When the Masa Israel-accredited Dance Journey
program came onto the scene in 2008, the idea of a program that would offer young Jewish adults from around the world the opportunity to study dance and repertory with professionals of the highest caliber for five months was a new one.
One of Israel's best-kept secrets, the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company's
(KCDC) International Dance Center and the Dance and Ballet School, however, has managed to turn this idea into a successful entrepreneurial venture.
Today, just two years after Dance Journey's inaugural program, dancers from around the world are knocking on Dance Journey's door. The response has been so overwhelming that director Yehuda Maor has had to turn some away.
So why has the response been so positive?
Housed on Kibbutz Ga'aton in the Galillee, Dance Journey is unique not only because of its location, but because it also allows students to immerse themselves in another culture as they hone their dance skills: Hebrew language study and trips to performances throughout the country complement students' rigorous training, providing them with well-rounded inspiration for their art.
"A dancer's career often means traveling to far-away places and performing in all four corners of the world," says Maor. "But our dancers' experiences are enhanced by the community they build with other Jewish artists, and the home they build for themselves in a place that is a part of their history and roots"
Maor, a former dancer himself, believes that by traveling the world and meeting with dancers on an individual basis is the key to his success. Using his connections as founder and former director of the San Francisco Dance Theater, he has met with talent in New York, California, and throughout North America to spread the word about Dance Journey. While only four dancers registered for the program's inaugural session, Maor has gathered a team of 17 dancers from all over the world – including Mexico, France, Slovakia, Russia and the United States – for his next class.
"I had been dancing my entire life but I never found a place that rivals the Dance Village," wrote Roselle Feldman, a dance teacher from Massachusetts and a Dance Journey participant. "It was like an oasis filled with dancers and music continuously flowing. This meant that community members were not only engaged in the same art form, but they were constantly thinking similar thoughts and experiencing similar things. If I ever wanted help with a dance move, I only needed to turn to my neighbor."
Dance Journey is also unique because it offers its students the possibility of professional advancement upon completion of their five month apprenticeship. After the first session, Maor and his colleagues invited several of the Dance Journey participants to join the company before he returned to the United States to recruit another group of talented and enthusiastic dancers.
"The dancers are gifted and passionate, and are excited to be in Israel," says Maor. "It’s a wonderful success."