Americans in Israel: Cedar Lake in Tel Aviv Dance 2008

Posted on 23 October 2008 by Deborah Friedes Galili

Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet in Ohad Naharin’s Decadance. Photo by Paul B. Goode

It used to be that Israeli companies like Batsheva Dance Company and the now defunct Bat-Dor toured to the U.S. with American repertory (( Batsheva Dance Company was founded in 1964 by the Baroness Batsheva de Rothschild, a patroness of Martha Graham.  Graham was the company’s artistic adviser, and the group performed not only several of her works but also dances by numerous Americans and Europeans – some of who became artistic directors during the group’s early decades. )).  But Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet’s appearance at the Tel Aviv Dance 2008 festival marks a turning point in dance history: this American company is bringing Israeli repertory to Israel.  Cedar Lake’s programs will include excerpts from Decadance by Ohad Naharin, Batsheva’s artistic director.

Last year I peeked into Cedar Lake’s rehearsal process with Naharin by watching Tomer Heymann’s documentary, Out of Focus.  Whereas the Batsheva dancers take class daily in Gaga, a movement practice developed by Naharin, Cedar Lake’s dancers had to move away from their ballet background and immerse themselves in a dramatically different method of training and working.  This shift required the dancers to trade a traditional emphasis on external appearances for an intense process of personal and physical exploration – a major challenge for dancers reared and rooted in the ballet studio, with its ever-present mirror.

But Cedar Lake is explicitly billed as a contemporary ballet company.  Its repertory is not drawn from 19th century ballet classics but from a range of modern-day works, some of which blur the borders between genres of dance.  Thus the dancers that tackled this challenge did so with within the company’s framework of versatility and physical facility, which is beautifully captured in this video below:


Cedar Lake Demo from Caleb Custer on Vimeo.

(Readers/viewers familiar with Decadance might recognize a quick clip from the dance midway through the video.)

Cedar Lake’s performance of Israeli repertory in Israel provides a fitting opportunity to raise a few issues:

  • How has Israeli concert dance evolved from its beginnings in the 20th century?
  • When and how did choreography by Israelis become an attractive commodity on the global stage?  (In less formal terms, when and how did Israeli contemporary dance become hot?)
  • What differences will Israeli audiences perceive when they see an American troupe performing Israeli repertory?
  • More broadly, are there differences between how Israelis and Americans (or any other group) move?   Are there certain qualities which characterize an Israeli physicality?
  • What else characterizes the Israeli concert dance scene?
  • Why is ballet largely absent from the Israeli concert stage?
  • How do we distinguish between genres of dance?  How do we label dance?

I’m afraid I’ll have to leave these questions hanging right now.  They can become much more complex and detailed, and their answers are far from simple.  But expect to find many more posts on Dance In Israel which will probe these issues!

Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet’s performances in Israel will also include Crystal Pite’s Ten Duets on a Theme of Rescue and Joe Stromgren’s Sunday Again.  You can find more logistical details about the company’s concerts in Tel Aviv, Herzliya, and Jerusalem by clicking on Events, which is located at the top of Dance In Israel.  I am just starting to place events on the calendars.  If you want to submit events, please contact us!

For more, see my related post, Tel Aviv Dance 2008, or visit Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet’s website. And finally, here are two more striking photos of the company in Decadance, both by Paul B. Goode:

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