A sixteen-question response to Jan Fabre’s Preparatio Mortis

Posted on 01 September 2011 by Deborah Friedes Galili

Video: Jan Fabre’s Preparatio Mortis

A sixteen-question response to Jan Fabre’s Preparatio Mortis

Guest article by Ori Josephine Lenkinski

How much did those flowers cost?
Where does one buy that amount of flowers?
Who laid them out like that?
How long did it take to arrange them?
Was the organ music in the beginning recorded or live?
How many minutes did we sit in the dark listening to it?
What was the significance of the date on the tomb?
Does the dancer enjoy performing this solo?
Does she have a wound on her knee or is it a stray petal?
How many butterflies were inside the vivarium on stage?
How many butterflies were purchased before the show versus the number that made it to the stage?
How many butterfly deaths have there been since the premier of this piece?
Where does one buy butterflies?
Is it legal?
Did more of the butterflies take flight during rehearsals or other performances?
What went wrong during this performance?

For those who have not seen this performance, it is a one-hour solo, danced by Annabelle Chambon. The piece begins with several minutes of darkness, enhanced in creepiness by epic organ music. When the lights come up, thousands of perfectly laid out flowers are revealed, surrounding a cube-like structure in the center of the stage. This, too, is covered in gorgeously arranged flowers. Slowly, something begins to move inside the structure. It is Chambon, dressed in a lacy, black undergarments. As the piece unfolds, Chambon writhes around the stage, destroying the glorious floral designs. Towards the end of the work, Chambon unveils the structure, which is a tomb, marked with a date. She enters the tomb, nude, contorting her body as some twenty butterflies swarm around her.

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A Conversation with the Bulgarian Choreographer Ivo Dimchev

Posted on 24 August 2011 by Deborah Friedes Galili

Guest article by Ori Josephine Lenkinski. 

Date: August 13
Time: 10:41 PM
Location: outside of the Schauspielhaus in Vienna, after the performance of A Talk by Sudermann and Soderberg.

Ori: Your performance last night was amazing. (Performance of X-On, a quartet involving sculptures by Franz West).

Ivo (with slight disdain): Really? What was amazing about it?

Ori (caught off guard): Well… it was very committed. All four of you were very committed in your performance.

Ivo: I found these girls (Sudermann and Soderberg) much more committed.

Ori: Really? Well, it was also very well put together.

Ivo: Oh. I didn’t think so at all. (It was the premier performance of X-On). So, anything that is well organized you find amazing?

Ori (jeez!): No. But I did very much enjoy your piece.

Ivo: And did you not find it overly bourgeois?

Ori: I thought that the nod to bourgeois was intentional. Was it not?

Ivo: It was.

Ori: Is it not difficult to draw your own blood on stage?

Ivo: No.

Ori: Really?

Ivo: I do it all the time. In my solo, Lili Handel, I do it and I performed that piece over three hundred times. I sell the blood afterwards.

Ori: For how much?

Ivo: Well, it’s an auction.

Ori: And how much is the most you’ve gotten for it?

Ivo (pleased with himself): 50 Euros.

Ori (not sure if that’s a lot): That’s a lot.

Ivo: It’s a work of art.

Ori: And is it Lili Handel’s blood or Ivo Dimchev’s?

Ivo (obviously this is a ridiculous question): It’s Lili Handel’s.

An interruption distracts Ivo Dimchev. Ori tiptoes away towards a group of fellow danceWEBbers.

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Harnessing the Dark Energy

Posted on 08 August 2011 by Deborah Friedes Galili

This is the second guest post by Ori Josephine Lenkinski, who is writing from Impulstanz in Vienna.

“I want to change the world using the tools of choreography,” said Marten Spangberg. Seated outside in the center of the Impulstanz compound, surrounded by the loyal attendants of his prolifically titled workshop Exorcism: The Dark Energy, Spangberg talked at length about his educational ideology, the MA program he runs in Stockholm and just about anything that came into his incredibly well informed mind.

I decided to attend Spangberg’s impromptu additional workshop after having heard many strange rumors about his thoughts, opinions and methods from fellow danceWEBbers who participated in his first and only officially planned workshop here entitled Geo Trauma. Then, I witnessed his opening speech at a book release party for his blog-turned-manifesto Spangbergianism and felt that he may perhaps have some questions I can try to answer in the next ten years. For more about this or about him, visit www.martenspangberg.org.

As far as I have managed to understand this week, what The Spang, as we call him, is getting at when he talks about this elusive dark energy is the willingness one has to take a stand. “Take a position,” he says over and over again. If I am reading his message correctly, he is saying that we don’t have to be open and positive all the time. This notion, for me, this week, in this very neo-liberal, artsy-fartsy environment is a heavenly breath of fresh air, or perhaps fresh cynicism or the lack thereof. It doesn’t matter exactly, only that it is fresh and well put.

It is now the end of my third week here in Vienna. Performances viewed: 28.

