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

Monday, February 6, 2012

Reflecting on the Dance Village, Kibbutz Ga'aton, Israel

Exactly a year ago, I arrived in Israel and began a journey....the MASA Dance Journey to study with Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company in Israel.  Here, I became inspired in unthinkable ways and worked harder than ever before. Keeping this journey and the people I met in mind as I continue along, in dance and in life.

I distinctly remember panicking as the cabin doors closed, once I boarded the plane.  I started to cry, and had trouble breathing.  I've never felt so trapped before...too late to chicken-out, like I was seated in the car of a roller-coaster, right after the safety bar was clicked permanently into place.

After I breathed some Tel Avivan air, fresh off the Mediterranean for a few days, and then got settled in my little room with my awesome Australian roommate on Kibbutz Ga'aton, I realized there was nothing to be afraid of (except, perhaps, preparing to begin a program that was harder and more exhausting than anything I had ever been a part of before).  I  began a new life, in a new home, and it was more illuminating than I imagined it would be.

It was here that I danced all day in a gorgeous studio overlook the green Galilean hills, learning from teachers who were fierce dancers and amazing people.  They pushed me to work, dance, think, and sweat harder than I ever have in my life.  It was, at times, extremely rigorous, and tears occasionally accompanied my aching muscles....and ice packs, Icy Hot, ace-wraps, my trusty foam roller, homeopathic creams, and NSAIDs.  But in the end, I was inspired, always inspired to keep learning, keep dancing, and work ever-harder.  I came out of the program a more technical dancer, a faster study (picking up choreography was always past struggle of mine), and even more more inspired and confident with the craft.

I met amazing dancers from 15 other countries that became my family.  We shared stories and cooked foods from our home countries, helped each other through rough rehearsals, inspired creation of choreography, and provided a look into the life of a fellow dancer from across the world (which was often an incredibly similar life, and yet simultaneously vastly different).  Many of us were living completely on our own (meaning financially, too) for the first time, and we helped each other through the new responsibilities (and freedoms) that that allows.  Some of these friends I hope to remain close to for the rest of my life.

I created a piece for our Nitzotzot concert (our choreography showcase, meaning "Sparkles") about long-distance communication, keeping in touch, and technology.  This was inspired by Skype and how video-chatting was such a huge part of our life on the kibbutz.  Spending our free time with each other would often be scheduled around "Skype dates" with family or friends.  Sometimes there would be an incredibly frustrating technology-fail, where either the audio or video would be off or the internet would be flickering.  But even with the frustrations and limitations, I am so grateful to live in an age of Skype....it really was amazing to be practically face to face with my family, from over 6000 miles apart.

Living as a part of nature was a huge inspiration for me, and part of the reason I cherished my time on the kibbutz.  I lived in an apartment, but it was essentially a camp-feel, stepping out onto a small road, in the middle of greenery, amidst an agriculturally-supported village.  The kibbutz gardeners kept the grounds blooming gorgeously, and I couldn't get over how green and sprawling it was to live in the midst of this flowing country.  Lemongrass and other herbs grew right outside my door with which to make tea, and I could pick and eat citrus fruits and apricots right off the trees, provided they were communal kibbutz-trees.  I loved going to the market to get fresh mint, basil, and vegetables, and I really learned to cook here for the first time, experimenting with basically throwing a bunch of things in a pan with olive oil and seeing how it turned out.  Buying salted cashews, dried strawberries, and spices that I didn't know the names of from the markets....everything was so fresh in Israel, and I began to see myself turning into even more of a organic, naturey, tree-hugger than I already was.

I am incredible grateful for this experience....and am constantly being informed by my knowledge.  I will never forget my time in Israel, and I know a piece of my heart (or rather, my feet) will always reside in the Dance Village that is Kibbutz Ga'aton.