Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Largest and Smallest Dance Recitals

Our spirits soar when we take to the dance floor, gliding and leaping, twirling and flying for even a split second. We are off the ground and our soul feels the freedom and the exhilaration of the birds in the heavens.
Last week I had the opportunity to see the heart and spirit of one of Judea and Samaria's largest dance programs and one of its smallest.

The town of Kiryat Arba is a dynamic hub of activity for those communities south of Gush Etzion and north of Beer Sheva.
I joined hundreds of women in Kiryat Arba for the tenth anniversary production of "HaRikud", the Center for Dance in Kiryat Arba/Chevron. Under the direction of Esther and Assaf Meirom, "HaRikud" is dedicated in memory of Esther's mother Tzvia Blumenthal, o'h, who was the first dance teacher in Kiryat Arba.
Esther told the audience that the strongest memories she has of her mother are centered around dance. "Her art and her dance were a major part of who she was." When Esther's mother passed away a decade ago, she and husband Assaf founded a dance program to allow girls to learn modern, class, jazz, hip hop and gymnastics in a supportive and spiritual dance community. The school began with 50 girls and today has 350 students.
More than 260 girls from Kiryat Arba/Hebron and the surrounding towns - from ages three to 20 - took the stage in Kiryat Arba's Matnas. Dressed in outstanding costumes that displayed a beautiful modesty not often found on the dance floor, girls of different ages and levels of performance danced together on stage.

Most dances had a delightful mix of styles and skills that contributed to the performance's uniqueness and feeling of warmth. My eyes filled with tears as I watched 14 year olds lift and twirl little six year olds in their bright red skirts.
Knesset Member Tzippy Hotoveli sat right in front of me during the performance. She told the audience that when she told her friends at the Knesset that she was going to KA/Hebron, they asked, "What happened? Is there a hafgana (protest)?" When she explained that she was going to a dance recital, they wrinkled their brows at her.

MK Hotoveli said, "I'm very impressed by this recital, because there's a certain spiritual air. You are bringing culture to life in this historic place. Our purpose within the Jewish settlement is to bring it a soul. Dance brings such happiness."
She continued, "Chassidut looks at dance as one of the finest ways to become closer to Hashem. The Baal Shem Tov asked, 'Why is dance so important? It's one way for a person to lift himself off the ground.' Tonight's performance is also an opportunity for everyone to elevate herself through dance."
The MK was very moved by the unity she felt among the women and girls dancing. She commented, "There is in no other place in Judea and Shomron that has such a strong a school for dance."
Yes, indeed the recital of "HaRikud" was massive and moving. The choreography was excellent. The girls were exuberant and well-rehearsed. The entire production was impressive in scope and quality. Kol hakavod to Esther and Assaf Meirom on this mammoth production. I felt fortunate to have participated.

Small in Size, Great in Heart

Then I had the exceptional opportunity to attend one of the smallest dance recitals in Judea and Samaria.
The town of Meitzad in Eastern Gush Etzion is one of the Etzion's bloc's smaller communities, and yet it is also a very active town with religious and cultural activities for all its residents – young and old.
Last week Meitzad's girls and teens – ages six to 16 – performed in four different groups. They didn't have a budget fancy costumes or any costumes, but they all looked adorable in black and white with different colored sashes.
The teacher, Dassie Goldstein, worked separately with each age group through the year. Kol hakavod to her on her tremendous effort!! The children absolutely loved learning to dance. Dassie taught each group its own dance for the recital. The youngest dancers were adorable, the middle children were evidently thrilled to dance and very serious about their steps, and the oldest were just great. The smiles on everyone's faces showed the audience of mothers and sisters how joyful the dancers felt. The audience felt the same.
And strange as it might seem, I myself felt moved – perhaps in a different way – by the tiny dance troupe as from the mega-dance production.
Yes, the dance worked its charm in both groups – elevated all those who experienced the performances in a swirl of joy and soul.

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