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Conference: Modern Jewish Experience through the Lens of Dance

Posted on 01 February 2011 by Deborah Friedes Galili

Boxerman by Noa Zuk. Dancers: Maree ReMalia, Mara Penrose, and Dante Brown. Photo by Melissa Bontempo.

As my family and friends in the U.S. have updated me about snowstorm after snowstorm, I have developed an even greater appreciation for our mild Israeli winters.  But in a little over a week, I will happily trade these warmer climes for the cold Midwest, lured by a conference hosted by the Melton Center at The Ohio State University (OSU).  The conference, titled Modern Jewish Experience through the Lens of Dance, promises a plethora of presentations, performances, and spirited discussion – and it is all free and open to the public, so if you are in the Columbus area, come on out and join us on February 13 and 14!  The participating dancers and scholars will cover a wide range of topics, spanning a spectrum from folk dance to contemporary dance, and I am happy to contribute two talks that reflect some of my research here in Israel.  During the opening session on Sunday the 13th, I will give a presentation called “Beyond the Hora: Israeli Contemporary Dance,” and at one of the panels on Monday the 14th, I will give a presentation called “Questioning the ‘Israeli’ in Israeli Contemporary Dance.”  As an added bonus, the audience at the opening session will be treated to OSU students’ performance of Boxerman by Noa Zuk, an Israeli choreographer and former Batsheva dancer who, along with Ohad Fishof, recently taught Gaga at OSU as a Schusterman Visiting Artist.

Read on for more details about the conference.  Hope to see some of you there!

Modern Jewish Experience through the Lens of Dance

February 13-14, 2011
Sullivant Theater, Sullivant Hall, Ohio State Campus
1813 N. High Street

The conference opens with a public performance:
Jewish Dance in the 20th Century
Words, Imagery, Movement
Sunday, February 13 at 3:00 p.m.
Sullivant Theater, Sullivant Hall, Ohio State Campus
1813 N. High Street

This unique conference will include dancers and dance scholars from the U.S. and Israel to examine Jewishness in dance in the 20th and 21st centuries. This two-day international conference opens with a public performance focusing on modern Jewish dances, dancers, and choreographers, emphasizing the interrelationship between historical developments and dance. Scholarly panels and roundtable discussions will take place on Sunday evening and Monday morning.

The conference is free and open to the public. The complete conference schedule can be found on our website:

Supported by the Thomas and Diann Mann Distinguished Symposium on Judaism and the Herbert and Betty Schiff Fund for Jewish Studies.

Co-sponsored with The Ohio State University Department of Dance, The Ohio State University’s Center for Slavic and East European Studies, and The Lenore Schottenstein Jewish Arts Endowment and the Sara and Harry Schwartz Memorial Fund of the Columbus Jewish Foundation

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Contemporary Israeli Dance Week: Gala in New York

Posted on 22 January 2011 by Deborah Friedes Galili

Quiet by Arkadi Zaides. Photo by Gadi Dagon.

Heads up, New Yorkers!  In June, a wave of contemporary dance from Israel is coming your way as part of the annual La MaMa Moves Festival.  The city is already home to an astonishing number of Israeli-born choreographers, and La MaMa’s celebration will include five of these New York-based artists and groups: Deganit Shemy, LeeSaar The Company, Netta Yerushalmy, YelleB Dance Ensemble, and Neta Pulvermacher.  But the Contemporary Israeli Dance Week mini-festival is also scheduled to feature a stellar line-up straight from Israel.  Yasmeen Godder, Arkadi Zaides, Idan Cohen, Maya Brinner, and the team of Tamar Borer and Tamara Erde will offer a glimpse of the latest in Israeli-made productions, and master classes will give New York dancers a taste of what’s happening in local studios.

On Monday, January 31, a gala evening featuring Deganit Shemy, LeeSaar The Company, Netta Yerushalmy, and YelleB Dance Ensemble will be held at La MaMa E.T.C. (Experimental Club). The gala is a fundraiser for the Contemporary Israeli Dance Week, and more information about tickets can be found at the festival’s website.  For those of you who can’t make it to the gala, here’s a sneak peak at the festival with clips of works by Godder, Zaides, Cohen, Brinner,and Borer and Erde.

Video: Preview of Contemporary Israeli Dance Week

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Israeli Dance at Summer Festivals Abroad

Posted on 05 August 2010 by Deborah Friedes Galili

Ohad Naharin’s Hora.  Photo by Gadi Dagon.

While SummerDance 2010 has presented an array of Israeli dance at home, a number of Israeli choreographers and companies have also performed at prestigious festivals abroad. For those of you who missed seeing them live – or want to relive the experience of being in the audience – here are excerpts of some of the works that toured the world.

In July, Batsheva Dance Company brought Ohad Naharin’s Hora (2009) to France’s Montpellier Danse, which co-produced the work.

In June, the Inbal Pinto and Avshalom Pollak Dance Company toured their signature work Oyster (1999) to Durham, North Carolina, for the American Dance Festival (ADF).

At ADF, Avshalom Pollak talked about the nature of his work with Inbal Pinto and the unique mix of elements which shape each dance.

Barak Marshall’s Monger (2008) made its American debut at Jacob’s Pillow in Beckett, Massachusetts.  Monger is scheduled to tour the U.S. in April-May 2011, with appearances at the Joyce Theater in New York; White Bird in Portland, Oregon; UCLA’s Royce Hall; and additional performances in San Francisco, Pittsburgh, and West Palm Beach.

