Celebrating Shavuot through Movement: Hagiga with Bodyways, Vertigo & the Amuta


Photos: The 2009 Hagiga Celebration, including Vertigo Dance Company and choreographers of the Amuta. Studio photos from 2007 festival are by Rivi Nissim and Amos Vinikof.

For religious Israelis, the upcoming holiday of Shavuot commemorates the giving of the Ten Commandments to Moses and the Israelites at Mount Sinai.  But for this country’s dancers, Shavuot is a time for celebrating movement.  Leaving the hustle and bustle of daily life behind, they flock to more remote, peaceful dance centers around Israel for a few days of invigorating workshops and inspiring performances.

One of these annual Shavuot gatherings is Hagiga, which translates fittingly to “celebration” or “festival.”   Initiated by the portal Bodways, the event has become a holiday tradition not only for dancers but for people who are involved in other expressive movement arts such as yoga, tai chi, and Feldenkrais.  Rivi Nissim, the founder of Bodyways, emphasizes that the festival “was initiated as a physical (‘down to earth’) meeting between the artists represented in the Bodyways website and the surfers of the website.”

Nissim calls Hagiga a “wandering festival,” hosted in some years by Adama and Ashram in the Desert before moving to Vertigo Dance Company’s Eco-Art Village last spring.  No matter where it is held, the festival always attracts a spirited crowd eager to celebrate and connect through movement.

Now in its fifth year, Hagiga has grown to be a dynamic collaboration between Bodyways, Vertigo, and the Amuta (the Choreographers Society, an association for Israel’s independent choreographers).   The involvement of so many choreographers will make this year’s event somewhat more dance-centered, with several contemporary repertory workshops.  As in previous festivals, there will be a wide range of classes including Gaga, dance improvisation, pilates, Feldenkrais, acrobalance, Cuban percussion, Rio Abierto, voice, and more.  Since all of the teachers are represented in the Bodyways website, the Hagiga festival will indeed live up to its promise as a physical meeting between the portal’s users (and, on top of that, it will be quite a meeting of styles!).


Video: Vertigo Dance Company in Birth of the Phoenix, which will be performed at this year’s Hagiga festival.

Besides workshops, Hagiga will include performances of choreography by Amuta members Sahar Azimi, Idan Cohen, Ya’ara Dolev & Amit Goldenberg, Niv Sheinfeld & Oren Laor, Ilanit Tadmor, Mimi Ratz Wiesenberg, and Arkadi Zaides.  Another highlight will be Vertigo Dance Company’s performance of Birth of the Phoenix by artistic director Noa Wertheim.

Finally, in the spirit of the all-night study sessions which characterize religious observances of Shavuot, Hagiga will feature its own version of the Tikun Layl Shavuot.  Participants can study using movement, voice, and texts from Shavuot in this unique artistic celebration of an ancient holiday.

Here’s a glimpse of Hagiga from seasons past:


Video: The Hagiga Shavuot celebration in 2006

This year’s Hagiga celebration runs from May 28-29 at Vertigo’s Eco-Art Village on Kibbutz Netiv HaLamed-Hey, near Beit Shemesh.  For a complete schedule and to register, visit the festival’s website.

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