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Gazing Anew at Jugs, Curves and Maps

Posted on 08 January 2014 by Deborah Friedes Galili

This is a guest article by Judith Brin Ingber.  

Besides the fact that Suzanne Dellal Dance Centre brought together more than 130 international personalities interested in dance Dec. 4-Dec. 8, what I saw brought me to some new thoughts and quandaries.

Of course one person couldn’t possibly watch all the dance offerings in large and small spaces (starting in the morning and lasting past midnight), nor could one meet all who came from such far distances. I’m always curious about political perspectives, dance tastes and choreographic motivation, what someone else thinks are the ideal and the practical, plus who executes the choreographic intentions effectively in performance. Some of these concerns I talked about with a dashing woman from a big festival in Eastern Europe, and the gallant, elderly director of a theatre in southern Europe who gave me a picture postcard of his most beautiful 18th century theatre. The comments were far different with a radio personality who spoke Arabic as well as several European tongues, English and Hebrew—she’d grown up in North Africa and fled a hostile situation against Jews when she was young. She was upset and left one of the dances described below; her responses to what she saw were decidedly different than a Broadway dancer I also spoke with who’d graduated to handling a big American university theatre.

Politics come up all the time in Israel, but just this morning in conversation with dance writer Gaby Aldor, she mentioned that politics aren’t necessarily a defined political act or obviously from the right or the left– it could be an action of everyday life. But after watching a few of the new performances I wondered about politics from several different points of view: what were the politics of the presenters watching the dances and how might they affect what the international presenters bring to their venues? In fact, the issue of what is overt and what subversive, what is clear to us viewers and what is not became more and more interesting. Obviously political was Arkadi Zaides’s 4 Years 4 Projects 40 Minutes presented in one of the Centre’s studios. Once an acclaimed Batsheva dancer, he’s left behind the demands on an extraordinarily accomplished company dancer for Naharin dances in favor of his own highly individualized post-technique moves. We sat on the floor in front of two large screens. Zaides sat on a chair with a microphone in hand and typed papers he later read from in English.  Rather than a live performance we saw a video of Zaides dancing, in regular guy garb, his movements distorted and agonizing to watch. Next to the large screen showing his relentless moves was another showing a loop of video clips he’d chosen from an archive of the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights. Program notes indicated he was strict in choosing only clips “recorded by Palestinians” that “portray Israelis only” seeking, he wrote, to map the movement of the human body in the “local reality of ongoing conflict and emergency in Israel/Palestine.” We seemed to be peeping at roadways and some separation barriers or yards with encounters recorded in everyday shots, sometimes parents with children, sometimes religious Jews with soldiers. It was hard to understand what the incidents were about with no context. All the while, on the screen to the right, Zaides’s convulsive movements pulled his body askew in disturbing ways. He read a monologue about being a refugee himself and how he was searching for ways of connecting  “political and personal spheres.” After the presentation, I got to talking to a presenter at Zaides’s performance who mentioned his own facial scar from barbed wire. Without asking where was his encounter with the barbs, I knew they weren’t from a cattle ranch in the Western U.S.  A different presenter had walked out and later told me she didn’t agree at all with what Zaides was presenting.

I sat in a much bigger audience for the second afternoon of the Festival in a surprising place. How much of a political act was it that we were bused to a new alternative space outside the Suzanne Dellal Centre for Dance and Theatre? Not as comfortable as their main hall because it’s an unheated proscenium theater but it’s a daring cooperative venture, controlled by dancer/choreographers within a huge old building known as the “hanger.” In one of the Old Jaffa Port’s weathered warehouses, it opens out to the sea. Just because I was sitting in the “hanger” I had the odd feeling that a plane might swoop down with the gulls and come right in. But I settled down to watch several dances, and I want to disclose that my politics agreed with those in the dance Bodyland. I was delighted with what Oded Graf and Yossi Berg choreographed, for 5 men including the choreographers plus Soren Linding Urup, Pierre Enaux and Robin Rohrmann.  Before they began speaking to the audience (in English) I could imagine from their names in the program that some of the cast were European. By their accents and autobiographical comments, we learned the dancers were Israeli, Danish, French and German.  The mélange of comments were put together with movement to humorous as well as physical and political effect.

