Posted on 11 August 2011 by Deborah Friedes Galili
Liron Ozeri’s Caravan. Photo by Kobi Ben Sasson.
As Idit Herman stepped up to the podium in Yerushalmi Hall at the Suzanne Dellal Centre for the press conference announcing Shades of Dance (Gvanim Bemachol) 2011, she reflected on how meaningful this moment was for her. Herman – who co-founded Tel Aviv’s adventurous Clipa Theater with Dmitry Tyulpanov – first received widespread acclaim as a creator in 1997 at Shades of Dance, a biennial platform for new choreographers. Winning the top prize at the 1997 competition helped launch Herman and Tyulpanov’s career; indeed, the award enabled the partners to embark on their next project, and the momentum that built from that initial success progressed until Clipa became a well-known player in the country’s art scene. Now Herman has come full circle, returning to Shades of Dance as artistic director and helping the next generation of choreographers get their start.
Shades of Dance, which takes place every two years and is now in its sixteenth edition, has undergone numerous changes since its inception in 1984. The inaugural event was held in Ramla as a celebration of independent choreographers, boasting both concerts and workshops. Moving to the Duhl Auditorium in Tel Aviv in 1987, the second Shades of Dance bore a closer resemblance to today’s platform with a competition structure inviting new choreographers to vie for a prize. Shades of Dance found a long-term home at Suzanne Dellal in 1990, and here, it has been led by a string of artistic directors from Ellida Geyra to Naomi Perlov to Hanoch Ben Dror to Herman. In some years, the choreographers were organized into bills based on themes, while in other years the programs had no titles. Some editions of the festival included additional shows featuring works by choreographers still in high school. Occasionally, more than one top prize was awarded, while in 2007 and 2009, Shades of Dance was not organized as a competition. Amidst all this variation, the constant has been an emphasis on showcasing a broad spectrum of work by new artists who are, more often than not, as yet unknown to the larger public.
Idan Yoav’s Almost Human. Photo by Gadi Dagon.
This year’s Shades of Dance, to be held from September 7-10, will certainly fulfill this aim. From the 90 aspiring choreographers who applied, Herman selected 16 artists whom she believed were “the bravest among them, who wanted to go all the way.” These choreographers went through an intensive process, sometimes consulting with the artistic director about how to clearly bring out their works’ content and craft their visual design. Herman has arranged the resulting dances into five programs according to theme, and noting the great push that the first prize once gave her and Tyulpanov, she is reinstating the competition model so that an award contributed by an anonymous donor may propel the most promising of these young voices to even greater heights.
The five different programs of Shades of Dance 2011 are as follows:
Sharon Vaisvaser’s 42 Inch. Photo by Araleh.
Program Aleph: Pure Dance highlights virtuoso movement in Gil Carlos Harush’s TAKANA, Smadar Goshen’s Urbania, and Sharon Vaisvaser’s 42 Inch. Program Aleph will be performed on September 7 at 20:00 and September 9 at 20:00 in Dellal Hall.
Ran Ben Dror’s Agassi Pallas. Photo by Sarah Ben Dror.
Program Bet: Dream Big features work by four creators whom Herman described as “daring artists with chutzpah.” The program includes Idan Yoav’s Almost Human, Ran Ben Dror’s Agassi Pallas, Lee Meir’s Translation in the Body of the Text, and Yuval Goldstein’s Expensive Shit. Program Bet will be performed on September 8 at 20:00 and September 10 at 22:30 in Dellal Hall.
Meytal Blanaru’s Aurora. Photo by Julie Betrad.
Program Gimel: The Future is Now centers on work that Herman calls “futuristic dance” with refreshingly unfamiliar movement. The bill is composed of Meytal Blanaru’s Aurora, Moran Yitzhaki Abergel’s Over me, and Lilach Livne’s Monday Larissa. Program Gimel will be performed on September 7 at 17:30, September 8 at 22:30, and September 9 at 12:00 in Yerushalmi Hall.
Yoni Soutchy’s Ben. Photo by Gadi Dagon.
Program Daled: Forbidden Fruit has been dubbed “sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll” by Herman and includes Yoni Soutchy’s Ben, Merav Cohen’s And When the Beast Returned, and Amit Zamir’s Buba (Doll). Program Daled will be performed on September 7 at 22:30, September 8 at 17:30, and September 9 at 14:30 in Yerushalmi Hall.
Artour Astman’s Foosho. Photo by Alexander Sherbakof.
Program Hey: Rare Animal showcases artists who, according to Herman, “researched the physical border between human and animal” and boast “rare physical abilities, almost beyond human.” The bill features Liron Ozeri’s Caravan, Ido Batash’s Bread and Circuses Blood, and Artour Astman’s Foosho. Program Hey will be performed September 9 at 22:30 and September 10 at both 17:30 and 20:00 in Yerushalmi Hall.
