Israel, the connection to our roots, to agriculture, to the valley, and to everything representing the expression, "Beautiful Israel." The dancers will be pleased to learn of this special event. What have you planned for that evening?

First of all, I must mention that I chose to invite the Givatron precisely for the reasons you have enumerated. Furthermore, I have a personal connection to them. Not so long ago, I created a dance to the song, Givah Achat, One Hill, which within a short time became a hit among the dancers. Apart from this, I should mention that the members of the Givatron are a good match with the dance session and the dancers in Nes Ziona. As to your question, the session will begin as usual at 20:15 and we shall dance as usual for about an hour. Afterward, the Givatron will appear in a performance of their songs including their best hits. Later, we shall dance together with the Givatron to the sound of their music, becoming a festive dance session which will continue beyond the usual closing time.

Are guests who don't dance also invited to the event and the show?

Of course, all those who love the Givatron are invited. The guests may enjoy both the show and the dancing to the sounds of the Givatron's music. The hall is very big and contains a large number of seats. It is worthwhile mentioning that the Givatron is hosted under the auspices of the Mayor of Nes Ziona, Mr. Yossi Shebo, who will be our guest that evening.

How did you become interested in folk dancing, Rafi?

To tell the truth I studied music in my childhood and I played the trumpet in a brass band. During the performances I got to watch folk dancing. It captivated me very much; I really felt an internal happiness from it and I a wish to belong. I started to dance at age 18. Since then, until the present day, I have not stopped dancing. All the rest is history.

As we are approaching the high holydays, what message would you like to send your dancers and all dancers in general?

I would like them to know I love them a lot and I will endeavor to be considerate of their opinion and try to address their requests as much as possible. If, G-d forbid, I have offended someone, I absolutely apologize for that and ask for forgiveness. I turn to all those who have not danced with me in the past and invite you to come and visit. I am sure you will come away with a good impression, that you will enjoy yourself, and that many of you will want to come back again. To conclude, I would like to bless the dancers from Israel and Israeli dancers worldwide, along with their families, and wish them and the people of Israel an enjoyable holiday and a Happy New Year. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Irgun HaRokdim for its efforts on behalf of the dancers. I appreciated the tremendous voluntary efforts they make to publicize events and convey up-to-date information regarding dance sessions, marathons and other information which is important to both the dancers and dance instructors.

Thank you very much as well, Rafi, and good luck!

Interviewed and Submitted by: Atara Goldring-Tsur and Adi Habad
Translated by Maxin Cohen