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Wilmington at the Arden Fair

The Arden Fair has been going on for many years. Arden, now surrounded by Wilmington, has been a community dedicated to the arts and the Gild hall, built a century ago, is the center of this activity. Once a year, on the Saturday of the labor day weekend, the community and the Gild go all out to sponser a day of art and fun. In this, the Wilmington Israeli dance session has been an active participant for some time and this year marked the 6th straight performance during the Arden Fair

The Gild is made up of several buildings and quite a bit of ground. On the ground is a swim club, a promenade and the buildings. The performance of the Wilmington dancers was at the Gild hall which also was the focal point of a book swap that was ongoing through the performances as you will see. Below, we have set up some montages to show you what was occurring at the Fair

Well, if you are going in the future, or have been there in the past, you know that parking is a problem. One solution is to park at the Brandywine YMCA on Chestnut road and bus in. The montage on the left shows this in action. Even the parking at the Y becomes quite crowded as you can see, but we were able to secure a parking spot somewhat near the soccor goalie nets. Walking a bit took us to the bus which would drive us into the Gild complex.

Well, we've arrived at the fair and not surprisingly it's pretty crowded. We walk down what in other fairs would be called the midway and multiple kiosks are to our right and left. While not evident, the Gild hall is to our left and in back of us. We would continue a little further down making a kind of U-Turn. As you can see from these shots, it was a beautiful day to be out and experiencing this.

We are moving parallel to the Gild hall down toward the swim club which you will see shortly. So far, we haven't seen the dancers as they are about to perform within the hall. All, in due time. You can see that the fair does not prohibit alcohol as Molson's are being served. And, if you are ever at the fair and are lost, you can see see there is a people lost and found. And, the standing joke when dealing with children, is to broadcast that the parents are lost and need to be found.

Music was being played somewhere and we tried to track it. Now, this was not Israeli dance music. This was from some rock band. Moving counter clockwise from the top left, is a first shot trying to hone into the location of the band. The next shot below shows two 'tents' and apparently the one serving food on the left is as popular as the one to the right and as we moved to the right (for you, this is now top right on the montage), we see the band. We don't know the name but they were loud enough to attract everybody's attention if not interest.

We are completing the U-turn in this montage. Above, we are on the other side of the gild hall - in essence having gone around it. The Arden Gild runs a large swim club with a very large pool facility as you can see. A lifeguard is on duty but few are using the pool at this time. The picture below is the side of the Arden Gild. Notice the banner marking the Gild hall's 100th year. The hall is not just a museum piece as it is used constantly through the year. Included every year are the Shakespeare festival, the Gilbert & Sullivan festival, concerts galore, and classes galore including the Israeli dance sessions on the 1st and 4th Wednesdays of the month. Happy 100th birthday to the gild hall from this web site but we know of no younger building in spirit.

We have moved inside the Gild hall through the side door. It's very crowded here, too. The inside hall is split between events as you can see in this montage. At the rear is the book swap and you can see very interested parties perusing the stacks. Closer to the stage, there is a set of chairs for what seems to be an audience. The picture to the right shows Susan, one of the Israeli dancers sipping some water, as people are lined up behind her paying for their books. What is the audience watching as we pan to the stage?

Up on stage is the Arden International Folk dancers led by Jennie Brown who you see top left instructing a dancer. Folk dancing has been an activity of the gild for many years and Jennie leads a class on the 3rd Wednesday of the month.

In International folk dancing, different nationalities' dances make up the repertoire and Israeli dances would be 10 to 15% of what is danced. These Israeli selections are the older Israeli dances in general. Folk dancing at the gild used to be a Wednesday night experience on one or two weeks of the month. But about 5 years ago, this got split so that Israeli dance got its own night, under Sharon Kleban. Since that time another Wednesday night has been added so that the Israeli dance sessions are usually the 1st and 4th Wednesday of the month. Anyway, we have answered the question posed above: Susan is watching an International folk dance presentation.

Many dancers at Arden do both Israeli and Intermnational folk dancing and you can determine those who do both by the very bright white tee shirts. For a presentation last December, special sweat and T shirts were distributed and the Israeli dancers, almost to a (wo)man, wore these at the Arden Fair this day

While the Arden leader, Jennie Brown, is especially good at this, the tradition in folk dancing is to try to involve the audience in the dancing. As opposed to modern Israeli dance, International folk dancing tends to be quite repetitive with relatively easy steps, at least to one person, the author of this script. At selected times Jennie would take to the microphone as shown at the top to ask for volunteers from the audience to join those on stage for a particular dance. At the microphone she would indicate the dance name, whether circle or partner and the nation (or ethnicisity) of origin. As volunteers mounted the stage, she would explain the steps to the circle of dancers and then everyone, new and experienced, young and old, would dance it as you can see at the bottom. This audience participation went on for a while. We might add, while this is occurring, the Israeli dance leader, Sharon, is readying her equipment and we see her with her back to us behind Jennie at the top.

