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Posts Tagged ‘Acco Festival’

Ballet Austin Premieres Light / The Holocaust & Humanity Project at the Acco Festival in Israel

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

The Light International Premier filled the auditorium and the energy and excitement were large. Our Austin delegation took up most of the entire 8throw, so we had a great vantage point for the performance. There were welcome addresses by Albert Ben-Shloosh, the Director of the Acco Festival; Raya Strauss, one of the leaders in the region and Steve Adler, a Ballet Austin Board member and a leader in Austin responsible for the arrival of the Light project at Acco.

Steve shared some background information on Light / The Holocaust & Humanity Project and the importance of communities engaging in dialogue around hate, prejudice and bigotry. He also described the importance of both what is seen in the ballet, and what is not seen in the ballet. Artistic director Stephen Mills wrote a story based on the experience of Holocaust survivor and Houston, Texas resident Naomi Warren.

Albert presented Steve with the Guest of Honor Acco Festival trophy, given to one act at each Festival that represents a center point of the festival. It was quite an honor for the Light project.  Steve gave the trophy to Cookie Ruiz, and here’s a photo of her with it.

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The lights dimmed and the performance began. Flawlessly done, the dancers danced the 5 acts of the ballet. As expected, it was powerful and moving. Words don’t describe the feeling this ballet gives the audience. The big question prior to the performance was how it would be received by an Israeli audience. The answer:  they loved it. In a country that deals with the issues of the Holocaust regularly, the combination of precisely executed dance elements by accomplished and professional dancers like those in the Austin Ballet and the subject material built into the story of the Light project was extremely well received by the Israeli audience. Even our tour guide, Dani, commented on how wonderful the performance was and how deep and thought provoking it was for him. But the confirming sign of success was the clapping at the end of the show. It started out as any audience, with wild applause, but very quickly the clapping morphed into a rhythmic, synchronized clapping that went on for several minutes. Our Austin delegation was somewhat surprised, not knowing what the synchronized clapping meant, but we were then told that it was a high form of praise and acceptance in Israel, and common after a successful performance.

Light Performance 1

After the show, Stephen Mills came onstage to answer questions from the audience. He was asked about the symbolism of some of the elements in the ballet, and he described what his vision was. He was asked about the story and he shared some of his experience with Naomi Warren. He also was asked about the ending, and he let the audience know that Naomi’s wishes were for a positive, survivor ending, since she was a survivor.

All in all, a fantastic (shabab) evening none of us are likely to forget.

- Keri Pearlson, a member of the Jewish Community Association of Austin (JCAA) Board of Directors.

(View Keri’s other blogs here)

Ballet Austin prepares for Opening Night

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

We had heard about the wonders of an Israeli breakfast. It comes with the price of the room. We went downstairs as usual to choose from yogurt, eggs, vegetables, hummus,  herring and a stunning assortment of bread looking things – pound cake, pita, rolls, etc.   We learned quickly that the shy go hungry in this “buffet free for all.” As the dancers wandered in – slowly and a bit red eyed – they shared the stories of their evenings out.

It was a slow morning,  so we took a walk through the old city. The signage is in Arabic or Hebrew depending on the part of town. There are booths of everything you can  imagine including some incredibly fresh fish from the Mediterranean a few feet away. Most people know my mind goes blank when I am presented with too many options so I was unable to focus at all of the spices in burlap bags, clothing and toys that light up.

We walked the ancient tiny streets which were like the smallest Venice alleyways except,  there are cars everywhere. Acco has traffic circles instead of stop signs and lights. Pedestrians have the right of way but it takes a while to get comfortable with the near death experiences. Right of way does not mean that they won’t drive an inch away from you.

1:00pm the dancers had their first chance to go inside the theater.  Bill Sheffield, the Ballet Austin crew and the local tech folks were working magic with the small space. I loved watching the spacing rehearsal. Listening to the strategies to make Light work in a new space is fascinating. It included Stephen’s vision with the collaboration of the company.

onstage

 

We had coupons to eat dinner in the Acco entertainers garden.  We all walked over to the opening ceremonies where we were greeted by three rows of VIP seats marked with Ballet Austin signs. It is so odd. The only English in Acco are the words Ballet Austin. Albert has thought of every detail to make our stay amazing. We stayed for the concert as long as we could. Then we escaped early to go get some sleep.

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- Barbara Shack

 
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