Former prima ballerina Lola Koch was beaming. Her three-year-old Ballet Support Foundation had made it to Miami’s Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts. She had produced a star-filled performance and gala. Principal Dancers from ABT, New York City Ballet, the Paris Opera, Martha Graham, Royal Ballet, Joffrey school and Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company in Israel were giving their all.
The evening honored longtime ballet supporter Anka Palitz. Slim in Valentino couture, the ramrod posture of a dancer, Anka’s ballet training has served her well. Growing up in Munich, she studied from age four to 17. In America, she became an advocate. She served on the board of ABT for 40 years, reconnecting this evening with dancers she has known since their promising teens.
In just three years, she has elevated the Palm Beach Ballet into a Kravitz Center headliner. “But,” she told me, “I take tremendous pride that I was the first person to raise money for dancers who can no longer perform, with the Career Transition For Dancers program. For 36 years, I chaired its Heart and Soul Gala, raising money for dancers sidelined by injury. That happens often. Most dancers’ careers end by the time they’re 27. Fortunately, because of their discipline, they can be retrained. Career Transition dancers have become doctors, lawyers, dentists and entrepreneurs.”
Palitz, who was also Instrumental in developing ABT’s Healthy Dancer Curriculum, is herself an example of graceful and productive living. “I do ballet exercises every single day,” she told me, “mostly stretching and leg exercises. I’ve shown several people and I can show you! I have been doing it since I was 50 and now I’m 92.” Time surely stands still for Anka.
Lola Koch has also picked up the ballet banner. “I started Ballet Support Foundation during the pandemic, when ballet dancers couldn’t perform or train,” she told me. “We created zoom classes, workshops, online ballet competitions and other support for young students.”
Lola moved to the United States in 2009, gave birth to daughter Isabel in New York and returned to dance one-and-a-half months later. “I was back on stage and breast-feeding! I flew back and forth across time zones ten times in six months. Finally, I decided it was too much. Today, I am a proud American citizen with my own foundation. My daughter is a Juilliard student. And somehow, I became a producer here. The Miami City Ballet school shared their studio with our celebrity ballerinas and we’ve become friends with the Palm Beach Ballet as well.
“This is the biggest night of my life!”
Lola has fundraised for Ukrainian dancers. Now, she was giving a special nod to the Israeli Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company. An international company, with its own Dance Village and school, it sits eight kilometers from Israel’s volatile northern border in Kibbutz Ga’aton.
Kibbutz Ga’aton itself sprang from persecution, founded by holocaust survivors, including a dancer, Auschwitz and Birkenau survivor Yehudit Ramon. “One Christmas Eve in the camp, they asked her to entertain them,” Rami Be’er, Choreographer and Artistic Director of Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company, told me. “She refused. They put her outside in the snow, barefoot. That night, she decided that if she lived, she would dedicate herself to dance and movement education. After the war, in 1948, she came to Israel in a group from Hungary that included my parents. They founded this Kibbutz. Later, she founded our dance company.”
Kibbutz living was the socialist experiment that helped build the country. Everyone had a job. Children lived together in dorms.
Rami studied with Yehudit. “She recognized my potential and guided me from an early age,” he remembered. In 1996, age 70, she handed him the reigns. Today, KCDC is an internationally recognized world class company, lauded by the New York Times, an NGO, supported by the Israeli culture ministry and an American and Israeli 501 (c)(3).
Like Yehudit Ramon, they, too have plans for after the war: an expanded, state of the art dance village, visitors’ hub and hotel with their scenic views.
And now? Those who came from other countries have left the Kibbutz. To perform at this gala, dancers practiced in bomb shelters. They flew into Miami for only a few days and were rushing back.
“I was born here. We will stay where the company was founded. This is our way of life, to stay connected to our roots,” Rami told me of this Eden, on the rolling hills of Western Galilee, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.
“But, we need to keep our dancers safe.” That has meant moving to a more central location temporarily, while they fundraise to build safe rooms for the dancers.
For more info: https://pefisrael.org/pef-emergency-fund/