Right before the economy collapsed, I was scheduled to teach over thirty dance classes at dance studios in the South Shore Massachusetts area. Then, one of the studios suddenly closed and my formerly packed schedule was depleted.
I was quite disappointed and unsure what to do next with my life. I’d recently returned from a Birthright trip to Israel and knew I wanted to return. Growing up, my family had been observant but since high school, I’d drifted from the religion. Israel reawakened me to Judaism. I started to look for opportunities to be in Israel and continue my passion for dance.
At the last minute I discovered Masa Israel’s Dance Journey, a five-month dance program for international dancers between the ages of 18 to 30 located in Israel’s Dance Village in the Western Galilee. In just one week, I was on a plane to Israel.
I have been dancing my entire life but I have never found a place that rivals the Dance Village. Based in Kibbutz Ga’aton, the Dance Village was like a natural oasis filled with dancers. 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. Support, encouragement and compassion were never hard to come by. Massages to ease throbbing muscles were always easy to obtain. Music continuously flowed through the kibbutz
Aside from being surrounded by a community of dancers, the Dance Journey participants were fortunate to receive the mentorship of the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company (KCDC). Not only did they teach our classes, but we also had the opportunity to perform at their Gala, as well as for the President of Israel, Shimon Perez. At the end of Dance Journey, participants were able to audition for a possible spot with KCDC, or given other opportunities to dance on the kibbutz.
Our days were packed with dancing from morning to night with classes in ballet, Graham technique, jazz, modern and repertoire, and we also toured the country, while learning a bit of Hebrew. Once a week, I volunteered at a center for physically disabled individuals, while others worked with at-risk youth.
With individuals from 12 countries, including Slovakia, Russia, Uruguay and Mexico, the Dance Journey participants not only grew together as dancers, but we discovered Israel together. While preparing dinner together on many nights, we had long discussions about our cultures and traditions, each with his/her own perspective.
We ended the program with a big performance featuring the KCDC repertoire and our own choreography. Our friends and family in Israel came to see it, as well as other Masa Israel participants and staff.
Back in Massachusetts, I am teaching dance and applying to programs for continuing my education. I have started to become involved with my local Jewish community and I hope to incorporate both my loves of dance and Judaism in my future.
Dance Journey gave me the most productive reprieve I could ever imagine. Hit by the economic crisis, it enabled me to stay engaged in my art while becoming closer to Israel. I am so thankful for the opportunity.