“When you dance, you can enjoy the luxury of being you.”
Paulo Coelho – The Witch of Portobello
Friday, 1 o’clock p.m., the fifth platform crowded as always. The Krakow – Warsaw train will arrive any minute. In my bag – several sets of sports clothes, comfortable shoes and a good book that, at least for me, will make the three-hour trip to the Capital a bit shorter. The noise of the incoming train was drowned out by a clear sound in my mp3 player. It was the beautiful Jewish song Hava nagila (Let us rejoice). Legs were eager to dance, but in a few hours it would have been clear that I had a rather misty idea of what this dance was really about. The destination of my journey was one of the Training Centres near Warsaw – Twins 2. It was the third time when workshops of Israel dance – Inbal – were organised there.
In three hours I moved from sunny Krakow to rainy Warsaw, the weather, however, did not spoil my positive attitude. After I had left the railway station, I instantly spotted the monumental and probably the most recognisable building in all of Poland: The Palace of Culture and Science. I moved quickly in that direction and mingled with the crowd of dozens of tourists with their luggage. I had a strange feeling that one of the most interesting weekends this year was about to start. And as it turned out later, I was totally right. I easily got to the right place as all participants were transported quickly by a coach that waited for us near the railway station. At 6 p.m. we checked in and I received a coloured name plate, the schedule and the key booklet. I took all my stuff to a cosy room but I was not in the mood to unpack them. I was extremely hungry when I spotted on the schedule that in 15 minutes there was going to be the festive inauguration of Inbal – the Sabbath Dinner! That was what I needed – magnificent dishes served with delicious kosher wine. Kabbalat Sabbath, the traditional challah with a pinch of salt, a dozen of round tables with people of different ages, all smiling and happy, waiting with excitement for the first common Israeli dances. To my surprise, the majority of them seemed as if they had known each other very well. It is not hard though to guess why – they dance together in groups such as Kahol in Krakow or Sunit in Warsaw, and go abroad to participate in workshops in Hungary or France. They master their skills under the guidance of the best instructors. I instantly wondered how I was going to keep up with people for whom the Israeli dance is a life passion. All my fears vanished after the first dance. And that was thanks to great instructors – Lena and Oren who step by step taught every part of the choreography. After a quick 15-minute training I was ready for the first dance, and the next one, and I even didn’t notice when the midnight struck. After I got back to my room the only thing I wished for was to reach the bed and fill the liquids. I came back to life after a dynamic wake-up from my room mate who turned on MTV at full volume.
Having eaten a light breakfast, I made my way to the enormous hotel terrace where, until the coffee break, I practiced what I had learned the day before. I enrolled in the beginners’ group led by Lena – an immensely dynamic and beautiful young woman with a professional attitude towards each participant. With music, the time flies very quickly. After the coffee break there was another surprise waiting for me – art workshops Star of David (instructor – M. Zybert). I cannot recall when for the last time I cut out, glued or painted anything. It was maybe for the Valentine’s Day in the primary school. I did not give up, however, and I made an original green and blue star of David with a Shalom inscription on it. As you can see in the pictures, the designs were simply outstanding. Probably every one of us felt like an independent artist whose work, despite not appreciated in their lifetime, would be successful and famous in the future. Currently, my star of David occupies the central place of a huge information table in my flat and is waiting for better times to come.
“Music soothes manners”. This is what my lovely grandma says as she sings all songs she knows while cooking dinner, tidying or gardening. And she is surely right. Sometimes she only lacks some accompaniment – a guitar, a piano or a drum. Or maybe the last item does not belong to this puzzle… at least this is what I thought until I tried playing this truly difficult instrument on my own. I liked the power of the African rhythms so much that not for love or money I wanted to give back my small drum to the instructor Robert Kawka. The perspective of the upcoming workshop during which I would be able to show off my “outstanding” vocal helped me to make the painful decision, which, as it turned out later, I didn’t regret. The workshop of the Sephardic songs, because this is what I am talking about, won my usually hard as stone heart and Mrs Anna Jagielska-Riveiro praised my voice and commitment. After a delicious dinner, which I literally wolfed down, I decided to spend the rest of the afternoon dancing to the utmost. My plans turned real thanks to Magdalena Gostyńska – a young and talented girl passionate of Reggateon. Reggateon is [sic!] The hall, which to this moment resounded with the Israeli music, was taken over by dynamic rhythms of Sean Paul. For three hours Magda had no mercy for us. With full confidence I can tell that I burned not only the dinner I ate, but also a part of my fat reserves. In the evening, there was a surprise waiting for us. A coach drove at the hotel and took us to the 3rd New Jewish Music Festival, to a cosy cinema Nova Praha. The hall was full to its very brims. The first performer was the band Nord Cold Quarter that finds inspiration in original archive recordings of Balkan Sephardic Jews from the beginning of 20th c. Several words on the idea of the whole festival, which is aimed at searching in the Jewish music for the “historical” stylisations as well as new radical aesthetics. As the authors say, it is a meeting with reality and sensibility of the artists for whom tradition is the starting point, a kind of inspiration. Whereas the music of the contemporary times creates the context. The performance of the first group really calmed me down, which I can’t say about the crazy guys from the USA, namely The Sway Machinery. As one of the American critics said, their music takes no prisoners. And he was 100% right. When I was listening to a dozen of songs within an hour, I felt as if I were in two places at the same time: in a synagogue and in a rock concert. Two worlds, two realities mixed perfectly. An intriguing and not evident sound. The music of The Sway Machinery is the essence of the notion of “the new Jewish music”. It comes out from the bottom of the soul of the group founder – the charismatic vocalist Jeremiah Lockwood. I highly recommend the band. The next occasion to listen to their music will come in July during the Jewish Culture Festival in Krakow.
Participation in two concerts, as it turned out, wasn’t the last event of the Saturday evening. After we got back to the hotel, we started trades and common dances, which for some of us finished only at dawn. Luckily, the breakfast was scheduled for a later hour which allowed us to recover after such an intensive day. Thanks to another workshop, this time ceramics, I can boldly say that I found a new hobby. Modelling clay jewellery, talismans and animals turned out to be an extremely pleasurable activity. Thanks to Mrs Dorota Gobiecka-Grosz and her daughter Paulina we learned the art of modelling and adorning beautiful objects. The most popular design among the handmade items was the person of the hunched Jew holding a coin in his hand – a stereotypical symbol of prosperity and wealth. After the workshops one could feel the tense atmosphere. Over 60 participants packed their things and slowly started to think about the departure. Inbal was coming to an end and I was tormented both with joy and sadness. I met fantastic people and acquired many new skills. I am sure that next year I will appear at this fascinating event with the group of my new friends – the true lovers of Israeli dance.
The project was co-financed from the funds of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. The main organiser and coordinator of the undertaking was Monika Elliott.
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