'BODYLAND' by Yossi Berg & Oded Graf, photo Christoffer Askman

 Yossi Berg and Oded Graf’s Bodyland.  Photo by Christoffer Askman.

All kinds of unexpected things happened in an almost childlike, nonsensical way: balloons attached to fingers and toes of one of the dancers making an extraordinary, colorful bouquet before rocketing off or an inflated, enormous Mylar arm shape joined by a gargantuan inflated pair of silvery hands (designed by Sille Dons Heltoft) engulfing the dancers. The first performer came onto the stage in gym shorts, t-shirt and silver high-tops. He started a cumulative movement routine about body parts, talking and pointing out “heart, brain, butt” with comments, some morphing into self-deprecation. Some Jewish audience members could personally relate to his aside “I hear my nose is too long.”  Eventually four men in their work-out shorts and gym shoes join him in jumping rope, a sequence as staggering a show stopper as 32 whipping fouette turns from Swan Lake. Flawlessly they jumped and jumped, their ropes beating an unceasing rhythm before beginning to talk in their different accents—the Frenchman saying as he pulls up his shirt, “This is the welcoming face of France,” then pointing to one of his nipples reporting “this is my home town.” The audience laughed from the unexpected comments. The Dane explained where is Copenhagen as if his bare torso also was the map of his country.  Movements accompanied the repartee with a remark that “Since the creation of the European Union it has become very flexible.” The commentary got a little more provocative and cutting as the two Israelis indicated on their bodies how enmeshed is the map here, including a certain male part to stand for the territories. True invention ran amuck as one explained where is there a bakery and where is the Western Wall, while one mooned the audience. Legs and body parts entangled with outstretched arms evolving into an obvious reference to the sacrifice of Jesus. Through daring, physical originality we then witnessed a recapitulation of the original body parts: “butt, brain, heart, cheek.”  Now however, we saw them as locations in a “bodyland” map that had taken us on a journey we could not have imagined.

Dancers at second Dalia Festival

Dancers at the second Dalia Festival.  As pictured on page 111 of pictured in Judith Brin Ingber’s book Seeing Israeli and Jewish Dance.

The Festival showed so many different solos and group pieces by women and about women that it caused me to think about womanhood anew. It used to be in the 1920s and 1930s and even in early days of new Israel in the early 1950s through the early 1960s, decorative arts and dances showed young women with jugs on their heads or held on their hips. The jugs tied to ancient Biblical stories of matriarchs at the well, and symbolized renewed Jewish life on the land. (These thoughts were crystalized for me when visiting a recent Haaretz Museum exhibition on jugs and young women.) Classic Israeli dance choreographers like Yardena Cohen and Sara Levi-Tanai plus countless folk dance creators evoked these thoughts too. Nowadays however that image of an Israeli woman no longer fits. Instead the dances are posing questions about what are the expected and unexpected roles for women, and how do choreographers approach femininity and feminism? Many dances we saw dealt with different phases and ages of women. I report below on a few that struck me.

Mr. Nice Guy

Anat Grigorio’s Mr. Nice Guy.  Photo by Gadi Dagon.

I was instantly caught up in the solo called Mr. Nice Guy by the outstanding dancer/choreographer Anat Grigorio. It graphically or should I say choreographically and performatively dealt with the politics of The Male Gaze as it’s come to be known. What is the effect of the male looking at the woman and objectifying her? In this case, we in the audience are captivated watching Grigorio dancing in her chic, black, backless short dress, sometimes covered with a lush leopard coat. She tries over and over to physically answer the demands of a guy for whom she’s apparently auditioning. With no set to soften what we see and no music to distract us from the voice, we watch Grigorio trying to please the demanding voice. She changes her body and her dance to fit his directions. His disembodied cloying voice is relentlessly demanding and asks what seem to be impossible moves and positions.  Amazingly, she succeeds as she’s led into faster and faster executions of more and more grueling shapes and phrases. We cheered for her at the end for two-fold reasons: to buck up the maligned and underappreciated woman we had seen auditioning and also to cheer the superb dancer that is Grigorio who has such pizzazz and an extraordinary technical facility.

