"Do I dare disturb the universe?"
~T.S. Eliot

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Holidays in Israel, Gaga and fun in Tel Aviv

My time to write is suddenly diminishing, it seems, amidst an increase of rehearsals, holidays, and trips...I'll write first about the holidays.  About a week ago, following on the heels of Holocaust Remembrance Day by a week, was Memorial Day in Israel.  The very next day is Independence Day.  I wasn't sure how this would play out...I understood that the mourning for the fallen soldiers turns to joy and celebration, but to me it seemed strange to have them so close together.  But being here, living through it, made me understand.

The evening before Yom Hazikaron, Memorial Day, there was a ceremony on the kibbutz to remember and honor the soldiers from Kibbutz Ga'aton that have been killed in action.  It was a beautiful, but also emotional ceremony, as the images of the four soldiers' lives were captured in photo montages.  I danced in a little piece we were asked to put together.  It wasn't much, but the kibbutz members thanked us and seemed very grateful for our contribution.

The next day, on Memorial Day itself, there is a siren at 11am for 2 minutes.  We had class that day and were in the middle of ballet class.  My teacher wanted us all to be able to observe the siren, so we stopped after adagio, collected ourselves, and many of us went outside.  This siren is twice as long as the one for the Holocaust Remembrance Day, and standing there for the full two minutes felt simultaneously strange but right.  Anyway, the siren was nice to observe, but I didn't realize how much it jostled my thoughts until we reentered the studio and it was suddenly time for pirouettes.  I had no balance anymore.  I couldn't turn.  And I barely knew what the combination was.  I think it was during petite allegro that I actually left the studio....Since the siren, I really wasn't "there" anymore.  I took a few minutes for myself on a bench outside before returning for the rest of our classes that day, finally feeling somewhat collected again.

I don't know why most of us don't observe Memorial Day this sincerely in the US.  I guess it really shouldn't be a day for BBQs...It's really a day that we should remember, appreciate, and honor those who have fought and died for their country's right to exist...(regardless of political affiliation!)  Especially here in Israel, sovereignty is something that many people still question, and there are rockets and terror attacks to prove it; people here are still fighting and still dying.  The memories are fresh, and I see and understand that level of observance here.

Later that night, there was to be a ceremony/celebration to ring in Independence Day.  This is what I was wary about, because I wasn't sure what to expect, and I couldn't believe that casting off the mourning attitude and changing so rapidly to celebrating would be....respectful.  Well, I was proved wrong, because the ceremony was amazing and explained...everything.  Bonfires burned underneath structures that seemed to spell out words and shapes.  After some speeches, the ends of the metal words were lit afire by torchbearers, and the shapes burned and blazed...a star of David, a menorah, and Hebrew celebratory phrases...also a plea for Gilad Shalit to return home (kidnapped and held by Hamas for 5 years), a wish on which it seems nearly all Israelis are united.  It was truly moving.  Later in the ceremony, candles were lit by pairs of people, each couple representing a different group of kibbutz member (the older generation, the new soldiers entering the army, different groups of workers, and of course....two MASA dancers representing KCDC and the Dance Village!!).  We cheered so loudly, and the mood began to turn to celebration.  At the end, we sang Hatikva (the national anthem), and I felt proud to be one of the dancers who knew the song...so many thoughts and emotions at this moment!  And so we continued the night with much celebrating...The next day was a full day off of class, and we were invited by Roni, our program administrative director, to her beautiful house for a delicious BBQ.  I won't be home for the 4th of July, so this totally fulfilled my yearly quota for a fantastic Independence Day. :-)

View of the Mediterranean from one of the Batsheva studios
So...fast forwarding again to this past weekend, which I spent in Tel Aviv...I ventured out of the Galilee region for the first time in many weeks, for an almost vacation-like, much-needed break.  I took two back-to-back Gaga classes, which was wonderful.  The first class was a Gaga-People class I took with my friend Eldar, which was a great warmup to Gaga-Dancers, which directly followed.  In the first class, the teacher used a considerable about of Hebrew--most was translated into English, but I was really excited because often I could figure out what he was talking about even before the translation--I know body parts, directions, and certain adjectives.  So that was fun.  This class was a great way for my spine to start to feel mobile, my body awake and alive, and to remember how wonderful it is to be moving and grooving, in Tel Aviv of all places.  The Gaga-Dancers class didn't differ from a People-class as much as I would have expected...it just used some ballet terminology, and was a bit more physically rigorous by the end.  Regardless, both felt excellent.

Corner of Nachlat Binyamin, Shuk Hacarmel, and Allenby, central Tel Aviv
The remainder of the weekend was spent with good friends...Eldar who I met in Gaga class in 2008, my dear friend Abra from home who did the MASA program last fall and is now living in TA, a friend/very distant relative who I stayed with when I lived in TA three years ago, another good friend, fairly recently released from his Intelligence Officer duties who I briefly dated, when I lived in TA, and many fellow dancers who also ventured to the city.  Besides running around, being a little crazy trying to see everyone, I also made time for relaxing on the beach, reading at a cafes (one had live jazz), drinking a lot of delicious iced coffee, going out for sushi and thai food, and walking my favorite parts of the city (the shuk (market) and arts/crafts fair).  ::Sigh:: My favorite city!

