Karmiel Dance Festival: A colorful celebration of dance and friendship
Israel at 75Guest Columnist

Karmiel Dance Festival: A colorful celebration of dance and friendship

The festival is "a demonstration of the love of Israel’s culture and society."

A performance at the 2022 Karmiel Dance Festival (Photo by Ophir Zaguri)
A performance at the 2022 Karmiel Dance Festival (Photo by Ophir Zaguri)

The Karmiel Dance Festival is an annual event, celebrated every summer for three days and three nights. Hundreds of thousands of people pour into the city, enjoy a variety of dance performances from Israel and the world, and dance constantly in numerous open gatherings. The festival is unique in that it offers the floor to both professionals and popular dancers, allows young artists to perform alongside famous choreographers and dance companies, and presents a remarkable array of genres: classic and modern ballet, ethnic dance, flamenco, jazz, hip-hop, Israeli folk dance and more.

Initiated by Karmiel’s first mayor, Baruch Wenger, the dance festival was founded in 1988 by two prominent masters of Israeli folk dance, Tirza Hodes and Yonatan Karmon, the latter serving as artistic director in the first 12 years. The festival has developed and grown thanks to the support of the Ministry of Culture and Sport, Ministry of Tourism, Ministry for the Development of the Periphery, Mifal HaPais and JNF.

Karmiel’s second mayor, Adi Eldar, followed in his predecessor’s footsteps and continued to develop the dance festival, transitioning it from a local to an international event and establishing it as a center of attraction for domestic and worldwide tourism. The current mayor, Moshe Koninsky, has kept his promise to carry on the tradition. He has worked with me (as CEO of the festival) to invest in the event and to promote innovation in the fields of Israeli dance and advanced performance technologies.

Every night of the festival, there is a spectacular show with more than 1,000 dancers, accompanied by Israel’s best musicians. It is a demonstration of the love of Israel’s culture and society. Karmiel’s enchanting Galilean scenery adds to the unique atmosphere, and residents of the city and its surrounding communities welcome the multitudes of visitors with open hearts.

Along with original pieces created locally, the festival presents at least three dance companies from abroad every summer. These have included groups from Spain, Hungary, South Korea, France, Germany, the United States, Ukraine, Russia, China, Jordan and Mexico, just to name a few. Three main competitions are held during the festival: 1) the Eyal ben Yehoshua choreography competition of Israeli dance performance; 2) a competition of newly created Israeli folk dances; and 3) a Middle-Eastern dance competition. The competitions are judged by professionals as well as the audience. The choreography competition is the largest and most significant of its kind in Israel.

Every year, the festival hosts the finest Israeli dance groups (such as Batsheva Dance Company, Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company and the Israel Ballet), as well as dance groups from Jewish communities around the world.

Partnership2Gether — which includes Karmiel/Misgav, Pittsburgh and Warsaw — means so much to Karmiel residents, representing many years of true friendship and mutual caring. The impact of this special relationship can be seen in every aspect around town. It was the partnership that made the connection to two dance companies who have represented the U.S. in the Karmiel Dance Festival: the classic Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, which also held several very successful concerts across Israel; and Maria Caruso, a creative dance artist and teacher whose studio is located in Squirrel Hill.

After briefly meeting Maria and her group, we knew immediately they must come to perform at the festival and tour the country. The entire community was happy to take part and offer warm hospitality, like a true family. The professional group demonstrated an impressive artistic level and was received enthusiastically by the audience. Maria also held a master class for young dancers and gave a solo performance of pieces by Martha Graham.

This was the first Israel visit for both dance groups and we feel confident they will be back. This would not have happened without the special, deep bonds between our communities.

We hope to see many of our Pittsburgh friends coming to dance with us every summer at the Karmiel Dance Festival. PJC

Lilach Rana is the CEO of the Karmiel Dance Festival.

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