A closing ceremony will take place on September 10 at 23:30.
Tickets are available at 03-5105656 or online at the Suzanne Dellal Centre’s website.
Posted on 30 December 2009 by Deborah Friedes Galili
Video: Maya Brinner’s Red Ladies was one of several works exploring the individual within the group at International Exposure
A few weeks after International Exposure 2009, not only am I continuing to mull over some intriguing works that I saw, but I am still thinking about the many attendees I met and contemplating the conversations I had with them.
It was truly remarkable to see how many presenters were scoping out Israeli dance with the hopes of bringing Israeli choreographers or companies to their venues. The audience at International Exposure was well-informed, sophisticated, and worldly; its members were knowledgeable about the contemporary dance scene in their own home countries and had seen some of the latest productions from around the globe.
This diverse array of cultured visitors – and their well-informed observations – reinforced my own perception that there is indeed something especially appealing about Israeli contemporary dance. It was illuminating to talk to repeat attendees and learn that they found this year’s festival stronger than in previous years; it was also encouraging to speak with first-time visitors and discover that they found several works of interest.
I had several stimulating conversations about the festival with Brian Schaefer, a dance writer and administrator based in San Diego, California. He has generously written a thorough, thoughtful reflection on the festival for Dance In Israel, offering an invaluable perspective from outside the scene. Enjoy!
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Seeing Israel through the Lens of Dance
By Brian Schaefer
Oil and water may be the most contentious of the commodities in the Middle East. But who says art can’t be a country’s natural resource as well?
Such is the purpose of International Exposure – a type of cultural trade fair to encourage the export of one of Israel’s most valuable products: its creativity. Each year for the past fifteen years, a flock of foreign presenters, managers, choreographers, and journalists has descended upon the Suzanne Dellal Center in Tel Aviv to get a crash course in contemporary dance in Israel in the hopes that we fall in love with an artist or company and take them home with us to introduce them to our families, or rather, audiences. It’s souvenir shopping on an entirely different scale.
The Israeli Ministry of Culture brings us here to demonstrate the wealth of dance in Israel, show us Tel Aviv as an exciting, cosmopolitan city, and let us discover just how far Israel has come from the pioneering, agricultural days of the kibbutzim and sabras when Israeli dance meant communal folk gatherings, which is still how most Americans consider it. So the point of International Exposure is to destroy that myth and show us an Israel that is innovative and cutting-edge, both in its technology and in its art.
The process of actually bringing a company to the States is a complicated pas de deux that relies on a lot of other factors that come later on. But for now, for this week, it’s about seeing work. A lot of work. An exhausting amount of work.
Still, the experience is extraordinary. And the impact is powerful. Five days later, we leave with a semblance of an idea of what makes contemporary dance in Israel so vibrant. Without trying to lump everything together – after all, one of the strengths of the program is its diversity – there are a few noticeable characteristics, trends, and themes that emerge.
Niv Sheinfeld and Oren Laor’s Big Mouth. Photo by Gadi Dagon.
It’s difficult as an outsider not to read too much about the regional conflicts into the work we see. Few artists, save perhaps for Niv Sheinfeld and Oren Laor who explicitly reference Israel’s military history in the engaging trio Big Mouth, admit to addressing politics in any way.
Yet as foreign critics and presenters who for the most part view Israel from the lens of international media, we inevitably look for ways that artists respond to their social surroundings. Maybe we look too much. But perhaps also the fact that such intentional reactions to the political environment are conspicuously lacking in so much of the work we saw is equally telling.
What we actually got in many instances was a complete departure from the realities of this world, and surprisingly often, we were thrust in to the realm of the absurd where the unexpected can occur at any moment, where things are never quite as they seem or can in an instant morph into something unrecognizable. The absurdity is also in the behavior, where over-the-top characters cavort about with exaggerated gestures, inhabiting fantasy worlds in extravagant costumes and bright make-up.
Inbal Pinto and Avshalom Pollak’s Trout. Photo by Asaf Ashkenazi.
Perhaps no Israeli choreographers better encapsulate this aesthetic and sensibility than Inbal Pinto and Avshalom Pollak. At International Exposure, the duo showed excerpts from the company’s repertory, the charming Rushes, made a few years ago for the American company Pilobolus, and the new evening-length work Trout, created in 2008 in Norway. In each, the zany characters and extravagant sets and props transport audiences into an imaginary place that may resemble reality at times but clearly isn’t.
Barak Marshall’s Rooster. Photo by Kfir Bolotin.
In Barak Marshall’s Rooster, we took a colorful visit to the shtetls of the 19th century to witness a love triangle mixing stories from the Bible and Yemenite folklore with a period aesthetic and surreal scenes of, for example, a man “laying” eggs in his mouth. It’s a work that, while perhaps a bit unfocused and difficult to follow for non-Hebrew speakers, exudes energy and charm and provides a strong showcase for the performers.