I am so excited because my parents will be here in a WEEK!  And I will take them around Tel Aviv and show them all my favorite spots. :-)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Dancing in Memoriam

Yesterday was Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel, called Yom Hashoah.  We had a day off of classes, but I woke up in time for the siren that sounds at 10am.  Even though we were up late the previous night in tech for our performance until 11, I wanted to observe the siren properly (i.e. not in bed), since this would probably be my only time to experience something quite like this.

So I walked to the front gate, passing only a few people along the way (though the kibbutzniks that I did pass seemed to be outside their houses or places of work, perhaps also preparing for the siren).  The sound went off just as I was approaching the gate, and I stood for the remaining of the 60 seconds (that represents the 6 million) at the road junction.  It was so strange...I saw nobody, heard nothing but the siren expect for one truck that probably couldn't hear it go off.  After it ended, I heard the echoes of other sirens dying down, the sound slightly distorted, from other towns.  And then--silence--and chirping birds.  Next, I saw a few cars pass that probably had been stopped on the highway where I couldn't see.  And then the day proceeds...

It would have been a totally different experience if I had been in Jerusalem, or some place where traffic comes to a standstill and everyone comes out of their houses/cars and observes that minute.  I was a bit disappointed I couldn't have had this experience, but at the same time, it was special to observe in my own quite kibbutz-like way.  I also reflected, after the 60 seconds, that here in Israel, we always talk about the 6 millions.  I feel like it's crucial to remember that there were 5 million others....gypsies, homosexuals, dark-skinned, handicapped, etc. that were also killed, not for any reason at all, and killed by other humans....ugh...I can learn about it so many times and it never gets any easier.

Then, last night, we also had a performance at the kibbutz called Lochmei Hagetaot, which means "Ghetto Fighters' House."  It is a kibbutz that was founded by Jewish resistance fighters during the war, and every year, there is a large ceremony on Yom Hashoah (perhaps one of the biggest ceremonies, second to in Jerusalem at Yad Vashem).  We performed a section of Aide Memoire, KCDC's famous Holocaust memorial piece by Rami Be'er.  The experience ended up being truly moving for me, one of the most meaningful performances I've ever been a part of.

I admit I was possibly more nervous beforehand that I have ever been in my life, before a show.  There were so many crazy factors to this performance that made it quite...interesting...and the tech the night before a little terrifying.  The stage setup, mostly, is what made it so crazy.  In this piece, a train of walking dancers that we call the "snake" weaves around while highlighted dancers exit out of this snake to dance combinations.  The snake, for this show, was walking on elevated boards, that were at times a bit shaky.  The dance combinations happened off of the planks, on the main stage, which was actually just made out of stone or at times was vaguely gravel-like.  There were also art pieces dotting the stage, constructions of wood that cross liked a twisted cage or something.  We performed in gym shoes so as to not get hurt, and we also had to make numerous last-minute alterations due to the space.  To add on top of this, the lighting was a bit intense, with lots of colors and strobes that were pretty distracting to me.  I asked Mika if she could talk to the lighting people to tone it down, but she said she already did and the lighting cues were programmed to the music and apparently couldn't be changed...

Anyway, I went into the show feeling pretty nervous about how it would all go down (on Israeli national  television).  I also was feeling pretty emotional, in the spirit of the Holocaust--the stage backdrop constructions were all reminiscent of cages and fences--and the screens were displaying scenes of trains to the death camps.  What really hit me was the night before at tech, Mika told us when we run (and there is a lot of running in the piece), to "run like there is no tomorrow, like you are heading to the gas chambers."  I gave an involuntary shudder when she said that, and it really drew home the meaning of the piece for me.  In fact, Mika is generally full of inspirational quotes that I attempt to remember.  Right before going on, she said, "There are a lot of young people in the audience, they are the next generation that needs to remember what happened.  Everyone is speaking with their words, but we are speaking with our bodies....showing that we are here and we are here to stay."

I didn't even have to try to channel all this emotion into my dancing.  It was already there.

Many of us ran off stage feeling that we messed up, lost the counts, or were thrown off by other unexpected occurrences (a man walking on stage and reading a speech in the middle of our dance while our audio was turned down...).  Most of us felt like it was a "big balagan" (big mess)....But when we saw the video, we realized how together it actually was, and how, despite technical issues, we really were feeling each other in the spirit and in the movements.  I really feel honored to have been a part of something so special and important, in Israel.

Here is the video (sorry, poor resolution)...

"I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides."
~Elie Wiesel