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Machol Shalem Dance House & the Suzanne Dellal Centre Present a Tribute to the Late UK Dancer and Director, Nigel Charnock

Posted on 06 September 2012 by Deborah Friedes Galili

This is a guest post by Meredith Nadler.

In commemoration of the maverick and unforgettable performing artist, Nigel Charnock. 

Nigel Charnock. Photo by Hugo Glendinning.

The international dance world is greatly saddened by the loss of one of its most gifted and original artists as well as its most maverick and controversial performers with the untimely death of choreographer, dancer and director, Nigel Charnock. In 1986, together with Lloyd Newson, he founded the DV8 Physical Theater whose works over the next 25 years would revolutionize what we thought of as dance and theater. His pieces, especially his solos, deeply touched, inspired and often outraged audiences. The Arts Council of England hailed him as “a national treasure” while he was branded by London Metro newspaper as the “bad boy of physical theater.”  In 2011 he came to Israel at the invitation of dancer Talia Paz and the Machol Shalem Production House of Jerusalem to create 2 new works here in Israel, a duet and group piece. In mid-June, after completing the duet and back in the UK hard at work on his project 10 Men, he was diagnosed with stomach cancer.  On August 1st at St. Christopher’s Hospice in South London, Nigel Charnock lost his battle with the disease at the age of 52.

Nigel Charnock’s
Haunted by the Future. Photo by Tomer Appelbaum.

 As a tribute to this great man, on August 22nd the Suzanne Dellal Centre and BI-Arts of the British Council presented Nigel Charnock’s  final piece, Haunted by the Future, completed only months before his death. This posthumous premiere of his last new work left no one unmoved as it ran, and at times literally through the audience, the gamut of emotions – from tenderness to sheer rage. “Love versus Sex and Art versus Life” describes well this duet combining dance, theater and comedy and that brought the audience face to face with a couple at war, and yes – sometimes even in love. Michael Winter and Talia Paz, two seasoned and exceptional performers, tested to the limit their desires, needs and the illusions they have about being a couple. Love’s pitfalls and man’s vulnerability and egoism were narrated to hilarious effect through a succinct narration of Pop music favorites, from Motown classics like the 1964 Supremes’ “Baby Love” right through an array of anthems from the 80’s and 90’s.  Charnock’s Haunted… is in fact a high strung masterpiece, where the sinews of the pair’s relationship are pulled taut and not a moment goes by that extremes of brutality and fragility towards each other aren’t vying for dominance. The two repeatedly withdrew to opposite sides of the stage, where chairs, water bottles and towels awaited them, as if in a boxing match, only to begin sparring again after they had regained a semblance of composure and the courage to continue the fight. Michael Winter, with his verbal virtuosity and biting, comic flair, had the audience reeling as he deflowered the topical assumptions of a man’s role, duties and even his own virility. Modern day coupledom, that is in this piece meaning the expectations, ambitions and animosity that the opposite sex has in respect to one another, is put on display with a frankness and an absurdity that both enthralled and disquieted us.

Nigel Charnock. Photo by Hugo Glendinning.

The duet Haunted by the Future was followed by a special screening of Charnock’s One Dixon Road, an improvisational solo performed in Jerusalem last year in which Jerusalem itself is caught in brutal clarity by video artists Sascha Engel and Youval Landsberg. The video reveals in stark relief the volatile panorama of a city submersed in the tension of its religious and sectarian polarities. Fleeting glimpses of  the city awash in saturated colors frame for the viewer a most extraordinary landscape and people. Images known around the world are interspersed with everyday scenes that are compelling in both their ritualistic fever and urban mundaneness. True to form, Charnock’s solo relates this reality in a tour de force of spoken word and dance, served up in a satiric manner of a man who declares emphatically that there is no God. Religion, framed by him as a bamboozle, a sham, no more than a car salesman pitch aimed to the susceptible, is put on display as a forgery of love and faith. In his trademark improvisational style, he segues at breakneck speed from the holy, to the personal, to a comical dissection of the most familiar elements of dance, theater, cabaret and stardom.

Ofra Idel’s
Force Majeure. Photo by Hamutal Vechtel.