Across the board (for the most part), International Exposure guests walked away with a deep appreciation for Israeli dancers, whose focus and commitment is a noticeable strength of the performances.
Other works that dove into the absurd included Yasmeen Godder’s LOVE FIRE, complete with the gutting of a stuffed creature resembling some combination of goat and lion, an unexpected shower of blue glitter, and a dramatic illuminated heart made of diagonal fluorescent tubes. Yossi Berg and Oded Graf’s study in masculinity, 4 Men, Alice, Bach and the Deer, also made use of a life-sized dead animal, raising peculiar questions about the role of taxidermy in Israeli society. Okay, not really, but seeing both works in one night gave something to think about.
Michal Herman Dance Group’s Fellowship, based on a short Kafka story, embodied absurdity in the extreme mannerisms of its characters and their exaggerated interactions, as did Irad Mazliah’s Unter den Linden.
While not necessarily “absurd,” Artour Astman & Ilana Bellahsen’s ArtLana presented the two artists as babies in a wide-eyed, charming duet. The grotesque masks in Noa Dar Dance Group’s Anu suggested something of the absurd but dealt more explicitly with another theme that was largely prevalent throughout the festival – the struggle between the urge for individual expression and the pressure to conform.
The aforementioned Big Mouth tackled the topic effectively as did Maya Brinner’s Red Ladies, which followed a trio of women from synchronized harmony to individual awareness and then group conflict.
But perhaps no dance company in the world embodies this tension between group cohesion and individual identity than the Batsheva Dance Company, whose new work Hora closed the festival.
Batsheva Dance Company in Ohad Naharin’s Hora. Photo by Gadi Dagon.
Batsheva’s artistic director Ohad Naharin shifts quickly and effortlessly between complicated group sections, done in perfect unison (in a way that no other company can approach), to solos that marry abandon and control in surprising harmony. It’s a tactic utilized in several of his recent works, and just because it’s a recognizable pattern doesn’t mean its predictable. Yet here, the tool loses its impact. While past works like Shalosh (Three) or Mamootot, though still abstract, feel like they follow some sort of arc, Hora in comparison feels circular. At the end, we’re back at the beginning and as a result, it’s a bit harder to appreciate the journey, but then again, maybe that’s the point.
Naharin has always had eclectic music taste, easily moving from a traditional Passover song to the Beach Boys to soundscapes that he himself creates. In Hora, the score consists of some of the most recognizable and clichéd pieces of music by Strauss, Wagner, and John Williams borrowed from the archives or classic science-fiction films. Like the title of the work, Naharin challenges the audience to rearrange its reference points for the associations we have created throughout our lives.
As a result, he creates extremes of possibilities and the space in between where anything can happen and meaning is left ambiguous. Throwing viewers from one end of the spectrum to the other (from familiar to unfamiliar) with unrelated and nonsensical movements forces us to fill in the gaps of how they relate and what it all amounts to. And while you may not walk away with an answer, Batsheva ultimately leaves an impression that, indeed, there is something human within this controlled chaos after all.
I always get a sense, watching Batsheva, that there is something dark and explosive just under the surface, and that’s another thread that seemed to weave its way through the festival of Israeli choreographers and companies. Noa Dar’s Anu plunged suddenly into simulated rape, and Berg and Graf’s 4 Men, Alice, Bach and the Deer similarly incorporated sexual violence into the narrative.
Rami Be’er’s poem Infrared, which is also the name of the work for his Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company, follows multi-colored soldiers into a garden, which the over-produced performance suggested rather explicitly. The company appears to have a wealth of resources at its disposal and produced a glossy show that, ultimately, was lacking in the substance and urgency that many of the smaller companies displayed.
Vertigo Dance Company in Noa Wertheim’s Mana. Photo by Gadi Dagon.
Noa Wertheim’s Vertigo Dance Company similarly approached the theme of complicated group dynamics. Yet their work Mana offered a depth and sense of intrigue that made it one of the most compelling pieces of the entire week, one that brings together many of the themes discussed here in a tight, luscious, and appealing package that foreign audiences are likely to respond well to.
If another theme might be added, it’s the embrace of classical music mashed with contemporary, fragmented movement. It’s not a new idea in contemporary dance, but the idea was particularly noticeable at this festival. In addition to the well-known scores in Batsheva’s work, Godder also used the waltz for inspiration, and Idan Cohen’s take on Swan Lake paired the Tchaikovsky score with sharp, defined, lightning-quick movement that actually made the idea feel current and relevant – no small feat for such an overused score and well-known ballet. But the sense that Israelis are resisting tradition, or at least looking to re-contextualize it to their new realities, came through loud and clear.
Maria Kong in fling. Photo by Gadi Dagon.
