Israel Folkdance Festival FAQs

If you’re reading this, you have a child or children performing in the Israel Folkdance Festival at MIT on Sunday, March 11, 2018.

Your child will be spending ALL DAY that Sunday at MIT.

Some of you have done this before and may not need to read further. Some of you have carefully read every piece of information coming your way on this subject and may choose to skip around this FAQ. But some of you are thinking, wait ALL DAY? Or even, I've got a kid dancing in what?

You need to read this.

It was written in 2012 by an actual parent, Andrea Kamens of JCDS, in consultation with other real live parents who have sent kids to the festival before. Read it and be enlightened, informed, and happy in the knowledge that comes your way.

Q: How big a deal is this festival?

A: Troupes come from all over North America. It is a pretty big deal in the folk scene, the Jewish community, and Boston-Cambridge in general. It is one of the biggest Israeli folk dance festivals in the country and one of the best known.

For our kids it is a very big deal. They perform on a real stage, with real rules, and real adult dance troupes. They go backstage and see the inner workings of the show. Strangers come to see them dance. People pay money to see them dance. People show videos of them dancing for years afterwards. There is press and applause. They also get to meet dancers from other schools and other places. Afterwards, they are fêted at school like the sports stars they are.

Best of all, the reason they experience this "grownup" treatment is because for years, our students, and those from other area schools and synagogues, have been able to behave professionally among adult performers. They are rightfully proud of this, and need your help to keep it up.

Q: Define ALL DAY.

A: Dancers need to be seated and ready to go at Kresge Auditorium at MIT in Cambridge between 8am and 9am, depending on the group in which they are performing. If you are unsure of arrival time, please ask your group director. Allow plenty of time to park if you are also attending as a chaperone. The dancers will stay there until the end of the festival at 5pm.

Q: Does my child really need to be there so early? Why?

A: The first thing the dancers do that morning is learn the grand finale. Everyone has an order and a place on stage and will do some simple movements together at the end of the show. Even if your child appears to only be sitting on stage waving (the younger kids do less than older kids and adults), they still have to learn and practice that blocking. It is extremely hard on the kids who miss this, and hard for the festival organizers to make up the information later. The younger the children are, the more important it is for them to feel like they know what's going on. So yes, your child needs to be on time.

The second thing that happens is the kids learn where their green room is and set up for the day.

The third thing that happens is each group gets to rehearse on stage, learn who they come on after and who comes after them, and practice their entrance and exit. When they aren't dancing, they get a chance to watch the other groups perform live. This is their only chance to see the show live, and they love it!

Q: What about food?

A: You need to pack lunch and snacks for your child. There may be groups going out with kids to purchase food – stay tuned for more information closer to the festival – but if you have any dietary restrictions or allergies, you want to be sure to send enough of your own food for an active day, plus a labeled water bottle. There is no eating or drinking in the auditorium so each group needs to plan accordingly. Kids can eat in the lobby or green rooms.

Q: What else should be in their gig bag?

A: They should bring books, sketch pads, games, whatever they like for free time, but most of the day will be spent learning their parts, watching other groups, and talking with friends old and new. The day goes by faster than you might think; often the books go unread. Please label anything important. Many troupe directors do not allow jewelry on stage. Check with your child's director ahead of time and leave all valuables at home to make sure nothing gets lost. There are a lot of people with a lot of stuff and it is easy to lose things.

Q: Who is supervising?

A: Parent volunteers assist group leaders and other staff members throughout the day. If you can volunteer for shift, please contact your group leader or parent contact. The more, the merrier. The fewer, the messier.

Q: Can they sit with us to watch the show?

A: No. Dancers stay in the staging areas for the entire performance. They will be able to watch the show live on a TV monitor in their room, except for the groups right before and right after they are on stage. Some kids enjoy gathering around the TV; some don't. They have already seen the dress rehearsal and may have favorite troupes they want to watch and others they don't mind skipping. Often they cheer and talk while watching.

Q: When do they get dressed?

A: They will be putting on their costumes at MIT with help from the staff and volunteers. Your group leader sent instructions on what each group should wear under their costumes. Make sure you check your in-box for messages. They need to come in that under-costume, hair ready, with makeup and extra hair accessories for touchups.

Q: What is the deal with the rehearsal at MIT the previous week, Sunday, March 4? What do they do then?

A: The schedule for the MIT rehearsal will be sent out closer to the festival. Festival organizers work very, very hard to schedule stage time for all the groups, taking into account siblings, and kids in more than one group. You need to work equally hard to get your child to their dress rehearsal on time. It will be about a half hour. It helps familiarize them with the stage, and allows your leader to make final changes and corrections. One underprepared child impacts the entire group.

Parents often carpool to this rehearsal. Once you have the times, you can use this email list to make arrangements with each other.

Q: What about this ice cream party the night before?

A: There is an annual pre-festival ice cream dance party at Congregation Kehillath Israel (KI), 384 Harvard Street in Brookline from 8:00pm until 11:00pm Saturday, March 10, the night before the festival. As you can tell from the times, it is aimed at the adult performers. Out-of-town groups meet up and it is quite the party. They show a video of the previous year's performance on a TV in the hall, have big tubs of ice cream and toppings, and sell festival T shirts.

Older children, and some younger ones, have gone. It is an opportunity to dance with adults or just watch the incredible variety of informal folk dancing. Kids have especially found it cool to get to make requests and dance them with so many others. It is also loud, late, and crowded. If your child needs a good night's sleep or is easily overwhelmed, this is not for them.

Q: Really, ALL DAY?

A: All day.