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Karger moves in the best circles

Engineering prof to perform in folk dance festival

When David Karger isn't teaching algorithms in the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), he's got dancing on his mind.

Karger, a professor of electrical engineering who specializes in information retrieval, and three of his four children will be among the dozens of performers taking part in the Israel Folkdance Festival, a gathering of folk dancers from across the country, on Sunday, March 5, in Kresge Auditorium at 3 p.m.

Israeli folk dancing has a mysterious appeal for Karger, he said. Is it the music? The movement? "Maybe it's just fidgeting carried to an extreme," he joked.

Karger started folk dancing at MIT when he was still a junior in high school in Brookline, adding modern dance to his repertoire while in college.

Dancers in the Israel Folkdance Festival create specially choreographed routines, some drawing heavily from the standard folk dancing, but modifying the formations and steps, said Karger.

Others create entirely new steps to traditional music, he says, and some groups use entirely new music and movement.

Karger associates dances with particular memories, he said. One dance is special because it was the one he shared with his wife at their wedding, while another is special because he broke his foot doing it.

Mainly, dancing is a "neat kind of social experience in which you interact with a large group of people without an extensive spoken dialogue," he said.

According to Miriam Rosenblum, director of MIT Hillel, several people from the MIT community are involved in the festival, including some who helped found the event 30 years ago.

George Kirby (S.B. 1979) originated the festival in 1977 and remains active, serving on the coordinating committee and coordinating the sound system this year; Ira Vishner (S.B. 1974) danced in the first festival and is now on the coordinating committee; and Joshua Musher (S.B. 1987), who danced in the festival while a student, remains an active participant. This year, his children are also performing.

Admission to the Israel Folkdance Festival is $12, $11 for seniors and children under 12.

The performance, sponsored by MIT Hillel and the Israel Folkdance Festival of Boston Inc., a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization, will be preceded by an Israeli market, with booths selling Israeli merchandise and crafts, from noon to 3 p.m.

For more information, call x3-2982.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on March 1, 2006 (download PDF).

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