Fifteen years ago, dancer and choreographer Avi Levy approached the Ashdod Municipality with a detailed plan for a dance festival that would draw hundreds, if not thousands, of artists to the city. At that point, Ashdod had never hosted such activities, but the then-new mayor, Dr. Yechiel Lasri, invited Levy to present the concept.
“It took no more than 15 minutes for him to understand the potential to give me his blessing,” said Levy by phone.
Eight years after that first meeting, Levy inaugurated the first edition of Ashdodance, an annual dance and music festival that hosts dance artists from near and far each summer.
“At first, people thought it was just another festival,” he said. “Slowly, people have understood that it draws more tourists than any other event in Ashdod. Hundreds of thousands come to Ashdod each summer. It’s a full week in which the city is like a beehive. You see dancers everywhere. The hotels are completely full. It’s wonderful.”
This year’s program includes concerts, original productions, and performances by leading folk dance troupes from around the country. “The opening show tells the story of Israeli dance over the last hundred years, from the hora and Israeli dance, to contemporary, jazz and hip hop. The whole of Israeli dance has gone through a major evolution. We will tell that story with artists like Shalva, Noa Kirel and Sagiv Cohen.”
Another stand-out event is called Chaflamenco. “I asked for local flamenco artists to make a creation with dancers and musicians from Spain to music by Inta Omri,” Levy explained.
Levy also invited the founding member of the Inbal Dance Theater, Ilana Cohen, to teach traditional Yemenite dances to the audience. She will also speak about the company’s history and how it has changed over the years.
During the festival, the Ashdod Municipality, together with Ram Aharoni, CEO of the Ashdod Tourism Company, has arranged a number of culinary and historic tours throughout the city. The festival’s events will take place over a 96-hour period, with performances occurring at all hours, from early morning through the middle of the night.
“There’s nothing like this in Israel. I invite you to come,” beamed Levy.
Ashdodance will take place from June 26-29. For more information, visit www.ashdodance.co.il