Archive | Lectures, Screenings, Ceremonies, & More

Mr. Gaga: Tomer Heymann Casts His Lens on Ohad Naharin

Posted on 16 December 2013 by Deborah Friedes Galili

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 Photo still from the film Mr. Gaga.

Filmmaker Tomer Heymann released Out of Focus the same year I arrived in Israel to research the country’s contemporary dance scene.  I still recall excitedly watching a DVD of the documentary, which offered an inside look at Ohad Naharin’s process as he worked with Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet on a staging of Deca Dance.  Between clips of Gaga classes and rehearsals – which were themselves both revealing and compelling – Heymann interspersed footage of refreshingly honest interviews with his sometimes reluctant subject.

Heymann’s fascination with Naharin continued, and now, with his brother Barak as producer, he is completing an ambitious and far more comprehensive documentary about Naharin.  The title?  Mr. Gaga, a clever play on Naharin’s movement language and the pop diva of the same name (for those wondering, the choreographer chose the name Gaga years before the singer became an international phenomenon). In the trailer below, the Heymann brothers – along with special guest Natalie Portman and Naharin himself – discuss the film and the significance of this project.

Trailer of Mr. Gaga

As the brothers attest, this documentary is a major undertaking, and in order to fund the completion of the film, the pair launched a Kickstarter campaign.  Week after week during the campaign, the Mr. Gaga team has released tantalizing teasers that testify to this project’s great importance.  Not only has Heymann captured Naharin’s masterful choreography in performance, but he takes the viewer into Batsheva Dance Company’s studios and into Naharin’s personal life.  Some clips have highlighted humor, joy, and camaraderie during rehearsals; others have focused an unwavering lens on more challenging, emotionally fraught moments.

Beyond the scenes that Heymann and his team have filmed, the director has also amassed a veritable treasure trove of archival footage hearkening back to Naharin’s youth on Kibbutz Mizra, his stint as a performer in the Israeli army, and his early professional life.  The sneak preview below reveals what happened in 1974 when Martha Graham came to choreograph for Batsheva Dance Company, where Naharin was then an apprentice.

Sneak preview of Mr. Gaga

With more rare footage like this, Mr. Gaga stands to make a substantial contribution to the historical record while offering an intimate and in-depth look at one of today’s most acclaimed choreographers.

The Heymann brothers’ Kickstarter campaign is welcoming support from around the world through January 4, and they are rewarding contributions with a variety of souvenirs including either a download or a special-edition DVD of the finished film.  For more information, visit the following websites:

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Seeing Israeli and Jewish Dance, edited by Judith Brin Ingber

Posted on 14 December 2011 by Deborah Friedes Galili

Image courtesy of Judith Brin Ingber.

I have been eagerly awaiting the release of Seeing Israeli and Jewish Dance ever since writer and editor Judith Brin Ingber first sent me a table of contents.  When I finally met her in person last year at the Modern Jewish Experience through the Lens of Dance conference at The Ohio State University, she whetted my appetite for the anthology even more with her slide show of images from the book.  And now, having carefully read through my copy of this sizable volume, published this past summer by Wayne State University Press, I can vouch that this book was well worth the wait.  For those of us who study the field – and for those who wish to know more about the subject – Seeing Israeli and Jewish Dance is an invaluable resource.

Besides a few of Brin Ingber’s own writings, this anthology includes an extraordinarily diverse array of writers: Sara Levi-Tanai, Felix Fibich with Judith Brin Ingber, Janice Ross, Nina S. Spiegel, Josh Perelman, Ayalah Goren-Kadman, Dawn Lille, Shalom Staub, Giora Manor, Zvi Friedhaber, Barbara Sparti, Yehuda Hyman, Jill Gellerman, Dina Roginsky, Elke Kaschl, Naomi M. Jackson, and Gaby Aldor.  Some of these authors are themselves dancers and choreographers who offer their first-person insights, while others approach their topics from a scholarly point of view.  This breadth of voices is one of the book’s greatest strengths, engaging the reader anew with the start of each article.

Moreover, with writings by such a substantial number of authors who boast different areas of expertise, Seeing Israeli and Jewish Dance provides perspectives on a remarkably wide range of subject matter.  Articles on Jewish dancing masters in Renaissance Italy, Israeli folk dance as practiced in Israel and New York City, Hasidic dance, Yemenite dance, Kurdish dance, Ethiopian dance, ballet, contemporary dance, and more all find their place in this book.  Spanning history and geography, and encompassing dance performed both onstage and off, the anthology portrays a broad yet nuanced vision of how Jews have danced and continue to dance.

