Home Port Festival Lures Audiences to Jaffa Port

Events, Israeli Choreographers, Israeli Festivals

Aviv Eveguy at Home Port

Choreographer Aviv Eveguy performing a solo at Home Port’s opening night.  Photo by Aharela Golran.

The night before my flight to Boston, I trekked down to Jaffa one more time for a performance of Shlomit Fundaminsky and Itay Yatuv’s Metaktek (Ticking) at the Home Port Festival.  As I descended to the port, a car pulled up and a couple asked for directions to hangar #2.  I answered them and smiled – hangar #2 is, well, home to Home Port.

Located next to a swarm of bobbing fishing boats, this enormous hangar is not your typical destination for a dance performance.  Yet the members of the Choreographers Society have lured a mix of devoted dance fans and less seasoned audience members to the Jaffa Port over the last several weeks.  Though some performances were more sparsely attended, the opening marathon of solos on March 12 actually sold out!  Those who were turned away at the door – and those who simply couldn’t make it that night – have a second chance to witness this extraordinary program when the festival closes on April 6.

With concerts nearly every evening and so many choreographers participating, Home Port was a fantastic opportunity for me to expand my familiarity with the Israeli dance scene.  The festival introduced me to Neta Shizef’s flamenco work and to Anat Katz’s contemporary choreography.  I finally got to see dances I had missed over the last season, like Aviv Eveguy’s Dimona, Yossi Berg & Oded Graf’s Heroes, Nadine Bommer’s Manimation, and the Tel Aviv Dance Company’s Tokyo Oranges.  And I happily re-viewed several works, including Hillel Kogan’s Everything, Yoram Karmi’s La Famiglia, and Noa Shadur’s Hunting Rabbits in the North.

While I saw a lot of performances at the Home Port festival, I have not written about them here on Dance In Israel.  This is partially due to a time crunch (spending my nights in Jaffa made preparing for my month-long trip to the U.S. and finishing Hebrew homework a challenge!).

Yet this is more a matter of my outlook and my aims.  I attended Home Port – as I attend all performances – not as a critic but as a dance scholar.  The concert hall (or, in this case, the hangar) is one of my laboratories; it is a site where I conduct my research.  By viewing much of the programming at Home Port, I broadened and deepened my knowledge of Israel’s concert dance scene.  My observations there will no doubt enable me to have more informed conversations with choreographers and enrich my writing about their work.

As the Home Port festival ends, I’m pleased to give you a bit more information about how it started.  I did a telephone interview with Sigalit Gelfand, the highly dedicated head of the Choreographers Society, shortly before opening night.  The write-up below was initially published in the Jerusalem Post on March 25, 2009 as “Steps in the Right Direction.”

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Asked about her excitement level before the opening of the Home Port festival, Sigalit Gelfand, the head of the Choreographers Society, laughs giddily.  “I’m feeling like my child is becoming a bar mitzva,” she giggles.

Gelfand has reason to be excited.  From March 12 until April 4, the 54 choreographers who comprise the Choreographers Society will have presented 33 performances at Jaffa’s port. Like a bar mitzva, this event is a major milestone in the life of the organization: It is the first time the Choreographers Society is presenting an independent festival in a space that, at least for now, it can call its own.

As the entire field of Israeli concert dance has blossomed during the past two decades, independent choreographers have swelled the ranks of the Choreographers Society and the need for more performance venues has grown.  During the past year, Gelfand began to think outside of the traditional theaters which have presented dance.  “I started to try to locate a place where we could establish our home port, our place where we could create and perform without any limits,” Gelfand explained.

On one of her expeditions, Gelfand visited a hangar in the Jaffa port that had previously hosted special events.  Although the place was not currently available as a long-term home base, she pondered a shorter stay at the site.  The management of the port was open to cooperation, and Gelfand brought a few dancers to the hangar to start brainstorming.  Choreographers Yasmeen Godder, Arkadi Zaides, Itai Wizer and Nimrod Freed formed a special artistic committee to work with Gelfand on the project.  Now the Home Port festival is coming to fruition.

The four-week stretch of the festival allows the Choreographers Society to settle into its temporary digs and marks a promising start toward acquiring a long-term artistic home. Gelfand remarks with satisfaction, “We are not guests in another house, in another theater. It’s ours.  The possibility to have our place in the future is the most exciting thing we can think about right now.  And the uniqueness of this event, to perform in this very special place, it’s also very exciting.”

THE STRUCTURE of the festival is indeed unique.  After its opening two weeks ago that featured a special marathon of 36 solos, the Home Port festival is offering programming almost every evening except on Sunday.  Some concerts feature a full-length work or a few dances by one artist, while others combine shorter works by different choreographers.  On many evenings there are two events back to back, enabling viewers to sample more delights from Israel’s dance scene. During the daytime on Saturdays, the festival offers family-friendly performances.

Meanwhile, an announcement in the middle of the festival heralded a new development in the Choreographers Society’s quest for space. After years of searching for a suitable site, association members Robbie Edelman and Ofra Idel secured a hall in Jerusalem which will be used by independent choreographers. With this new home for rehearsals, workshops and showings of works-in-progress, the artists of the Choreographers Society are one step closer to their ultimate dream.

Reflecting the makeup of the Choreographers Society, the Home Port schedule showcases the spectrum of concert dance in Israel. Some choreographers draw from the Spanish tradition of flamenco, while others transport belly dance to the stage. Many participating artists come from a contemporary dance background, but they, too, display a rich diversity of approaches and styles. Collaboration, improvisation, abstract dances, and colorful characters all find a place onstage in the hangar.

Besides an enticing menu of dance shows, the Home Port festival boasts another lure to bring visitors to the Jaffa port: live music. In cooperation with the music venue Levontin 7, most programs include a musical performance. A bar and cafe inside the building further contribute to the festive atmosphere.

While the hangar may not be a permanent home for independent choreographers, this month it will be one of the best places for dance and music lovers to hang out.

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