Dancing for survival

The Domari Society of Gypsies in J'lem is holding a two-day performance of Gypsy dance.

As part of its many efforts to shed a positive light on a marginalized ethnic group, the Domari Society of Gypsies in Jerusalem is holding a two-day performance of Gypsy dance at the Gerar Behar Center in Jerusalem and at Suzanne Dellal in Tel Aviv. The program, Ayameni Goldeni, which means "those were the beautiful days," will be performed by Miriam Peretz, Malka Emanuel, Daniel Yaniv, Micaela Harari alongside a group of Domari children. The name of the program refers to a time in Gypsy history during which these people were able to maintain a nomadic lifestyle while upholding their cultural identity. Having suffered centuries of discrimination in school and the workplace the Domari Society of Gypsies in Jerusalem strives to strengthen the Domari identity through the upholding of its own tradition and heritage. "The biggest struggle for this particular organization is holding onto their culture because they are so small in number. They are losing their language, traditions and identity," Micaeli Harari, professional Flamenco dancer and Domari Society Board Member, told Billboard. Before the 1967 war, there were approximately 35,000 Domari Gypsies living in Jerusalem. During the war, most fled to Jordan leaving the remaining community standing at around 1,000 people. Although the Domari musicians and dancers fled Jerusalem, what they left behind still holds strong in the memory of those who remain here. By presenting four professional Israeli dancers, the performance will display a spectrum of Gypsy dance starting in Rajasthan and ending in Spain. The show will feature the El Gawazi dance style, a style specific to the Domari (Middle Eastern Gypsies) and used at happy occasions. Gypsies have a talent for taking the local culture, music and dance and absorbing it and reworking it to give it their own artistic stamp. Gypsies do this all over the world. Their dance is a true physical expression of their own music with a strong, intimate connection between rhythmic structures and movement. This society does not only seek to uphold cultural identity, but also to provide better lives for the community in Jerusalem, many whom live without electricity and never went to school. By providing programs such as occupational training and literacy courses, alongside cultural awareness programs, the Domari Society is raising the standard of living for its people. The proceeds of these dance performance will go directly to The Domari Society of Gypsies in Jerusalem. The first performance will be held in Jerusalem on May 1 at 8:30 p.m. with tickets available by phone, (02) 625-1139. The second performance in Tel Aviv is on May 3 at 9 p.m. for which tickets can be purchased by phone, (03) 510-5657.