The Israel Festival is set to kick off its 50th year celebrations with a spectacular opening event in downtown Jerusalem on Monday May 23. "The Ministry of Tourism, the Jewish Agency and the Festival's founder and first director, Aaron Zvi Propes, took the initiative to put Israel on the global map for music, especially classical music," Yossi Tal-Gan, General Director of the Israel Festival, said recently looking back the history of the festival. With the festival enjoying half a century of success, Tal-Gan went on to explain that it "sets as an important goal to provide young, talented, non-establishment artists with opportunities to perform while continuing to acknowledge accomplished Israeli artists in evening tributes."Artistic director Moshe Kepten explained that this year's program, the culmination of lots of hard work, brings to center stage the best of performance arts worldwide."With due respect to the prevailing culture, it is good to provide an alternative (and not necessarily a marginal one) and as in the past, the Israel Festival is a well-respected and internationally recognized home to cultural performances that are first and foremost art for art's sake," Kepton said. The jubilee celebrations of the long-running festival, which is being held in cooperation with the Jerusalem Municipality Culture and Arts Department, will begin with a dance extravaganza called "Dancers in the Sky."The amazingly flexible dance troupe of Strange Fruit will move backwards and forwards like leaves in the wind while suspended between heaven and earth over the heads of the spectators. This performance is sure to leave the audience satisfied. May 23 at 17:00, 19:00, Zion Square, Jerusalem. Approx. 20min.Warm clothing recommended. Standing performance. Free entrance!The dance festivities will continue with "Giselle" which will be hosted by the Israeli Ballet Ensemble. The direction of Berta Yampolski and Hillel Markman present Giselle with guest soloists of the Bolshoi ballet and prime ballerina Anna Antonicheva. May 23 at 20:30, Safra Square, Jerusalem. Tickets: NIS40 (not included in tickets package.) A special price of NIS30 for Yerushalmi Card holders. Approx. 2hrs, with intermission. Warm clothing recommended.