DTW’s artistic director, Carla Peterson, talks about Deganit Shemy’s work
Now that the jetlag is wearing off and I’m more or less settled back in to Tel Aviv, I’m ready to tell the tales of a dance blogger on vacation in the U.S.
What does a dance blogger do on vacation?
Well, besides seeing family and friends, this blogger did a bit of work and went from writing about dance to talking about dance.
Lecturing on Dance in Israel
I started my trip with two lectures about dance in Israel. Many thanks to all of my readers who sent me suggestions and voiced their interest when I posted my “Call for Help,” and a special thanks to Kathy Hassinger at Emerson College and Jodi Falk at Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter School for inviting me to talk to their classes.
After months of staring at my computer screen while typing posts – and then desperately hoping to get some feedback, no matter how delayed, in the form of comments or e-mails – the immediate responses of the Emerson and PVPA students was a welcome change. When I talked about the history of concert dance in Israel and the flowering of Israeli contemporary dance, curious students peppered me with questions; when I showed video excerpts of choreography, the rooms buzzed with students’ excited murmurs. I loved sharing my insights and hearing their reactions – and I hope that I will have many more chances in the future to talk about dance in Israel.
Seeing Deganit Shemy’s Arena and Meeting Dance Bloggers
With my lectures in Massachusetts over, I turned my attention to the New York leg of my trip. As I perused the performance listings, I saw that Deganit Shemy, a New York-based choreographer from Israel, was scheduled for a performance at Dance Theater Workshop (DTW) on April 16th. Adding to the lure was a pre-performance talk moderated by Eva Yaa Asantewaa, who runs the Infinite Body blog and Body and Soul podcast. I decided to make a day of it and scheduled a meet-up at DTW for dance bloggers before the event.
Since entering the blogging world last year, I’ve discovered that there are many other people writing about dance online. I’ve followed many of them on their blogs and on Twitter, and now I finally got to meet several of them in person. Tonya Plank (Swan Lake Samba Girl), Marc Kirschner (TenduTV), Taylor Gordon (a fellow Winger and writer of Off Center), Doug Fox (Great Dance), and DJ McDonald (City of Glass) met up with my partner Tal and I for some lively discussion about dancing, blogging, and life in general. We still had several threads of conversation open by the time the pre-performance talk started, and hopefully these will continue online.
Nearly all of us stayed for “Coffee and Conversation” with Eva and Deganit, and the discussion proved enlightening. Although she started dancing late, Deganit Shemy won accolades here in Israel with her early work, even garnering the Gvanim Bemachol (Shades of Dance) prize in 2003. We heard of her training in visual art and in Eshkol-Wachman Movement Notation, which Deganit studied at the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance. This background was evident later that evening in the premiere of the choreographer’s latest work, Arena. Deganit’s repeated use of prolonged, posed stillness lent the dance a sculptural quality, and when the dancers burst into action, they did so with great precision.
Before the conversation concluded, Deganit also talked about her choice to use female dancers, the connection of memory to her work, and Arena‘s theme of competition. The discussion enriched my viewing of Arena, and I was pleased to learn even more about the dance in a post-show talk which included the dancers and the sound designer.
Reflections on Talking about Dance
After spending so much time talking about dance, I started thinking more about how, when, and where we have dialogue about this non-verbal art form. In some theaters, studios, and universities, there are conversations about dance – but not enough. I discussed this problem with many New Yorkers during my vacation there, and back here in Tel Aviv, I feel the lack of discourse even more sorely. While the plethora of college dance departments in the U.S. cultivates some conversation, there is no similar framework of dance in higher education in Israel. Furthermore, the occasional pre- or post-performance talks with choreographers or other knowledgeable dance professionals which occasionally take place in the United States are nearly nonexistent here.
I would love to see – and participate in – more discussions about dance, and I’m curious to know what you think about this issue. How can we increase the number of conversations about dance and make this dialogue more accessible and inviting?