The evening’s program also included two more duets by Israeli choreographers. Force Majeure, choreographed by Ofra Idel and performed by herself and Danielle Shoufra, tantalizes the audience with a stirring intimacy in which the two women play out a relationship characterized by teasing, compassion and violence. Both possessing powerful presences, they physically test one another to the point of frequent discomfort as they struggle with each other along a journey of separations, reunions and final farewells.  Danielle Shoufra’s quest for self control, her belabored breathing, convulsions and repeated need for resuscitation, mark this piece with a lingering note of death and grief. With a rough and visceral movement language, the two grapple with each other and some unforeseen doom. Accompanying music is an eclectic mix which includes Nick Cave, Kylie Minogue and the Tarantella punctuated by a crystal clear soundscape of rattling chains and a brittle laughter that teeters between hysteria and mockery. Its rawness seems to push the performers to extremes and sometimes even over the edge, in moments that invoke confessions and narrowly aborted suicidal acts. This piece is dedicated to the memory of Tamir Natan, childhood friend of the choreographer, who died in a road accident in La Paz, Bolivia when she was just 21. Further performances of this work will be in Tanzania at the Visa2Dance Festival in October and at the Akko Dance Center later this year. A short film by Betina Fainstein and Lior Har Lev about this piece will be presented as part of a TV series on Jerusalem artists for Channel 8.

Nadar Rosano’s
Off-line. Photo by Kfir Bolotin.

The other Israeli work was Nadar Rosano’s Off-line, in which Nadar Rosano and Adi Wineberg dance a duet that resembles a duel of sorts between man and woman, with an almost constant drumming pace set by the two sidestepping in synchronized fashion throughout much of the piece. A series of choreographic recapitulations of well defined movement phrases emphasizes a routine which grows tenser with each repetition.  Control and a consuming drive to maintain it denotes an irreparable imbalance of power between the two dancers, with Adi Wineberg seeking flight and freedom with swift, deft movements but resolved to return and hold her own against her male counterpart. Music by Japanese ambient electronic artists Chichei Hatakeyama and Kouhei Matsungama serves as a backdrop of continuity which emphasizes the restlessness of their power struggle.  The hypnotic melodies and insistent rhythms that permeate the piece act as an atmospheric anchor, pinning down one under the dominance of the other. This piece can next be seen on September 29-30 in Nicosia, Cypress and in March of next year at the Zurich Tanzhaus.

Meredith Nadler is a Berlin based writer, critic, artist and choreographer. For more about her work, see YouTube videos: and

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Batsheva Dance Company: Ohad Naharin & Tabaimo’s “Furo”

Posted on 14 March 2012 by Deborah Friedes Galili

Video: Excerpts of Ohad Naharin & Tabaim’s Furo, performed by the Batsheva Dance Company.

Nearly four years ago, I saw Furo – a collaboration between choreographer Ohad Naharin and video artist Tabaimo – when it was performed at Tel Aviv’s port.  Now Furo is back at Batsheva Dance Company’s Studio Varda in the Suzanne Dellal Centre from March 15-26.

Furo fascinated me in 2008, spurring me to write two posts at the time: one after attending the press conference and one after watching the performance on the day of its Tel Aviv premiere.  Both of my reflections are below, and ticket information for the current run of Furo is at the end of the article. 

* * *

Batsheva Dance Company in
Furo.  Photograph by Gadi Dagon.

The text below was originally published as “Moving Forward with Ohad Naharin’s ‘Furo'” on The Winger on May 14, 2008.

A question was asked in Hebrew, restated in English, and then translated into Japanese. This was part of the scene at yesterday’s press conference for Furo, a collaboration between Ohad Naharin and the Japanese video artist Tabaimo.

In the last two decades, Israeli choreographers – led by Naharin – have pushed the boundaries of their art form along with their foreign counterparts.  Furo continues this move forward.  Globalization, collaboration, installation, technology, and video art are some of the hot words right now, and every one of these terms can be used in a discussion about Furo.

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Batsheva Dance Company’s Mixed Bill: Yasmeen Godder and Sharon Eyal & Gai Bachar

Posted on 06 January 2012 by Deborah Friedes Galili

Video: Batsheva Dance Company in Yasmeen Godder’s The Toxic Exotic Disappearance Act

On first thought, Batsheva Dance Company’s new mixed bill seems an unusual choice of programming.  House (titled “Ha’avoda shel hofesh” in Hebrew) by Sharon Eyal and Gai Bachar is a natural pick, since Eyal has served as the troupe’s house choreographer since 2005.  The first half of the evening, however, belongs to someone from decidedly outside of the Batsheva fold: Yasmeen Godder.  Godder is not a complete stranger to Batsheva, having created Green Fields on the Ensemble in 2000, but her The Toxic Exotic Disappearance Act is the first work by anyone other than Ohad Naharin or Eyal to be performed by Batsheva in several years. Beyond the novelty of a guest choreographer working with the company, the combination of these particular artists initially seems to be an odd coupling.  Were I to make a family tree of contemporary dance in Israel, Godder’s branch would be far away from that of Eyal and Bachar.  Indeed, aesthetically, these creators occupy nearly opposite ends on the art form’s spectrum.

Yet watching the performance at Suzanne Dellal on January 4, this pairing started to make sense.