A different view of women altogether but still related to the Male Gaze was Michal Herman’s Plan B. It began with two women also on a bare stage—Herman and Inbal Shahar. They were perfectly dressed and coifed as old fashioned stewardesses in high heels in belted and elegant suits (was that in the 1950s or 1960s that women looked like that?). They showed us exits with the conventional stretching out of arms and pointed figures to direct our gaze. These gestures were also to a voice over, but it turns out the directions were not for exits in an airplane, but for the theatre where we were seated. Suddenly there was a black out and when the lights returned, we were presented with the Present. The stewardesses were now two young women dressing as modern dancers, the audience laughing at their transformation from elegance to rags as they pulled on leg warmers and stretched t-shirts, so different from their previously perfect lady-like looks. We watch them effortlessly fulfilling the directions of the teacher-director-male voice, “improvising” he says. The demanding voice causes them to show familiar movements necessary to master in dance today, aping contemporary class movements (even images that come out of Gaga classes, in fashion today).  They seemed to be showing us pages from a current dance manual. Through wit, clever costuming and moves, we watched how young women are expected to look and move, transported through a portal of time from past to present in a satiric, very successful piece.

Many dances showed the difficulties and challenges that could arise as time goes by in a woman’s life. These might include: does she accept herself? Will someone else accept her? What might have been true in other eras? What is true for her in the moment? In Yasmeen Godder’s See Her Change a figure is set apart as she ages. Or, is she questioning how to accept her aging body in her dance profession? Three dancers — Dalia Chaimsky, Shuli Enosh and Yasmeen Godder –- performed on a messy stage littered with costume pieces, a dressing table and a patchwork of ideas, the sections, seemingly casually presented. There was strutting in high heels, then shuffling in clogs, coffee cup in hand, changes of clothing topped off with wigs, or not, boas and pieces of clothing off and then on, hung up on the stage curtains, or not. A child’s voice is heard saying “mama, mama” but the lead character is too distracted to respond; instead there are silent screams, chocking gestures and many repeated movements pulling scraggily hair unhappily across the face.

Instead of obscuring the face, obscuring the hair was the subject of a more modest piece, Hat with a Feather choreographed by Tami Izhaki for the all-women Nehara Dance Company shown in one of the studios.  I was fascinated with its originality and have been pondering a situation it portrays for observant Jewish women. We are introduced to four young women and one older in demure pastel colored pantaloons or dresses. Two primly walk next to each other and we realize their braids are attached as if they are Siamese twins. Their movements are therefore circumscribed, one skirting only just so far around the other, their heads held just so. Another young woman perches mermaid-like on the floor, trying to rise but as she moves, we notice her big toe is entangled in the end of her incredibly long braid. Her foot jerks her head backwards menacingly whenever she tries moving, her extremely arched backward position a marvel. The demands of her hair stretch her head towards her foot in painful-looking pulls. A mother figure arrives, seemingly to straighten things out, first flicking off some awful sounding music, and corralling the young women. She matter-of-factly demonstrates how to properly adjust a long scarf over one’s hair to conceal all of it as required by strict Jewish code once a woman marries. On the one hand she frees the braid from the young woman’s foot, but the freedom is circumspect. Another young woman struggles and is tamed through the reins of convention and traditional expectations. She is finally crowned; the hat with the feather ending the moves for self-sufficiency and bringing modesty.  In truth, the five accomplished dancers practice traditional Judaism exploring through their dancing some of the challenges of their observance. The Hat with a Feather serves them well.

