Making the desert bloom

The annual Arava Dance Festival offers a wide range of activities and fun for the whole family.

March 18, 2015 02:22
3 minute read.
IDAN COHEN’S ‘Capoletti e i Montecchi-The National Opera.’

IDAN COHEN’S ‘Capoletti e i Montecchi-The National Opera.’. (photo credit: SHAI RODITI)

Nothing drives students to succeed like seeing real life examples of success. Exposing young minds to the possibility of turning their dreams into a reality is the responsibility of every educator, regardless of field. For Orna Asaf-Malka, making sure her students’ geographic location would not prove a disadvantage has become a driving force in life. The director of a dance school in the Arava, Malka understands how important seeing live performances is to the young people surrounding her. To answer this need, Malka founded the Arava Dance Festival, which will take place at the end of the month.

The festival began as an extension of Malka’s school’s annual recital.

Be the first to know - Join our Facebook page.

“Three or fours years ago, I felt that the regular recital format was overused and that we needed something new,” explained Malka in a recent interview with The Jerusalem Post. “As much as our cultural awareness is developed, we are the far periphery here, an hour and a half to the nearest city in any direction. That makes for a kind of isolation. I wanted to make the desert bloom.”

To give the show the boost it needed, Malka invited several prominent artists to make an appearance on her stage.

Malka knew that she wanted to give a southern answer to the annual Karmiel Festival, however, with a different focus. Unlike Karmiel, the Arava Dance Festival is not a platform for folk dance but rather for contemporary styles.

“My students have always studied folk dance but our focus has always been on contemporary dance, which doesn’t make it to the Arava.”

The first year, there were a couple of performing guests.

The second, a few more. Eventually, the show became a two-day festival, hosting Israel’s top dance artists in a show performed for local audiences.

This year, Malka set her sights a bit higher. From two days the festival expanded to three, funding increased and the program grew. To make this growth possible, Malka partnered with the local council, the Culture and Sport Ministry, Tarbut LeYisrael (Culture for Israel) and the Choreographers’ Association.

“Bringing artists to the far periphery is very challenging and very expensive,” explained Malka. “It took a lot of cooperation and hard work to make this program possible.”

The out-of-town guests will include Idan Cohen with a pre-premier of Capoletti e i Montecchi-The National Opera and Stefan Ferry with a new work called Mauve. Both Cohen and Ferry were invited not just to perform but also to rehearse in the Arava as part of Malka’s budding artist residency program.

“Stefan has spent two days a week here for the past several weeks, working with an alumnus of our school. Idan and his dancers will spend the final week before their premier polishing things off in our studios.”

Cohen’s work, Malka added, will be performed together with the singers of the Arava Choir.

Other events on the program are an improvised performance by veteran dancer and teacher Ilanit Tadmor, Vertigo Dance Company’s seminal work Birth of the Phoenix, a workshop with choreographer Galit Liss and an outdoor performance by Breakaholics Crew.

“The program is a reflection of my personal taste, but not only that,” assured Malka. “I think that, in a festival, there should be variety. I looked at the bigger picture, to see that there was a representative of each area, like improvisation, which is less my thing but I know it is important and needs to be there.”

One important change in Malka’s approach this year is the attempt to reach out to a broader audience. While her regulars will receive their honored places in the audience, the Arava Dance Festival will open its doors to visitors from around the country. As a native of the desert, Malka assured the Post that now is the perfect time to make the trek down.

“I hope that families will come to the festival and stay in the Arava for a few days. The festival is for the whole family; we have something for every age group to see and something to participate in. It’s an opportunity to explore the area during its most beautiful period, when everything starts to bloom,” she smiled.

The Arava Dance Festival will take place on March 25, 26 and 27. For more information, visit

Related Content

Police arrest Jafar Farah, director of the Mossawa Center, in Haifa on Friday night.
May 23, 2018
Policeman accused of wounding Farah suspended from unit