As any parent of a professional athlete, artist or performer can tell you, raising a star is a costly endeavor. Classes, clothing and gear are all necessary and pricey parts of encouraging a child’s passion. Often, hobbies become prohibitively expensive, leading many talented young ones to forgo their dreams. The 35 couples that will take the stage Monday night in Tel Aviv at the Israel Ballroom Dancing Fund (IBDF) event Be. The Ballroom Show have all been able to strive for greatness thanks to Ella Bar-Gil and the IBDF.
“Ballroom dance is an umbrella term that includes a lot of styles like tango, foxtrot, paso doble, rumba, jive, American rock ‘n’ roll, cha-cha and samba. Each dance has its own style, costumes and music. Our goal is to help this branch progress in Israel. We chose to help the kids that are aspiring to professionalism in order to put Israel on the ballroom dance map,” explained Bar-Gil, founder of the IBDF, in a recent interview with The Jerusalem Post.
Established three years ago by Bar-Gil, IBDF offers scholarships to children aged 12 through 18. In total, 70 young dancers and six world champions will perform at the IBDF’s first public performance. The evening will be a break from their regular activities, which consist mainly of training and competing. Having recently returned from a competition in Blackpool, England, the team is ready to show off a little.
“We focus on the young generation, however sponsoring them means sponsoring their teachers as well,” she said.
“We do auditions once a year with judges from abroad who can spot potential. We have 60 spots available on our team each year. The dancers come from all over the country. We want to give scholarships to dancers from all over Israel regardless of background and prior training. The scholarship gives them training that they would never have been able to afford otherwise.”
Born and raised on Kibbutz Na’an, Bar- Gil began attending ballet classes when she was five years old. Fifteen years later, on a trip to Mexico, she was introduced to and immediately fell in love with Latin dance. Upon returning to Israel, Bar-Gil continued to explore ballroom dance, eventually joining the cast of the Pitango Company. From performance she shifted to teaching, where she discovered a strong urge to support and develop the young generation of dancers in Israel.
Subsidized entirely by private donors, the IBDF has managed to take over 100 aspiring performer/competitors under its wings.
“The professional terminology is ‘dance sport.’ The dancers live like athletes, they are in shape, they eat like athletes and they have incredible discipline,” said Bar-Gil.
Along with selecting IBDF dancers, Bar- Gil invests a great amount of time in handpicking the master teachers that will train them. About every three months, a new teacher arrives to guide the team.
These professionals hail from Europe and North America and represent various styles in the ballroom spectrum.
“It really raises the level here in Israel. It gives our students the opportunity to be exposed to techniques and styles that are new to them,” said Bar-Gil.
Having experienced professional dance training, it is important to Bar-Gil to provide emotional support to her dancers.
“Our approach is holistic. In order for them to be good athletes, we work with them on ballet, nutrition and sports psychology.
Kids that receive the scholarship meet with a psychologist regularly.
They already push themselves really hard and if you only bring teachers to push them further, you never know when they will crack. It is smart and necessary to relate to the entire package not just the dancing. The psychologist helps to deal with the competition, the pressure and the stress. He also helps them to cope with their partners, which is something that kids that age are not prepared to do always.”
The event is a rare invitation to the general public to behold the talents of the IBDF dancers and their guests.
“In the past three years, we have seen such great achievements. Our goal is to continue this growth in the future. In order to push the field forward, people have to become interested in it. We need exposure,” said Bar-Gil.Be. will take place at the Smolarz Auditorium at 7:30 PM. For more information, visit www.ibdf.co.il.