Much more menacing was Cassandra, the duet by Ronit Ziv, based on Aeschylus’ texts about Cassandra’s power of prophecy cursed by disbelief from others. The paradox begins when we confront two dancers standing with their backs to us. We assume they are naked on top with their bare torsos, their flowing skirts incongruous in their fullness. When Gefen Liberman and Sofia Krantz turn, however, their nipples are taped over with wide black swatches. It was a hideously disturbing look throughout as I watched their torsos freed of clothing yet marked with the terrible tape.  Even though their torso movements were so articulate, they were stifled and marked. The two moved often in unison leading me to believe they were two sides of one, reaching one way and the other in their yearning madness –huge reaches of limbs whether stretching in their uprightness or pulling on the ground in one direction and then another. Are we watching something of the dark and painful state, maybe even a feminine flaw dealing with uncomprehending, authority figures who ignore and refuse to accept what is present, never mind what might happen in the future?

Other dances were also disturbing and unsettling on the same subject of womanhood. Atom by Oded Zadok and Kazuyo Shionoiri with animation by Neta Canfi was enhanced by extraordinary shadow puppetry enacted by the two choreographers. But it was a cruel depiction of a submissive wife who never figures out an alternative to her doomed life.  All we watch happened to her in her kitchen and bedroom. In Ich Bin Du by Ella Ben-Aharon and Edo Ceder, the two choreographer/dancers sometimes showed a Madonna figure that was needed but repulsive. Aging was also the thrust of two pas de deux in a collaboration between Ido Tadmor for himself and Elwira Piorun. Danielle Agami’s Shula danced by women in the Batsheva Ensemble remains a fascinating piece in my memory. Young women making a real salad, and serving dinner for each other, carrying on with life as they straighten enormous upturned structures that transform into tables and chairs, literally straightened things out for one in their social group. Another voice over in English harasses a young woman listening on the phone to her supposed lover’s sarcastic, cruel remarks: “Call me in April to remind me of your birthday in May” he says. Her apt moves with dismissive flicking legs, or crashing off upended benches and crawling into others showed her state of mind.  The young women help each other in understated moves that literally still carried weight and showed us they would manage, unlike some of the other women characters we had seen in other dances.

I began to wonder why were there so many dances with male voice-overs? And why were the voice-overs in English? I asked one of the choreographers if there were versions in Hebrew for Israeli audiences.  “No,” he slowly said, surprised, “Dance is so international and performers come from all over to work in Israel, so English suffices for all of us from all over, and besides, audiences here, too, all understand English.” Is that a political statement, I wondered? Who in Israeli audiences is left out from fully understanding the layers of a dance if the language projected is English? Does it also represent something of the invasive style of America and her expectations? I couldn’t get away from the feeling the sound scores were created with foreign audiences in mind, ready for tours abroad.

I don’t remember voice in the sound score created by choreographers Inbal Pinto and Avshalom Pollak’s for their group dance Dust performed by their company of eleven on opening night of the festival. It wasn’t outwardly political, nor about the plight of women, filled with the choreographers’ signature plethora of imaginative images. Real dust invades everything on earth, so perhaps they thought that justified the endless unearthly images? The set was enchanting with a door upstage that opened to let in a flood of dust motes like children in odd school uniforms of white caps and white knee-length gowns. These unruly children in their classroom sat at their desks, a stymied teacher barely managing in stuttering steps, often crossing the room to no effect. The desks collapsed with odd legs, others were up-ended and transformed into spinning flip books of animated images; others were projected on the upstage wall (by Roni Fahima and Shimrit Elkanati). Through the door odd characters emerged, a boneless figure oozing to the floor and canes of the blind tapping as many pushed in through the classroom door. The canes became lines of structures and suddenly we saw a construction, a house, invaded by the children/dust.  Whether seen or not, the ubiquitous dust motes in the hands of Pinto and Pollak took over all the space in an orchestra of originality.

