The view from the port. Photo by Judith Brin Ingber.
This is a guest article by Judith Brin Ingber.
The sea was stormy today as I walked along the seashore to get to the Suzanne Dellal Dance Center from Jaffa where I’m staying. It’s the first full day of the extraordinary International Dance Exposure, in its 19th year of bringing dance presenters, producers, performers too from all over the world to see Israeli dance. I wondered what kind of dance gales or becalmed ideas would I see?
According to last night’s audience barometer the dance that swept everyone off their feet was Hillel Kogan’s We Love Arabs. In reality John Kerry has traveled again from DC to Tel Aviv for negotiations, but we heard a different kind of story told with spoken text. “I’m not really into text,” said Hillel chatting non-stop as the audience roared, hardly interrupting his musings about how he feels certain parts of the space reject him as he works, about how hard it is to occupy one’s space and keep one’s identity….the dance duet played out with humor for the wrong assumptions we make, for the naïveté of politics, for what a choreographer takes and demands from the dancer — is there a metaphor here? Two of the funniest images? Hillel says there should be outside symbols of who was the Arab and who the Jew and gives his young charge a black pen. The obvious Magen David symbol with its two interlocking triangles is drawn on Hillel’s blue t-shirt. But where to put a symbol on the young Arab dancer’s black shirt? Hillel goes for his forehead and the Arab dancer asks, “What did you draw?” Hillel holds up his fingers in a half moon shape, “You know, the ummmm, the crescent…” “Yes but I’m a Christian.” The audience roared at the confusion. Text and dance interlocked as the two flipped into and sashayed out of each other’s supposed sides. A bowl of hummus appeared and Hillel slathered their faces with it, beard and all, since it’s something in common both cultures love. Then he hopped off the stage and sardonically passed out pita with hummus to the audience members sitting down in front.
Hillel Kogan’s We Love Arabs. Photo by Gadi Dagon.
All 135 guests from 28 countries plus 8 cultural attaches and perhaps some of the diplomats who attended the opening of International Exposure were bused to a new performing space in the old Jaffa fishing port the first afternoon. We saw seven different choreographers’ works before busing back to the dance center. Clearly the International Exposure is one of the reasons for the interest in Israeli dance all over the world — I have spoken to presenters from Senegal, Russia, Rumania, Bulgaria, Germany and that dance country known as New York, plus words of Korean, Swedish, Chinese, Italian and many others swirl around as we wait to get into studios and theatres big and small.
This doesn’t count all that we might see today and tomorrow… Countless rules and expectations are upended in this Festival as the storm of dance pours over us.
Judith Brin Ingber lives in Minnesota but returns often to Israel to teach dance history and to catch up on dance performances. She lived in Israel from 1972-1977 teaching apprentices for the Bat Dor and Batsheva Dance Companies. She also choreographed a program for young audiences for Batsheva, assisted Sara Levi-Tanai at Inbal Dance Theater, and co-founded the first dance magazine with Giora Manor called The Israel Dance Annual. Her recent book, Seeing Israeli and Jewish Dance, was published by Wayne State University Press.