Dancers on Tour: Pittsburgh Performs in Israel

November 28, 2001
Day three in Israel was a busy one! We had an early bus call to Karmiel to explore and get something to eat before class. The area was like an upscale suburb in the States with tree-lined streets of shops and little gardens. Most of the signage was in Hebrew so it was hard to tell what each store held until you peered inside. My favorites were the small, locally-owned shops with delicious smells of fresh-baked bread wafting through the doorways and fruits and vegetables piled high.


After, we took class, my husband and I had a radio interview with a station back home in Pittsburgh, and we did a short rehearsal. Then we took a look around the festival. There’s a large bazaar set up in what is normally a soccer field with tents hawking everything from cheap sunglasses (Ray Dons!) and air chairs to hand-made jewelery and clothing. I think Eva Trapp won the best souvenier award with a gorgeous hammered silver necklace. Dance truly takes center stage here. Several former tennis courts are cordoned off for public dancing. We had another radio interview, this one with the Israeli army radio, a popular station here and a whole audience of onlookers was snapping photos outside the window of the trailer from which the show was being broadcast! One of our docents, Maya told us that many people from the Karmiel area return home to catch up with family and old friends during the festival since everyone comes. The festival worked it’s reunification magic on us as well when we bumped into an old friend whom we had danced with in Boston Ballet 15 years ago! He was now dancing with a company in France that is also performing at the festival. It was so strange to come upon a familiar face so many miles from home.


Various local dance groups led a parade through the streets. A lot were dressed in folk costumes and were singing and chanting. When the sun went down around 9 pm, we watched the opening performances of the festival in an outdoor amphitheater under the stars. Around 8,000 people were scattered across the vast lawn on blankets and chairs—young and old, families and couples, dancers and non-dancers. The show opened with a high-energy contemporary piece with a folk dance flavor. There must have been at least 60 dancers on the stage, all moving in unison to live music.  


Yesterday, our first performance day, we met the mayor. Pittsburgh and Karmiel have been building a cultural relationship as sister cities for the past 12 years. We arrived at the beautiful, modern municipal building and were escorted upstairs and into a wood-paneled boardroom where the mayor welcomed us. We also met many people responsible for coordinating our tour and various Jewish cultural foundations. Everyone was friendly and you could tell that they were extremely proud of their town. We learned that Karmiel was only founded 47 years ago, but the mayor felt it could be a model for all of Israel with it’s history of peaceful coexistence with the neighboring Arab villages. After lunch, it was to class at the studio and then our first look at the theater. There had been a performance by the Brazilian ballet company just before our rehearsal and the crew and production staff were scrambling to get our lights and cues hung and programed before our rehearsal and performance at 8 that night. Then they were going to have to break that down and re-set the Brazilians set-up once again for a 10pm show!


The rehearsal was the first time we got to hear the two Israeli musicians who were going to be accompanying our company pianist Yoland Collin in playing Beethoven’s “Ghost Trio” for Mark Morris’ Maelstrom that was the first on our program. It sounded amazing.


What a performance it was! All the dancers were especially energized to be here, thousands of miles from home, in PBT’s first international tour in decades. The audience responded with generous applause and they were quick to start clapping along with the music during Dwight Roden’s Step Touch. The end of the show brought many curtain calls. It was a tremendous kick off.