Would you care to dance?

The Bat Dor training program gives would-be professionals the fundamentals, history and techniques.

ballet practice 88 248 (photo credit: Courtesy)
ballet practice 88 248
(photo credit: Courtesy)
With no prior dance training, Noa Carasso was able to become a professional dancer. A brand new member of the Kamea Dance Company, she is a graduate of the Bat Dor Beersheva professional dancers training program, which is now going into its fourth year. Carasso, 26, began the course after hearing about the school from one of the teachers there, and in the three-month gap after her "obligatory" post-IDF trip to the Far East and starting at Ben-Gurion University, she began classes - and stayed. "It was the right decision for me," she smiles. The program is the brainchild of Daniella Shapira, who has headed Bat Dor Beersheva for the past 11 years. Four years ago, when Bat Dor Beersheva was auditioning dancers for Kamea, its in-house dance company, "I saw that many of those [auditioning] who'd graduated from other dance schools or courses simply didn't have the necessary professional skills," says Shapira. And so the program was born: an intensive two-year course that not only sharpens and upgrades the students' technique, but also enriches their knowledge of dance, dance history and music overall. It is held in the mornings and is open to students aged 18-23 from all over the country, not just the South. "Keep your center," says argus-eyed Sonia D'Orleans Just, patting her abdomen as she watches the class in a floor exercise, "[moving only] the legs won't do it." For years one of Ohad Naharin's principal dancers at Batsheva Dance, D'Orleans Just is one of the many top professionals teaching at Bat Dor Beersheva. Others include Mate Moray, formally of the Israel Ballet, choreographer Tamir Ginz, the artistic director of Kamea, and Alexander Alexandrov, formerly a principal with the Kishinev Opera Ballet and now in demand as a teacher worldwide. Shapira, herself a graduate of the Royal Academy of Dance (UK) teaching program, also teaches classical ballet. Students take six to seven hours of classes a day. Some even take classes in the afternoons. "They are that eager," says Shapira. The dance students pay NIS 11,000 in annual tuition, approximately 30 percent of the cost - the rest of which is borne by Bat Dor Beersheva, and scholarships are available. Because standards vary from school to school, the schedule for each student is tailored to individual needs, which means that classes are small. This year there are 14. Tops is 22. In its 34 years of teaching dance to children from six-18, Bat Dor Beersheva has graduated more than 11,000 students, most of whom have gone on either to a career in professional dance, teaching (some 80% of the teachers are Bat Dor Beersheva graduates) or some other form of movement culture. While it started as a daughter company to the now defunct Bat Dor school and company in Tel Aviv, it became a legally independent NGO in 1995. Started by the Baroness Bathsheba de Rothschild and Jeanette Ordman in 1968, the Bat Dor school soon became a byword for excellence. Bat Dor Beersheva continues the tradition, asserts Shapira, and kept the name in homage to the founders.