For the past four days I have been taking part in Keith Hennessey’s workshop Turbulence: A Dance About the Economy. Tomorrow night we will perform the product of five days of hard work put in by thirty dance practitioners for the greater Impulstanz audience. Many questions have been raised about what we will do during our one hour show, most of which have yet to be answered in any concrete way. It will be an improvisation with a few set notions. One thing I know is that there will be extreme behavior on stage, the likes of which I will only be able to explain after the fact.

It has come to my attention, certainly in response to the goings-on in Hennessey’s very unconventional workshop, that it is more precarious a position these days to be an audience member than to be on the stage. As dance artists, we ask so much of our viewer. We ask them to come to the theater instead of eating a lovely meal or watching reality television. We solicit their money for tickets and refreshments. We demand of them to be shocked when we urinate on stage or run around making guttural noises for fifty-five minutes, never approaching anything that looks remotely like a dance move, because a big part of the reason we are doing any of these actions is to surprise our watchers out of their comfort zone. We want to show that we are really committed, really serious and terribly willing to go to the far edges of our own boundaries to make our point, whatever that point may be. Then, we expect that they will not be appalled or disheartened by our unladylike behavior and understand how absolutely necessary it was to our piece. We hope that they will walk out of the theater and say to one another, “What great composition! Brave statement! Bravo,” and continue to dutifully follow us on facebook and obviously come to our next event.  And even if our audience completes this entire set of requirements, we will still complain about them to our friends back stage. We say that they are square, conformist or, the worst of all, rich.  How is it that the artist has become the spectator to the audience?

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Outside of Israel: A View of Impulstanz

Posted on 02 August 2011 by Deborah Friedes Galili

Hello Dance in Israel readers.

For those of you whom I have yet to meet, I will begin my guest blogging with a short introduction.

I am Ori Josephine Lenkinski, dancer turned dance writer and perhaps, with a little inspiration and honing of skill, writer with no disclaimers.

I am currently in Vienna, Austria taking part in a very special program called DanceWEB, which is a five-week residency for sixty some dance practitioners as part of Impulstanz Vienna International Dance Festival. For over ten years I dreamed of one day sitting exactly where I am at this moment and, low and behold, when I least expected it, the festival gods smiled upon me. From over one thousand applications received, mine was first passed into a preliminary round of three hundred then finally selected. I applied for this position online, in an extensive process that included many personal statements, recommendations from my employers and peers, photos and performance footage.

Impulstanz is undoubtedly a serious contender for Europe’s largest annual dance event. If you are not familiar with the festival, check out the website (www.impulstanz.com).

As a danceWEBber, I am treated to a free pass to all classes and performances. The last ten days since my pre-sunrise departure from Ben Gurion Airport have been the most intense in my life. We work from the morning till the evening, then rush off to see shows.

Upon arrival I discovered that I am here representing my oldest passport, which was issued by the Canadian government, and not my home country, which is Israel.

I have been living in Tel Aviv for four years, in which time I have become deeply entrenched in the local dance community as both a performer and a writer for the Jerusalem Post.

I moved to Israel because I fell in love with the dance aesthetic I saw during several visits to the country. I maintain that the work coming out of our small land is clever, engaging and distinctly Israeli. Having spent the last chunk of time learning the local scene by heart, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to check out what is happening in dance in central Europe.

This week I attended workshops with Ko Murobushi (Butoh master), Claudia La Rocco (dance critic for the New York Times and poet), New York based dancer/choreographer Trajal Harral and Paris based dancer/choreographer DD Dorvillier.

As for performances, so far I have taken in:

Jhoom a large-scale, open-air Bollywood spectacle by Indian choreographer Terrence Lewis, a new work by Edouard Locke for Montreal’s Lalala Human Steps, Viefalt by Nicole Piesl, Perparatio Mortis and Prometheus by Jan Fabre, Unturtled #1 and #4 by Isabelle Schad and Laurent Goldring, Elena’s Aria by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker for Rosas Dance Company, Splendid Isolation by Valerie Oberleithner, Spaces and Bones by Melanie Maar, Youdream by Superamas and Some Faves [WildWalk] by Ivo Dimchev.

In reflecting on this marathon of viewing, I can begin to point out a few trends present in the dance world right now. One is nudity, but that is hardly new. The other is politics. Though none of these pieces were explicitly political, it seems that the almighty Impulstanz programmers had commentary in mind when handpicking their playbill for this year’s festival. I suspect that this is an ongoing interest for them. Overall, the discourse here, and especially within the danceWEB program, is largely commentative. We are encouraged not to accept any performance as it is presented but to consider and question all of the decisions that brought about said piece.

Another undeniable trend is the lack of movement in new dance pieces. Sure, Lalala Human Steps presented a neo-classical opus rife with pirouettes and high legs, but the rest of the lot seemed to have a distinct disdain for what we call dancing. It would appear that the young dance makers of today have exchanged physical virtuosity, and by this I mean dashing jumps and displays of flexibility for bare breasts and pedestrian gestures.

Although many of the shows I watched left me longing for costumed dancers moving to music, there is a more important statement being made by the programmers here: dance and choreography are not one in the same.

Beyond that, I don’t know how to make sense of all the information I have taken in this week, both in the studio and in the theater. More to come . . .