Of course, one can’t possibly force all of the performances into only a few basic themes. Defying all categorizations was the work by Maria Kong, a new company comprised of former Batsheva dancers. fling opens with an aching violin solo, performed facing away from the audience, while projections on two columns conjure a world of dark hallways, mysterious rooms, and the constant shift of shadows, which gives the sense that time is passing us by. Without a dancer on stage for the first nearly twenty minutes, a captivating world is created. When they do appear, the dancers move with robotic precision. The slight turn of a head sends waves that reverberate throughout another dancer’s body. Similarly, fling is a subtle work that makes a big impression.
And while International Exposure aims to present contemporary dance, we were also brought to the Israel Ballet studios to view excerpts from the company’s repertoire. The dancers were proficient, the partnering well-executed. But the formality of the ballet language doesn’t seem to fit this country.
Interacting with and observing Israelis on a daily basis during the week of the Exposure, the intimacy, suspicion, joy, tension, spirit, and vitality that seems to hover over society here is reflected in the works of contemporary artists that display the same such characteristics.
In comparison, the ballet, with its sterilized look, organized structure, clear gender roles, and polished edges seems to be just what everyone else is fighting against. And that conflict is what makes the dance in Israel so fascinating.
Posted on 05 December 2009 by Deborah Friedes Galili
Barak Marshall’s Rooster. Photo by Avi Avin.
As autumn turns into winter, there’s an interesting progression from one dance festival in Tel Aviv to the next. Tel Aviv Dance introduces Israeli audiences to top-notch dance from around the globe before giving way to Curtain Up, a celebration of new Israeli-made works. And then, in a few concentrated days of concerts, International Exposure attempts to introduce Israeli dance to the world by showcasing the past year’s bounty (including recently premiered Curtain Up works) to foreign arts presenters who just might invite local choreographers to perform in their home countries.
Now in its fifteenth year, International Exposure will present the work of twenty-seven Israeli choreographers to over ninety guests including theater directors, festival directors, and journalists. These visitors will witness a stellar lineup boasting Israel’s most prominent dance companies as well as many independent choreographers at various stages of their careers. Some of the works on the program have been performed many times over the course of the year; others, such as the selections from the still in progress Curtain Up festival, are in their initial performances. Together, these dances offer a valuable retrospective on the past season and paint a representative picture of Israel’s vibrant contemporary dance scene.
International Exposure 2009 runs from Wednesday, December 9 until Sunday, December 13. Many of the concerts will be held at the Suzanne Dellal Centre and are open to the public, so local audiences can catch up on shows they missed during the last year. Other performances will be held at the Israel Classical Ballet Centre, the Nachmani Theater, Clipa Theater, and the Herzliya Theater, giving visitors a peek at the larger scale of dance venues in Israel.
Below is a day-by-day virtual tour of the festival with photographs and videos of many of the dances which will be performed. Want to learn more about the choreographers, companies, works, and festivals I mention? Click on the underlined names to see related articles published on Dance In Israel.
As we say here in Israel, צפייה מהנה – tzfiya mehana, pleasant viewing!
Video: Aviv Eveguy’s Dimona will show at Maholohet on August 4
Yes, I know, I already posted one article about Maholohet (SummerDance). But some people might need a reminder that there’s still one month left of nearly nightly performances at Suzanne Dellal, and perhaps those of you who are abroad would like to hear a bit more about this Israeli summer tradition.
Although I was lucky enough to see many of the festival’s offerings earlier this season, several of this summer’s works were new (or new to me), and so in July I found myself walking over to Suzanne Dellal a few times a week. One of the standouts so far was Yoram Karmi and Uri Morag’s Man, Woman, Reflections, with its brilliant use of swinging lamps, illuminating projections, and clever choreography involving innovative sets. The two-part Under by Matanicola and Yasmeen Godder also delivered a punch with its intense atmosphere and powerful performances. And just this week, Inbal Pinto and Avshalom Pollak’s Rushes caught my eye with images that were simple, striking, and sustained for just the right amount of time.
Even if you’ve missed these concerts, there’s still plenty to come! Read on to see what else will heat up the stage this summer – all of the works I’ve mentioned below will be performed during August.
The article below was first published as “Some Summer Spice” in the Jerusalem Post on July 12, 2009.
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Some Summer Spice
Even the numbers of the Suzanne Dellal Center’s SummerDance Festival are impressive: eight weeks of concerts, 76 performances, 11 premieres and one group of special guests from abroad. But what’s behind the statistics – an exceptionally diverse assortment of dance – is even more extraordinary.
SummerDance 2009 (Maholohet, a play on the phrase “hot dance” in Hebrew) has showcased the wealth of Israeli concert dance since its inception 13 years ago. What started as a three-week festival gradually expanded, and now, with the Suzanne Dellal Center celebrating its 20th anniversary, SummerDance is having its hottest season yet.