THE EARTH Dance Festival.
(photo credit: BARRY DAVIS)
In terms of volume, New Agey festivals in this country are way past their heyday.
Gone are the halcyon years of around a decade or so ago when gatherings like Shantipi and Bereishit attracted thousands of Israelis from all walks of life, and across generations, to three or four days of alternative healing and workshop sessions, and a multitude of world music-oriented performances.
But downsizing can be a good thing – as evidenced by the Earth Dance Festival, which took place at Kadita near Safed over the weekend.
While the aforementioned local New Age trailblazers far outgrew their original laid back, relaxing intent, and became gargantuan highly commercial ventures, Earth Dance was – thankfully - the complete antithesis of the fast buck-making ethos.
The Friday evening kabbalat Shabbat slot was a case in point. A couple of hundred or so people convened by the forest stage area, as the instrumentalists and singers began to do their thing. The performers were clearly adept at their ambiance-generating job and almost imperceptibly upped the tension. Before long everyone was on their feet, swaying, singing, clapping and dancing. There was a palpable sense of spiritual unity, and the musicians led us through an emotive repertoire of material.
It was a fitting kickoff to Shabbat and what was to come.
The festival site was tastefully laid out, with spots for workshops, three stage areas, the ubiquitous food and arts and crafts stalls – although their paucity was commensurate with the festival organizers’ small-is-beautiful mindset.
Visual aesthetics were also of prime importance, and the hillside venue was tastefully arranged. There were delightful artistic layouts all made of components provided by Mother Nature. One, in particular, captured the spirit of the whole venture. Leaves, twigs and other natural flotsam and jetsam gathered from the site were lovingly combined with edibles, such as peas and orange lentils and it was somehow perfect to see some of the latter being carted off by an army of ants for their own survival purposes.
It not only – albeit unintentionally – produced a kinetic art-oriented creation, it fit the environmentally-friendly bill to a tee.
There were plenty of hands-on and educational slots, for all ages, available through the day and all over the festival site. Children and adults alike worked on felt creations, while young parents learned how to keep their babies content with a relaxing massage. Elsewhere, Dr. Noam Chechonovski provided us with some insight into the wonders of green-oriented agricultural biotechnology, while others got into something of a spin with some Sufi whirling.
Meanwhile, internationally acclaimed oud player and violinist Yair Dalal joined forces with longtime musical sparring partner and instrumental counterpart George Samaan at the apex of the sloping venue, with many of the members of the jam-packed audience on their feet throughout, and begging for more at the end of the show.
The Dalal and Samaan gig was followed, at the same spot, by the highly energized bluesy Sumsum band, which put out hypnotic vibes amid the pastoral beauty of the Galilean hills.