At Jacob’s Pillow, Barak Marshall talked about confronting anti-Israeli sentiment on tour and presenting a different side of Israeli culture to foreign audiences.

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Yossi Berg and Oded Graf’s “4 Men, Alice, Bach and the Deer”

Posted on 25 March 2010 by Deborah Friedes Galili

Choreographers Yossi Berg and Oded Graf started collaborating in 2005, and over the years they have built a reputation for work that is supremely physical, sometimes provocative, and by turns poignant and witty.  Their recent production, 4 Men, Alice, Bach and the Deer, premiered in Germany to great acclaim and subsequently took Israel by storm; indeed, at the International Exposure festival here in December, the dance won a remarkable amount of both laughs and cheers. Now the pair is bringing the dance to San Francisco for a performance at the Herbst Theater on April 17 as part of the month-long Out in Israel LGBT festival.

San Francisco-based writer Talia Baruch caught a performance of 4 Men, Alice, Bach and the Deer at International Exposure, and the post below is her preview, originally published on her blog.

* * *

4 Men, Alice, Bach and the Deer

Choreography, Stage, Costume & Lighting Design: Yossi Berg and Oded Graf| Performance: Hillel Kogan, Irad Mazliah, Oded Graf, Yossi Berg | Dramaturgy: Carmen Mehnert | Text: Sergiu Matis | Music: J. S. Bach, Paul Kalkbrenner | Still photography: Matthias Creutziger | Review & Copywriting: Talia Baruch

4 Men is a dramatized exploration of masculine interaction and action.  It is a fairy tale of vile and virtue.

The first 4 minutes of the opening scene bring on a monotonous sequence built into a 4-step linear routine carried out by 4 masked men.

And all the while, in the far end of the stage, there lays a magnificent deer, perched on the ground: long legs crumbled in; long neck stretched out, crowned with royal antlers.  Fabled & Fabulous.

When one man breaks out of the group’s conformity and spins off, the drama slowly creeps in.  But not quite yet.  We’re still in for some humorous sweet fantasy.

The 4 men, the intrepid troop, are potent and powerful.  They are Studs, Hunters, Greek Gods. They are boys being boys, wrestling, showing off, confessing lustful desires.

“Far, far away in a land of quiet, there were 4 men living in a huge house with a super flat screen TV…”

Soon, their ideal of the ultimate man will be re-defined.  And we will be tangled in the twirling twister of their power struggle.  We will gasp for air, as they strike and thrust and pound, their heart beats will set the pace for their tapping feet.

Soon, they will forcefully seize, and helplessly surrender,

betrayed, embraced,

manipulated, mutilated.


Like a deer.

Written by Talia Baruch, San Francisco based Localization Consultant and Copywriter:

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Israeli to Compete in Youth America Grand Prix Finals

Posted on 19 March 2010 by Deborah Friedes Galili

Gaya Bommer.  Photo by Yossi Zveker.

Israeli contemporary dance has gained international renown over the last two decades, but the country’s small ballet scene is barely known abroad. Yet next week, one of the world’s most prestigious youth ballet competitions, the Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP), will include an Israeli: the 11-year-old Gaya Bommer.

Gaya Bommer started dancing as a young child at her mother’s studio, the Nadine Bommer Dance Academy, and became more serious about her training at the age of 7. Now, under the tutelage of Nadine and ballet teachers Jay Augen and Roz Sobol, Gaya is bound for the YAGP in New York City. There she will perform one of Swanhilda’s variations from Coppélia as well as a contemporary solo choreographed by her mother in the hopes of placing in the top twelve at the Pre-Competitive level.

Gaya’s trajectory to this elite competition was a quick one. Though Gaya always displayed an aptitude for dance, it was not until this summer that her singular talent became evident. While accompanying Nadine, who was teaching in Europe, Gaya entered her first international competition and won first place. She was subsequently invited to the semifinals of the YAGP in Italy.

Even at this stage, the presence of an Israeli was of note.  Nadine recalls, “When we were in the semifinals, they even talked about it that Israel was in this competition for the first time. It was also a surprise for them . . . They come from each country of the world with a big group, because they don’t bring only dancers at the Pre-Competitive age; they also bring the other ages. And when they called [the group from] Israel to come and present ourselves, only Gaya came!”

In Italy, Gaya drew attention not just for her nationality but for her fine performance.  Impressed, the judges advanced her to the finals in New York, which begin on March 21. There she will compete against approximately one hundred other dancers in her age group.

Nadine, who herself has won awards for her choreography including the crowd favorite prize at the 2009 No Ballet Competition in Germany, hopes that Gaya will not only shine in her classical variation but stand out from the crowd in her contemporary solo, Wild Horses. “I think she’s very unique in her contemporary piece of mine . . . I made something that I think will be interesting for [people at YAGP] to see, because what we do in Israel is really different in contemporary dance,” Nadine reflects.

Regardless of the outcome, simply to participate in the YAGP finals is a major achievement for Gaya. “For us, for Israel to have a ballerina or a dancer in this competition . . . it’s a very big, big, big, huge thing!” Nadine marvels. “I’m happy she’s going to have this experience.”

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