Spring Festival Fever: The Israel Festival in Jerusalem

Events, Israeli Festivals

Video: LINES Ballet in Alonzo King’s Rasa, which will be part of the Israel Festival.

Spring festival fever has hit Israel.  The Big Stage Festival is in full swing at Suzanne Dellal in Tel Aviv.  There’s many Shavuot festivals planned around the country, and several of them focus on dance and movement.  And from May 24th to June 11th, the Israel Festival will bring world-renowned performing artists in all disciplines to Jerusalem.

The Israel Festival has been a mainstay of the spring festival season since its founding in 1961, though its character has evolved over time.  From its roots as a music festival in Caesarea, the event expanded to include theater and dance.  The Israel Festival moved most of its performances to Jerusalem in 1982, and it remains there today.

Although it bears this country’s name, the Israel Festival is truly an international event showcasing high-quality art from both in and out of Israel.  A quick survey of this year’s dance offerings alone yields four different countries from three different continents (and that’s besides Israel!).

Les Grands Ballets Canadiens

Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montreal.  Photo by Robert Etcheverry.

While the dance artists represented in the 2009 Israel Festival are scattered around the globe, their work at times intersects stylistically.  Take Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montreal, which will be performing Stijn Celis’s Noces and Mauro Bigonzetti’s Cantata.  This troupe comes from a classical background but has a decidedly contemporary twist; indeed, they count Ohad Naharin’s Minus 1 among their repertory.


Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet.  Photo by Marty Sohl.

Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet, based in San Francisco, could be described similarly – but it has an unmistakeably unique aesthetic shaped by artistic director and choreographer King.  LINES will show King’s Irregular Pearl and Rasa, set to Zakir Hussain’s virtuoso tabla music.

Compania Nacional de Danza

Compañía Nacional de Danza.  Photo by Fernando Makrom.

Another branch on the family tree of contemporary dance is Spain’s Compañía Nacional de Danza.  Though the dancers again have superb ballet skills, artistic director Nacho Duato moves even further from the classical vocabulary in his celebrated choreography.  Compañía Nacional de Danza will display Duato’s talents in Castrati, Gnawa, and Por Vos Muero.

Alarmel Valli

Alarmél Valli.  Photo by S. Anwar.

Although some variation on contemporary dance characterizes these three companies, other scheduled performances are from a wholly different part of the stylistic spectrum.  Alarmél Valli will bring her own expressive abilities to classical Indian Bharatanatyam dance in The Forgotten Seed.  Meanwhile, the Israeli troupe Mayumana blurs artistic disciplines, and their high-energy shows are always packed with a cross-genre blend of movement.


Mayumana.  Photo by Gadi Dagon.

Mayumana isn’t the only Israeli offering which incorporates dance.  Clipa Theatre’s K, based on short stories by Franz Kafka, is classified under the festival’s theater programming.  Yet the cast has several dancers as well as puppeteers and circus performers, ensuring that this will verge into the realm of physical theater.  Also listed in the Israel Festival’s theater schedule is Man, Woman, Reflections; this production is directed and choreographed by Yoram Karmi, the artistic director of Holon’s Fresco Dance Group.

Visit the Israel Festival’s website for a complete listing of its programming.

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