We don't think anybody would disagree that the sexes learn to dance and dance differently. Woman are graceful and natural followers, in general. Men may be more forceful, and this aggressive tendency probably makes them better leaders in partners, again in general. For younger dancers, the interest tends to be with girls and they naturally join in when confronted with International Folk dance (and Israeli dance) circles. At this point of the program, there were quite a bit of young girls trying to keep up with the adults in these International folk circle and partner dances and we concentrate on three of them trying to learn and master these steps

Well, here's the moment we all have been waiting for - or at least as far as this web site is concerned - the presentation at the Arder Fair 2010 by the Wilmington session led by Sharon Kleban. As the International folk dancers leave the stage, three Israeli dancers remain behind, a vanguard per the coming performance. The number of people in the audience increases although we do not doubt many of these viewers are relatives and friends of those who will be on stage. In this same picture of the audience you can see Sharon working on her equipment. The picture to the side shows last minute instructions to and from the participants. We're almost ready for the first dance of the performance.

The moment we had been waiting for had arrived. These pictures are taken from the front - this is what the audience saw. Later, we moved to the stage but you will see those pictures below this montage. Generally, this web site tries to keep track of the selections of music danced to but logistics precluded this that afternoon. We think that you are seeing part of Eilat and Salamati being played and danced. Several players had come up from the Philadelphia area but we can only identify Steve Handel as one of the male dancers. Steve and his wife do both Israeli and International folk dance and their participation is always welcome. The other male dancer we think we have seen in the Philadelphia area but he left shortly after these pictures were taken and we couldn't make a proper Id. As to the women: you are seeing at the bottom left a picture of Sharon, the leader. Bottom right is a picture of Barbara and Susan. Somewhere in the top photos we would also find Karen, Elaine and Michelle.

In all of these trips that the various groups take - and in this we are indicating both Cherry Hill and Wilmington - the session leaders try to present the audience with a small but varied revue of Israeli dance. They will take older dances from the 50s and 60s and combine them with newer dances. Sharon had set a more modern approach to these beginning dances but later on the older dances would make their appearance especially when Sharon invited the audience to join in. We can report, from our position, that the audience seemed to be enjoying the presentation

We believe that you can see that our equipment was not up to snuff for these long range shots from the audience onto the stage. So, at a break, we sneaked (or you may say snuck) into the side of the stage and preceded to take more pictures. You can see from the montage on the left that the camera works a lot better when the range of the flash is minimized. Besides this technical betterment, it allows us to relate things that are somewhat more personal about the players on the stage who are representatives of the Wilmington Israeli dance group. We do not have info on one dancer but here's what we can tell you about the others.

Sharon, the leader, is one of the subjects of the personalities section of this web site. During the 4th of July weekend she held a barbecue at her home which is close to the gild and, by chance, we got to document it. Besides being the leader at Wilmington, she is a regular at Don's Thursday night sessions.
Elaine is the administrative head of the Wilmington group. It was her idea for the Tshits (and sweatshirts) that all the dancers are wearing this day.
While Susan did not provide for what we are about to explain to you this year, in several previous years Susan arranged to have this performance at Arden videotaped and you can find these videos on Youtube
Barbara has been the recipient of one of the Israeli dancer of the week awards that some organization hands out every now and then for her tremendous bravery in dancing on very unstable, painful and limiting ankles.
Karen is an enthusiastic menber of the Wilmington group and was nice enough to perform in spite of several family obligations. In fact, as we found out later, one of the members of the audience, the one providing the loudest applause it would turn out, was her husband.
Steve is a regular at both Don's Thursday and Sunday classes since he relocated a while back into the Phila. area from Florida. He and his wife are also enthusiastic International folk dancers.

Israeli dancers like to dance. That, in the end, is what they do. and, that's what the demonstration eventually became. The audience lost its significance. What becomes important is beat, music and the repetition and recitation of steps. The montage to the left is taken as the group settles into dancing. We took a lot of shots but these shots lose context when just placed side by side and up and down. We believe the pictures to the left give you a feel for the remainder of the presentation.

For the sixth year in a row, the Wilmington session of Israeli dance led by Sharon Kleban performed at the Arden Fair. Below is the group photo taken after the event

From Left to right: Sharon, Michelle, Elaine, Steve, Susan, Barbara and Karen

To all, a job well done

This is not the first time that the Wilmington Israeli dance session performed at the Arden Fair. To see the 2009 performance, click here.

And, in addition, there was some filming of this troupe during the 2008 Arden Fair and this has been uploaded to Youtube. Click here for that channel.

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