The Epic of Hora Eilat on the Great Continent of North America |
I was recently sent to work in Montreal, Canada and while there I planned to dance. It has been a week since I returned to Israel and recovered from jet-lag; now it’s time to tell about my dance experience on the great continent.
Peter Smolash, Montreal - Monday
The first harkada I attended was at the JCC in Montreal on a Monday. The group was led by a dear man named Peter Smolash. Before leaving Israel I had called Peter and told him I intended to visit his harkada and he guided me to his session. When I arrived in Montreal I contacted one of the dancers and she picked me up from my hotel and took me directly to the harkada. I would like to thank her for the transportation. She was also a great dancer and we danced together later that evening. Peter's session was held in a fairly large air-conditioned hall. Not too many people were there compared with the harkadot I am used to in Israel, but there was a great atmosphere. When I have arrived, Peter enthusiastically greeted me, introduced me and told everyone I was visiting the country; he asked me to make a list of my favorite dances and even made sure to play some of them during the session.
Peter energized his dancers and combined old and new dances in the repertoire of that harkada. That evening Peter taught Debka Baba, the dance that won first place in Karmiel Festival this year. I enjoyed Peter's temperament and easiness. I liked the way he combined new and old dances, and the fast with the slow dances. I enjoyed meeting many new friends with whom I keep in touch.
It should be noted that the harkada ends at 11 o’clock, so you had better get there by 8. I was not used to going dancing at those early hours, but I adjusted. Although the session ended at 23:00, dancers stayed and kept chatting for another hour. Many thanks go to Peter and to all the charming dancers from JCC Harkada.
P.S. Peter also leads another harkada during summer, on another day; check with him a few days in advance for details. Address of the session: YM-YWHA, 5500 Westbury Avenue; it may be reached by subway; the station is very close by.
Everyone who plans to go to Montreal, jump to this harkada, it is well worth it!
Maurice Peretz, Montreal - Tuesday
On Tuesday, I jumped to the harkada at Montreal Mountain, yes I said mountain. The harkada takes place by a lake, at the top of the mountain, in the open air. It should be noted that the weather is very variable in Montreal; if there is rain, as it happens in August, the harkada might be cancelled. Luckily the weather was on my side that night. The harkada is held in a place with an amazing view and it was fun to dance there.
Maurice is an experienced dance leader in Montreal. I remembered that from when I attended his session 25 years ago when I visited Montreal for the first time. Maurice combines old and new dances very pleasantly; he demonstrated five dances which he intended to present in an up-coming competition.
Of course, Peter and some of the friends I had met the previous night were at this session which also ends at 11pm. We decided to go somewhere with a nice atmosphere and get to know the dancers better. The atmosphere reminded me of the old days and of the cafe after the Tel-Aviv University harkada. I said goodbye with great sorrow to Peter, Diane, Bonnie, Joel, Beatrice and the other nice company and even invited them to visit me on their next trip to Israel.
Maurice’s session at Mount Royal can be reached by car. Contact Maurice for directions. When using train, take line 11; but it is a bit complicated.
After my time in Montreal, I was in Cape Cod and the White Mountains for a week of vacation until I reached Massachusetts and the harkada in Boston.
Rafi Gottesman, Boston - Monday
I have known Rafi and his partner, Susan, for several years. They visit us every time they are in Israel. Rafi, together with Ronnie Efrat, lead a harkada which begins at 7:30. The harkada is held at a synagogue in Brookline (near Boston) and continues until 1:00 AM. They begin with one hour of partner dances, then a round of beginners, and then rounds of circle dances and partner dances. The harkada combined lot of old dances with new ones. The room had no air-conditioning. During the year it would not be so bad, but in August we were sweating badly. However, the fun of the Rafi's repertoire and the diversity of songs featured, helped to ignore the amount of sweat pouring out of us.
In advance, Rafi arranged a dance partner for me; Ronnie, the dance leader, was a great partner! I met several dancers I already knew from harkadot in the northern Israel, but who had moved to the US for work. There was such a diverse population of dancers: Israelis, American Jews and American non-Jews, amazing! I was very impressed by the instructor who taught a dance that night; Latishya Steele was an amazing dancer; she knew all the dances - believe me I know.
I was taken to the harkada by my dear friends, a couple with their children (brother and sister from Tapuz forum, LOL). Prior to dancing, they introduced me to a great nearby Thai restaurant, one which I strongly recommended.
Again, at the end of the evening, it was difficult to leave the pleasant company. Thanks go to you Rafi, Ronnie, Susan and the couple and their children who facilitated my visit. If you're in Boston get there if you possibly can; you'll enjoy it; I really did.
Harkada address: Kehillat Israel 384 Harvard Street, Brookline, MA; the recommended form of transportation to this harkada is by car.
Gabi Gabay, New York - Wednesday
I was in New York for two days and went to the harkada of Gabi Gabay. Let me tell you, I did not expect such a surprise. During my previous visits in New York I visited several harkadot, and I remember that I was not especially pleased by any of them. I arrived at the session after a long walking tour of about 12 hours in this amazing city. The harkada was being held in a dance hall use for ballroom dancing.
When I arrived at 9 pm Gabi received me with great warmth. He knew in advance I planned on coming and to my surprise I met dancers there that used to dance in Israel. They had disappeared - probably because they moved to New York. It was like meting dancers I have not seen since Technion or the University of Haifa.
The repertoire left me speechless. I am familiar with many harkadot in Israel and must tell you that this session is professionally led by Gabi and Ido. It's just a great harkada by any standard, and the repertoire is just like it is in Israel. Gabi combines old and new dances; the dancers are experienced and great dancers.
It was hard to get used to the idea that each round you change a partner, but I did. That is how it is in the US. I had the opportunity to get to know more people.
Snacks are provided and the harkada is at a high level. They have a great idea that should be adopted at sessions in Israel in order to reduce the amount of glasses being thrown away at the end the harkada; anyone who has a drink writes his name on the glass, and that way you can come back to the same glass again and again.
I understood that this session is quite new. It began last April. I estimate there were, at the peak, about 100 to 150 dancers. That is a large harkada in terms of sessions outside of Israel. What made the harkada special was Gabi’s leadership and the experienced dancers who knew the repertoire well.
I was glad to find that some dancers from the Montreal Harkada had come to New York. This made a perfect celebration for me. I did not want the time to pass and the harkada to come to an end. When the session ended at 1am, we went to end the evening in a cafe, staying there until the wee hours of the morning. I almost did not sleep that night. Who has time to sleep at all when abroad?
In short, if you're in New York, first plan to be there on a Wednesday. Then rush to this harkada; come with lots of energy and some extra shirts for replacement. You are sure to come out with a lot of adrenaline. The harkada is superb; I understand that it is famous in many places around the world.
Thanks to Gabi Gabay. I wish him success along the road. And thanks to Rani, Diane, and Rob who came from Philadelphia; thanks to the girls who came from Mexico; thanks to Hemi, Gabi, Ilana and others I got to know and who are, of course, welcome to visit me during their visit to Israel.
Address: 29 West 36th St. between 5th and 6th Ave. Manhattan. Accessible by subway.
After two incredible weeks of combining what I most love to do, dancing and hiking, (and well, some work too) I had to go back from the North American continent to Israel. I was sad to leave but still quite happy because I was returning to Israel where we have the biggest camp of folk dances: every day offers so many places to dance!
Thanks again to everyone who took part in this interesting experience. If you happened to be overseas, not necessarily in the places I have mentioned, you should try to go to dance. It's fun and it brings people together.
And now that the jet-lag is over, I can say, let's get back to normal life.