After watching so many dances, another set that stood out was the askew playground in Nadar Rosano’s Asphalt, a broken down bench and slide inhibiting the dancers’ freedom and possibilities.  Another set piece was a bird’s nest in Idan Cohen’s Songs of a Wayfarer to Gustav Mahler’s music of the same name.  It became a surprising mask, blinding the solo dancer in a evocative piece that connected the choreographer to his European-born grandmother, who suffered from the Holocaust despite a life of freedom afterwards in Israel. Rami Be’er’s Undividided Void for his Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company had a monumental set for his evening length piece featuring a sensual figure (Renana Randy) sought after by all the men—in a beige leotard she was sometimes seen in a raised space outlined by a metal frame upstage—showing off parts of her sinewy torso undulating in alluring ways; at first there was one wooden panel also placed upstage, opposite the screen. I misunderstood it to be an empty bookshelf, as if culture and history were missing in the rush of movement and aggression. The sensual figure came down off her pedestal, out of the shadow box even becoming a regular figure in the crowd. Sometimes however she was threatened and sometimes she was danced with lovingly—was she the old sides of the desired but the object to discard? Or just a part of all of us? Whatever the murky meaning to her, the oddest part of the dance to me remains the set. More and more wooden sections were brought in by stagehands during the evening, standing them contiguously, upright along the perimeter of the stage. The wooden panels did add a warmth and a sheen as the stage lights bounced off the wood.

One could never level triteness as a criticism of the dances presented at the Festival, but repeated movements did cause visual fatigue. Of course there are arabesques, turns and deep knee bends in many dances, but when a gesture seems specific but then pops up in many dances, it loses its punch. Unfortunately the sequential bending backwards requiring virtuosic control by the dancer became a matter-of-fact accomplishment as did a sudden swirling to the floor in sudden dramatic falls. Nonetheless, profound originality in a myriad of dances (often dealing with womanhood, the politics of place and coping with everyday living) confronted me in so many of the dances. Based on my impressions and what I’ve tried to describe of the extraordinary International Exposure 2013, the foreign presenters who came to Suzanne Dellal Centre for Dance the Theatre have provocative and thrilling choices for their audiences world wide.

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. 

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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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Batsheva Dance Company 2011-2012: The Year Ahead

Posted on 23 November 2011 by Deborah Friedes Galili

Batsheva Dance Company in Ohad Naharin’s
Sadeh21.  Photo by Gadi Dagon.

Last week, Batsheva Dance Company unveiled its 2011-2012 season at a press conference in Studio Varda.  And what a season it will be!

On December 30, the troupe will premiere two new works, one by Sharon Eyal and Gai Bachar and the other by Yasmeen Godder.  At the end of March, the junior Batsheva Ensemble will debut another new work by Sharon Eyal and Gai Bachar along with a restaging of Ohad Naharin’s classic Tabula Rasa (1986), which has not been shown in Israel since 2004.  Tel Aviv audiences will also be treated to performances of Eyal’s Bill and Naharin’s Sadeh21, Hora, MAX, Shalosh, Kamuyot, Deca Dance, and Furo, created in collaboration with the Japanese video artist Tabaimo and last staged in Israel in 2008.  Both the main company and the ensemble will travel around Israel, appearing in other cities and throughout the periphery; the troupes will also journey abroad, with several performances in Europe in November and December and a North American tour in February and March.  By the time the season ends, the two companies will have given a combined total of well over two hundred performances.

The press conference kicked off with a peek at an installation that the main company will perform at the Fondation Beyeler, a museum in Basel, on November 23 and 24.  In the museum, the audience will sit around the space and can come and go as they please; in the press conference, we too sat around the perimeter of the space and remained riveted during the brief showing.  As company member Guy Shomroni DJ’ed, the rest of the dancers filtered in and out of the center, quoting snippets from across Naharin’s repertory.  Here and there duets formed spontaneously and unison took shape organically.  Phrases from different works created unusual juxtapositions, while occasionally more and more dancers gathered to build a section from a single work.

Although I was invited to this press conference as a dance writer, I attended it along with the other 29 dancers who are studying Ohad Naharin’s movement language in the inaugural year of the Gaga Teacher Training Program – and in the midst of my total immersion in Gaga, my viewing was undoubtedly colored by my recent experiences in the studio.  I couldn’t help but notice the Batsheva dancers slip in and out of phrases we have been learning in our repertory classes, like the quiet unison from Kamuyot (based on Mamootot) and a short, speedy solo from Sadeh21.

While a thrill surged through my body as I recognized these movements, I was even more fascinated by the dancers’ mastery of Naharin’s movement language.  Trained for years in Gaga, these dancers move fluently in Naharin’s idiom, and their knowledge of his recent repertory is encyclopedic.  Like writers cleverly engaging in wordplay, these dancers rummaged freely through Naharin’s vocabulary and deployed witty plays on movement.

