Arkadi Zaides and dancers at Majdal Shams. Photo by Itay Weiser.
This article was first published as “Creative Connections” in the Jerusalem Post on July 24, 2009. The concert I describe below is already over, but audiences in China, Taiwan, and Japan can catch the same program when Arkadi Zaides and Iris Erez go on tour in October.
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Arkadi Zaides is a world traveler. A youthful Zaides made aliyah from Belarus in 1990 and, over the last decade, his talents as an eye-catching dancer and cutting-edge choreographer led him on a series of foreign tours. So perhaps it’s not surprising that back in Israel, Zaides is focusing his creative energies on bringing worlds together through dance.
Sometimes this is a matter of linking members of diverse communities in the dance studio. For several months last year, Zaides spent his weekends in the Golan Heights at the Druze village Majdal Shams as part of Teva Pharmaceutical Industries’ Creation and Community Initiative. There he taught workshops to a theater group and presented several of his recent works. “The project introduced them to contemporary dance and dance theater,” Zaides recalls. “It was a very unique meeting with very unique people.”
Now Zaides has received another generous NIS 50,000 grant from Teva for a project at Rabeah Murcus Studio for Dance and Movement in Kfar Yasif, an Arab village near Acre. Zaides explains, “[The studio] is quite a unique initiative in the Arab sector in Israel; it’s the one and only studio for contemporary dance.” Zaides plans to teach classes and workshops and will invite students to observe his artistic process as he rehearses a new work.
It’s not every up-and-coming choreographer that engages in these community projects, but Zaides states emphatically, “I just believe it’s a must right now. Culture can bring people together and introduce the different populations to each other – and also, it’s a form of exchange.”
Arkadi Zaides in Solo Siento. Photo by Marek Kotowski.
Exchange also permeates Zaides’ choreography, which frequently involves a meeting of multiple artists. Talking about his upcoming show “Solos,” Zaides remarks, “This evening is actually about merging art forms; one piece with video, another with fine art, together in an alternate space.”
Zaides’ unorthodox, interdisciplinary approach makes “Solos” one of the most unique offerings in Suzanne Dellal Center’s SummerDance2009 festival. Indeed, unlike other works in the series, the program’s two dances trade the traditional stage for the nearby Tavi Dresdner Gallery in Neve Tzedek.
Zaides first presented Solo Siento, a collaboration with video artist Shira Miasnik, in the 2005 Curtain Up festival. Even more creative voices are included in Solo Colores, which premiered in December 2008.
Iris Erez in Arkadi Zaides’s Solo Colores. Photo by Itay Weiser.
Inspiration for Solo Colores sprang from the metalwork of sculptor Isabel Cruellas, which Zaides and dramaturge Itay Weiser saw during a trip to Spain. The striking sculptures of plants and an encounter with the artist herself reminded Zaides of dancer and choreographer Iris Erez, who had performed alongside him in one of Yasmeen Godder’s productions. “Something with the quality of the work and the process of their making, it’s really close to Iris,” he recounts. “I felt a very strong connection between the two women.”
This initial meeting blossomed into an international collaboration. While Cruellas crafted a new sculpture in Spain, Zaides and Erez retreated to the studio in Tel Aviv to explore what Erez described as the “oppositions of hard work and poetry,” a characteristic of Cruellas’s art.
The visually stunning end result is a meeting not only of art forms but of artists and spectators. Both the delicately curved lines of Cruellas’s hard metal sculpture and the sinuous movement of Erez’s long, lean frame are on display for the audience, which surrounds the performance space.
“There’s the idea that people come to see art and suddenly they see a person inside the art space with the sculpture. I think it makes it interesting and special,” Erez reflects.