The Israeli Contact Festival: 3 Weeks of Contact Improvisation

Dance Training, Events, Israeli Festivals, Video Views

(Improvisation at the Ramat Aviv Mall – Hila Carmel’s video of Lior Ophir’s performance in public spaces class during the 2007 contact festival)

In a mere two months of writing this blog, I have already posted about three festivals (Tel Aviv Dance, Machol Shalem, and Curtain Up). On December 16th, yet another festival will begin: the Israeli Contact Festival.

Whereas the other festivals focus on performances, this three-week festival centers on participation, with people gathering from around the country – and the world – to take part in contact improvisation classes, workshops, and jams. Last year I went to both the opening and closing jams, and I wrote about them for my own blog on December 4, 2007.  Below is my report from the field and another video from the 2006 Greenhouse, so read on . . .

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(Photo: Vertigo’s studio, the site of the opening contact jam)

Most of my dancing and concert-going has remained within the city limits of Tel Aviv-Yafo, but on Friday November 23, I traveled to Kibbutz Netiv HaLamed-Hey near the town of Bet Shemesh for an evening of dance. Vertigo Dance Company recently opened a beautiful studio as part of the Eco-Art Village there, and their second company performed excerpts from Birth of the Phoenix at the opening the three-week International Contact Improvisation Festival. There was a wonderful communal energy in the open space, with visitors from around the world sharing in a vegetarian spread, enjoying the youthful energy of the Vertigo 2 dancers, joining in physical mixers led by Vertigo’s co-director Adi Sha’al, and jamming until the wee hours when some of us returned to Tel Aviv and others curled up into sleeping bags at the back of the space.

Participants in the contact festival traveled around Israel for a week before settling into Tel Aviv last Thursday for a round of workshops, master classes, and evening jams. Monday night (December 3, 2007) was the final jam in the city, and I joined a large crowd – maybe 200 people? – for this event, held in a large gym in the Kiryat Shalom neighborhood of Tel Aviv. A set of witty improvised performances kicked off the evening around 8:30 p.m., and after a massive group warm-up, we jammed to live music that was at times mellow and at times energizing. The crowd thinned by the time I left at 1:00 a.m., but there were still duets spread out through the space with no sign of stopping.

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Some participants moved to the Galilee after their week in Tel Aviv to live and dance together for the “Greenhouse” portion of the festival.  While I did not make it there myself, you can get a feel for the festival’s special spirit by watching Fernando Feder’s video from the 2006 Greenhouse below.

(Fernando Feder’s video from the Greenhouse during the 2006 contact festival)

Read “Making Contact: Contact Improvisation in Israel” for more about this topic.


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