For all their stylistic differences, Godder and the team of Eyal and Bachar do have one key trait in common: they are artists who are audacious and provocative, in the best senses of those words.  Rather than play it safe, these creators unabashedly delve into the realms of the twisted, the disturbing, and even the grotesque in their repertory.  Rarely have I heard anyone deliver a lukewarm review of either Godder’s or Eyal’s work; indeed, it’s practically impossible to not react strongly to their choreography.

Yasmeen Godder’s The Toxic Exotic Disappearance Act.  Photograph by Gadi Dagon.

Batsheva’s mixed bill of Godder’s The Toxic Exotic Disappearance Act and Eyal and Bachar’s House may not be an aesthetically cohesive evening. But it’s savvy programming, for each dance has the capacity to leave a significant impact on the audience – and together, these electrifying works outline the range of contemporary dance in Israel today.

Sharon Eyal and Gai Bachar’s
House. Photo by Gadi Dagon.

Batsheva’s new program continues at Suzanne Dellal in Tel Aviv through January 7 and returns from January 18-20.  Additional performances are scheduled later in the season; for more details, please visit Batsheva’s website.

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Yossi Berg and Oded Graf’s “Animal Lost”

Posted on 25 July 2011 by Deborah Friedes Galili

Video: Trailer for Yossi Berg and Oded Graf’s Animal Lost, with the original cast

“It started from the fact that we wanted to have more shows in Israel,” Yossi Berg remarks of the decision to create a second cast for Animal Lost. Berg and his partner, Oded Graf, premiered the work in Copenhagen with an international cast in 2010, and the full-length production has since made a splash with performances at prestigious venues ranging from the American Dance Festival to Montpellier Danse in France. Yet juggling the schedules of the standout cast members, who work as freelance artists throughout Europe, proved a formidable impediment for mounting regular shows in the choreographers’ home country. Recounts Berg, “We would like to keep running the piece on a regular basis in Israel, because it’s quite new and it doesn’t make sense that we are invited all over the world and we are performing all over the world but not here, which is our base. This is how we started the idea of making another cast.”

Now Israeli audiences who have heard the buzz from abroad will get their chance to catch the wildly popular production with locally-based dancers as part of the Suzanne Dellal Centre’s Macholohet (SummerDance) festival on July 29-30. Two of the dancers joining Berg and Graf on the Inbal Hall’s intimate stage are Israelis Ofir Yudilevitch and Ayala Frenkel. Completing Animal Lost’s second cast – and keeping the mix international in flavor – are Olivia Court Mesa and Rosalind Noctor, more recent additions to Tel Aviv’s contemporary dance scene. The new group has a different balance of gender and nationality than the original cast, but ultimately, Berg and Graf believed that these individuals could form the dynamic, cohesive ensemble that drives the dance theater production. “We felt that all these four people have very beautiful energies, and from our experiences, it’s very important to work not only with artists but with people who are very nice and have their unique personalities,” reflects Berg.

Animal Lost by Yossi Berg and Oded Graf. Photo by Christoffer Askman.

While developing Animal Lost with the original ensemble, which continues to perform abroad, Berg recalls, “We dealt a lot with stereotypes and clichés. There’s some truth in this, but also, at the same time, it can be nothing, it can be nonsense. And this gap is interesting.” Restaging the work on the new cast has enabled Berg and Graf to dig further into the subject, to pose questions anew and to discover novel perspectives with this different group of performers. Berg acknowledges that resetting Animal Lost spurred him to search inside himself to find what he wanted to pass on to the dancers, a process that will no doubt enrich his own interpretation of the work.

Audiences returning to the piece may also notice some slight changes, since the co-creators strove to make the dance fit for the local ensemble. Yet the structure has remained the same, and so too has much of the text in which performers proclaim their nationalities, religions, occupations, and hobbies. With some of the declarations based on those made by the original dancers, the tensions between fiction and truth or expectation and reality are heightened, adding an additional layer to this cast’s exploration of cultural stereotypes. Noting that “some things were true and some things were not” in the first cast’s text as well, Berg explains, “We work a lot with this line of how you reach this place that you present it as if it’s true. . . . Some things have the potential of being truth, and these are the places that are important for us to present as reliable, because here we touch the deep place of the subject that we are dealing with.” As the dancers remove their masks on stage this weekend, they will reveal faces that are fresh to Animal Lost, but even in their debut, they are likely to go beneath the surface and probe the production’s theme to its core.

More Information

The new cast of Yossi Berg and Oded Graf’s Animal Lost will perform at the Suzanne Dellal Centre on Friday, July 29 and Saturday, July 30 at 20:30. Tickets are available at 03-5105656.

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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

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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