They were dancing across from Lincoln Center this week.
Nearly 400 amateur Israeli folk dancers from all over the United States. And about 1,000 spectators, who took their turn on the dance floor (an exhibition hall set up for an Israeli vendors’ fair) before the 55th annual Israel Folk Dance Festival and Festival of the Arts on Sunday in the auditorium of the Martin Luther King Jr. High School.
Before the show, the spectators danced for hours, stopping to sample Israeli food and buy Israeli products. During the show, they watched the nation’s best Israeli folk dancers perform. "Unbridled enthusiasm," Ruth Goodman, director of the festival, says of the day.
The springtime event is sponsored by the Israeli Dance Institute, with support from the Jewish National Fund and Bnai Zion.
This year’s theme was "Fields of Dance," and many young dancers made their New York debuts, Goodman says. "It was a very youthful festival."
Dancers, as young as 5 and as old as 55 represented a cross-section of religious and cultural groups. The dance styles, Goodman says, "reflected the contemporary Israeli culture: multiethnic fusion. Very traditional motifs and very contemporary motifs."
As the dancers performed on stage, visual images flashed on screens behind them.
When the show ended, many spectators rushed onto the stage for a few, final minutes of dancing. "A lot of them," Goodman says, "are avid folk dancers."