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Contemporary Israeli Dance Week in New York City

Posted on 07 June 2011 by Deborah Friedes Galili

Yossi Berg and Oded Graf’s Heroes.  Photo by Tamar Tal.

Contemporary Israeli Dance Week in New York City

by Stacey Menchel Kussell

With world renowned choreographers like Ohad Naharin, Yasmeen Godder, and Inbal Pinto, over sixty registered dance groups and many more emerging artists – Israel has become a powerhouse in the world of modern dance. While Israeli contemporary dance companies have been headlining prominent European dance festivals for years, many Israeli choreographers are still unknown in the United States. New York’s Contemporary Israeli Dance Week, June 8-12th, 2011, is going to change that.

The festival, a five-day event including performances, video presentations, and community classes, profiles nine of Israel’s up-and-coming dance groups – Arkadi Zaides, Idan Cohen, Yossi Berg & Oded Graf, Maya Brinner, Maya Stern & Tomer Sharabi, choreographers based in Israel; and Deganit Shemy, YelleB Dance Ensemble, Netta Yerushalmy, and LeeSaar Company, based in New York City. The dance films featured are by the “D for Dimension – Animative Videodance” project – a collaboration between three leading Israeli professional schools of dance, photography, and video.

The LaMaMa Experimental Theatre Club (E.T.C.), a home to New York avant-garde theater since 1961, will fittingly host the performances as part of its LaMama Moves Dance Festival, an annual international dance showcase. Created by the late Ellen Stewart, the LaMaMa E.T.C. is a world renowned cultural organization that seeks to nurture and support performance work by artists of all nations and cultures.

YelleB Dance Ensemble.  Photo by Yi-Chun Wu.

“There is really an intense and pervasive energy in Israeli contemporary dance right now,” says Edo Ceder, who is both a producer and a dancer in the YelleB Dance Ensemble. “This series will feature both Israeli choreographers based in New York and in Israel, and will be an opportunity for the U.S. to see our work represented as a community. By exhibiting both emerging and more established artists at a venue like LaMaMa we can show the full range and texture of what is really happening in the field.”

Arkadi Zaides’s Quiet.  Photo by Gadi Dagon.

While each artist investigates diverse topics in their choreography, all of the works involved in the series are in some way about pushing past boundaries. Arkadi Zaides’s internationally acclaimed Quiet, a quartet that features two Arab and two Jewish men, will make its U.S. premiere at the festival. The piece explores the concept of communication and delves into the tension of the Arab-Israeli conflict that Zaides feels is “imprinted on the body” of everyone in the region. “There has been such an emotional reaction to the piece,” explains Zaides, “it has opened up so much discussion about the need for dialogue–the need to talk, and to not be in silence, just ignoring our issues. I’m excited to show the piece and open it up to the New York audience.”

Idan Cohen’s My Sweet Little Fur.  Photo by Ran Biran.

Idan Cohen, who will present his solo My Sweet Little Fur, is also enthusiastic for this opportunity to connect with the American audience. He feels that his choreography, like many of his peers, is a coping mechanism for the confusing elements of his environment: “There is a lot of commotion in Israel – diverse people with diverse convictions who live in a very confined space. Our dance helps us articulate our identity.”

Maya Brinner’s Red Ladies. Photo by Gadi Dagon.

Maya Brinner, whose Red Ladies, will also make its New York premiere, feels that while she is challenged by her surroundings, she is also nurtured by a very supportive artistic community. Before creating her own work, Brinner performed with Noa Dar and Emanuel Gat, and studied at the Jersualem Acadamy of Music and Dance. She recognizes the importance of the excellent training available in Israel, and the great foundation the bigger companies like the Batsheva Dance Company have established for the country. Many of the dancers in the New York festival have trained or danced with Batsheva and studied with its director, Ohad Naharin. Naharin’s influence on Israeli contemporary dance has been profound, and even choreographers with different movement styles have felt his effect.

“I think we all owe a great deal to Ohad for paving the way,” says Maya Brinner who will show her work in the festival. “But, I also think this dance week in New York is an opportunity to see how far we’ve come. There are many companies in Israel now, and new projects are sprouting up all the time. We are greatly supported by our government and local arts programs, and have also received great praise for our performances in Europe and Asia. Contemporary Israeli dance has really come of age.”

The festival, produced by Edo Ceder, Michal Gamily, and Hila Kaplan, is the first Israel focused dance event of its kind in the U.S., and has plans to develop into an ongoing tradition. “We don’t expect to change the world with one festival,” says Ceder. “But we do hope to make an introduction and foster dialogue. We want to show others the variety and the power of the dance that comes from our nation.”

Contemporary Israeli Dance Week runs June 8-12, 2011 at the La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club. 74A East 4th Street (btw Bowery & 2nd Ave) New York, NY 10003. For more information call: 001 212.475.7710 or go to www.lamama.org

About the Guest Author

Stacey Menchel Kussell received her Master’s degree in European and Mediterranean Studies from New York University. She has previously written on the Mediterranean experience of the Holocaust, and the Jewish community of Spain. Her work has been published in the Jerusalem Post, The Forward, and Presentense Magazine. Her current project examines contemporary Israeli dance.

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