I continued to mull over the Batsheva dancers’ relationship to Gaga as the press conference continued on to previews of the new work by Sharon Eyal and Gai Bachar as well as that of Yasmeen Godder.  Sharon Eyal, herself steeped in Gaga as a former member of Batsheva and as the company’s current house choreographer, has developed a unique voice that nevertheless is a cousin to Naharin’s language.  Having worked with Eyal on previous productions, the dancers moved in her creation as if speaking one of their native tongues.  And even though Yasmeen Godder’s language is further removed on the family tree of contemporary dance, the five Batsheva dancers in her new work adapted admirably to her vocabulary.  This mixed bill is one to look forward to, for it showcases the range of this company’s extraordinary dancers in works by some of this country’s most exciting choreographers.


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The 50th Israel Festival: Batsheva, Merce Cunningham, and More

Posted on 25 May 2011 by Deborah Friedes Galili

Video: The 2011 Israel Festival
50 years of the Israel Festival – this country’s most prestigious multidisciplinary arts festival – is a milestone worthy of celebration.  And for local dance lovers, the jubilee season offers even more reasons to celebrate, for the programming features an extraordinary lineup of artists from home and from abroad.  With a rich calendar of performances through June 18, the 2011 Israel Festival is set to lure concert-goers from around the country to Jerusalem.  Here’s a peek at this year’s dance events:

Video: Strange Fruit

The first day of the festival featured the physical marvels of Australia’s Strange Fruit in Zion Square and the lyricism of the Israel Ballet and soloists from Russia’s Bolshoi Ballet performing Giselle in Safra Square.

Video: Batsheva Dance Company in Ohad Naharin’s Sadeh21

Batsheva Dance Company returns to the festival with Ohad Naharin’s new Sadeh21, created in collaboration with the troupe’s full roster of dancers.  Bathed in soft lighting by Avi Yona Bueno (Bambi) and clothed in variously hued and textured costumes by Ariel Cohen, the company presented a short preview to the press on Monday.  Although the cast is large, the rapport among the dancers often lends the work an intimate feel and effectively draws the viewer into the world onstage.  Sadeh21 premieres on May 25 and continues its run in Jerusalem through May 27.

Naharin is not the only well-known Israeli choreographer premiering work in the Israel Festival.  On May 28-29, choreographer Nimrod Freed and composer Israel Breit will unveil La, a work for four singers and three dancers.  Drawing on their respective backgrounds in dance and theater, longtime partners Niv Sheinfeld and Oren Laor will debut Ship of Fools on June 9.

Video: Merce Cunningham Dance Company

Two years after Merce Cunningham’s death, the legendary choreographer’s company is appearing in the Israel Festival as part of its worldwide Legacy Tour.  On June 6, the Sherover Theater will host the Merce Cunningham Dance Company’s performance of Split Sides (2003) and Sounddance (1975), while the Israel Museum will be the site of several Events – programs including excerpts of Cunningham’s renowned repertory – on June 9-11.

Merce Cunningham’s Events.  Photo by Anna Finke.

Besides these performances, a series of lectures, discussions, and workshops called MerceCampus will be offered at Bezalel, Yaffo 23 in conjunction with the Jerusalem Season of Culture.  Sessions include a workshop with Dance Forms, the computer software used by Cunningham to compose his dances; film screenings and performances of music by Cunningham’s famed partner John Cage; and conversations with the company’s dancers and artistic director.  Entry to MerceCampus programming is free, and the full schedule in English is available here.

Video: The Danish Dance Theatre in Tim Rushton’s Kridt

The 2011 Israel Festival will close with the Danish Dance Theatre in two programs.  Artistic director Tim Rushton teams up with jazz artist Caroline Henderson for Love Songs on June 15.  A mixed bill including Rushton’s Kridt, Enigma, and CaDance will be performed in Jerusalem on June 17 and in Modi’in on June 18.

For more information about programming and ticketing, visit the Israel Festival’s website.

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