Ben-Gurion University of the Negev on Sunday canceled the planned performances of its student dance company at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe next week, due to security concerns for the dancers.
The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the largest arts festival in the world and takes place every August for three weeks in the capital city of Scotland.
Every year thousands of performers from around the globe gather to present their shows in hundreds of venues throughout Edinburgh. The festival includes theater productions, comedy, dance performances, circuses, cabarets, children’s shows, operas and exhibitions.
The decision by BGU was taken in light of the intentions of anti-Israel protesters to demonstrate against Operation Protective Edge and at the urging of the venue’s operator.
“The personal safety of the members of the dance company is the most important factor and we will certainly not compromise on that in any way. We received warnings that their participation could endanger the dancers, therefore, in consultation with the relevant parties, we made the hard decision not to send the company to the planned performances in Edinburgh,” BGU president Prof. Rivka Carmi said on Sunday.
Last week in Edinburgh, the Israeli hip-hop opera The City by the Incubator Theater was targeted by protesters that disrupted nearby performances as well. The venue’s operator canceled further performances until an alternate location could be found. According to BGU spokesman’s office, the group is performing on the street after having failed to find a hall ready to host it.
The operator of the dance company’s venue expressed similar concerns fearing even more turbulent demonstrations, BGU said.
“It is a shame that this is the state of affairs – where artistic freedom of expression is being sorely tested,” said Carmi. “The company has no connection to politics, but everything has become highly politicized. Considering the quality of the company, its withdrawal from the festival is a loss to all art lovers.”
The 12-member BGU Dance Company was set to perform the piece La Karina by Dedi Alofer August 9-12.
A representative of The Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday it was “not aware of the show from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev Dance Company having been canceled.”
The festival is an “open access arts festival,” he explained, meaning there is no selection panel or curator and the decision to perform rests entirely with the artists and venues who stage the productions.
“This also means that nobody can ‘ban’ a production from being part of the fringe so long as they are not breaking the law,” he said.
Regarding the canceled production of The City, the society said, “The producers of The City have canceled their run in their current venue, because the scale of the protest made it impossible for them and several other shows taking place in close proximity to continue.
“The producers and the venue are currently looking at whether they can stage the show at a different venue for the remainder of the fringe,” it said. The society added “the two remaining Israeli shows in the fringe this year are stand-up comedians who are not in receipt of public funding from Israel and have therefore not been targeted by the protesters.”
As such, performers from the Israeli comedy group, Lamabati, said they have not felt any anti-Semitism toward them.
“The local Israeli community is very supportive, people came to our show and stayed afterward to tell us they are proud to see Israeli shows preformed in the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and we all went out for drinks afterward,” Uri Lifshitz from Lamabati told the Post. “We truly feel that the Israeli community here embraced us in a very warm and loving way.”
According to Lifshitz, the support has come not only from the Israeli community but even from people they have met on the streets of Edinburgh, from “the local store owner that told us he supports Israel” to a group of local improvisers who “jammed” with them during their show.
“That was great and they were all very nice,” he said.
Despite this, Lifshitz said the “subject of the Gaza conflict is constantly present,” and one reporter even initially said he would not review the show because they thought it would upset their readership.
However, when the comedy group members explained they were artists and were not at the festival to discuss politics, the reporter responded amicably and was open to considering coverage, Amir Atsmon, a member of the comedy group clarified.
“The rest of the reporters were extremely nice and we hope to seem them at our show and look forward for their coverage,” Lifshitz added. “We were all very excited and a little scared of coming to Edinburgh, but now we can tell that The Edinburgh Fringe is a chaotic mix of shows... and we are proud to add to its rich tapestry another Israeli thread. Also, we’re having a lot of fun.”