In keeping with the title of the book, Seeing Israeli and Jewish Dance features not only texts but also a wealth of images.  182 illustrations illuminate the authors’ points.  You can view some of the images and hear Brin Ingber’s explanations in the video produced by the Jewish Daily Forward below.

Images of Jewish & Israeli Dance from Jewish Daily Forward on Vimeo.

Since the publication of Seeing Israeli and Jewish Dance, Brin Ingber has embarked on a series of book signings and lectures, and her travels have now brought her to Israel.  On Sunday, December 18, she will speak at the Dance Library of Israel at 8:00 p.m.  Entrance is free, but due to limited seating, reservations should be made by e-mailing [email protected]

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Gaga for Japan: Class with Ohad Naharin to Benefit Earthquake & Tsunami Victims

Posted on 28 March 2011 by Deborah Friedes Galili

Flier for the Gaga benefit for Japan

Have you been thinking about trying Gaga, Ohad Naharin’s movement language?  Are you interested in doing something to help those affected by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan?  Next week you can dance and donate to a good cause at the same time.

On Tuesday, April 5, Ohad Naharin and the members of the Batsheva Dance Company will offer a special Gaga/people class to the general public at the Tel Aviv Port’s Hangar 11.  Tickets to take the class cost 50 NIS, and additional donations will also be welcomed.  All proceeds will be donated to victims of the recent natural disasters in Japan.

Whether you’re already a longtime Gaga enthusiast or have never set foot inside a dance studio, you are welcome to enjoy this one hour class.  The doors will open at 7:30 p.m., and the class itself starts at 8:30 p.m.  Participants are encouraged to leave their bags and personal belongings at home and arrive dressed in comfortable clothing.  Tickets can be ordered in advance by phone at 03-5104037 or online at  On the evening of the class, tickets will be sold at Hangar 11; only cash will be accepted at this time.

Gaga class with Ohad Naharin.  Photo by Gadi Dagon.

Want to learn more about Gaga?  Read my earlier articles below and check out Gaga’s new website, which has information about Gaga classes and workshops happening in Israel, New York, and other locations around the world. 

Related Articles on Gaga on Dance In Israel

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Choreographer Ze’eva Cohen at the Dance Library of Israel

Posted on 06 March 2011 by Deborah Friedes Galili

It’s not surprising that as I shifted my focus from ballet to modern dance and began researching both in the U.S. and Israel, I repeatedly came across Ze’eva Cohen’s name. Cohen started her illustrious dancing career in her native Tel Aviv, performing with Bimat Machol and Anna Sokolow’s Lyric Theatre. In 1963, she moved to New York where she studied at Juilliard and appeared as a soloist in Sokolow’s American troupe. A founding member of Dance Theater Workshop, now one of the most prominent institutions in New York’s downtown scene, Cohen launched her solo dance repertory program in 1971; during the next twelve years, she toured the globe, performing not only her own compositions but those of more than twenty artists. She expanded to a group format in 1983 with the establishment of Ze’eva Cohen and Dancers, and she was also invited to work internationally as a guest choreographer, at times returning to Israel for engagements with the Batsheva Dance Company and Inbal Dance Theater. Besides enthralling audiences as a performer and choreographer, Cohen became a pioneering dance educator, creating and directing the dance program at Princeton University.

After years of reading about Cohen’s achievements, I finally met the artist in person last month during the conference Modern Jewish Experience through the Lens of Dance. Introducing a video of her duet Negotiations (2000) for the opening session and later delivering an inspiring, insightful reflection on the Jewish and Israeli aspects of her work, Cohen proved to be as compelling at the lectern as on the stage.

This initial encounter piqued my interest even further, and now I – along with local dance enthusiasts – can look forward to an evening with the artist at the Dance Library of Israel on Thursday, March 10. In a program starting at 8:00 p.m., Cohen will show video and discuss her work as a dancer, choreographer, and founder of Princeton University’s dance program. Places are limited, and spots can be reserved by contacting the library at [email protected]

The Dance Library of Israel is part of the Beit Ariela library on Shaul Hamelech 25 in Tel Aviv.  Doors open for the program at 7:30 p.m.

Can’t make it to the library on Thursday? Get a glimpse of Cohen’s talent in the video excerpt below:

Video: Ze’eva Cohen and Aleta Hayes in Cohen’s Negotiations

Related Posts on Dance In Israel

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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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