Video: Bridge: Choreographic Dialogues 2009
“My personal aim is to really create an Impulstanz type of workshop program in Israel,” says Barak Marshall, choreographer and artistic director of Bridge: Choreographic Dialogues. “Ideally, that’s really where I want to take this festival. I think it’s necessary, and I think that the time is right for us to have an international dance festival.”
It’s an ambitious goal, but as Bridge: Choreographic Dialogues grows and evolves each year, it’s also one that is perfectly logical and increasingly attainable.
From its start, Bridge was centered on building strong international connections. In 2006, Miki Yerushalmi of the Jewish Federation’s Tel Aviv/Los Angeles Partnership approached Barak Marshall about creating a dance program. Marshall, who currently splits his time between the two cities, recruited UCLA and the Suzanne Dellal Center as partners and developed what he calls a “choreographic exchange program.” During the summers of 2007, 2008, and 2009, L.A.-based choreographers – often working in diverse forms absent from the Israeli scene, such as hip-hop and kathak dance – traveled to Tel Aviv to teach two-week workshops with Israeli dancers. Meanwhile, in May 2008, Ronit Ziv, Niv Sheinfeld, and Idan Cohen shared their artistry with L.A. dancers in a similar intensive. Plans are in the works for more Israeli choreographers to teach and perform in L.A. in the future.
Here in Israel, the Bridge summer course is becoming an annual highlight of the Tel Aviv’s bustling dance scene, providing an infusion of wide-ranging workshops with a world-renowned visiting faculty. This summer, about 100 dancers – including 5 students from the prestigious CalArts dance department, a handful of other dancers from the U.S. and Europe, and tens of Israelis from around the country – are expected to study with the most international roster of teachers yet. “I really wanted to for a very long time bring a more European influence into the course,” explains Marshall of his decision to expand the faculty from its original L.A. base. Among this year’s teachers are Damien Jalet, who has risen to prominence as a choreographer within the Belgian collective Les Ballets C. de la B. and as the co-director of Eastman alongside Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui; Lisi Estradas, a Spanish-trained former Batsheva Ensemble dancer who also works with Les Ballets C. de la B.; and Michal Mualem, who danced with several local choreographers before joining Sasha Waltz & Guests and creating her own productions with her partner Giannalberto de Filippis. “These are 3 international and incredible artists, and I went very consciously after them to come and do the course,” Marshall reflects.
Further adding international flavor to this year’s Bridge are South Korean choreographer Chuck Park, the Paris Opera Ballet’s Bruno Bouché, and Caracas Ballet founder Maria Barrios Zaks. Even the teachers who are fixtures on the local scene, like Naomi Perlov, Jay Augen, and Marshall himself, boast a significant record of international work.
The diversity of the faculty pays dividends for Bridge’s dancers. “What I’m really trying to expose the dancers to are just a myriad of different ways of moving, a myriad of vocabularies and knowledges,” states Marshall. Classes in ballet, contemporary technique, and contemporary repertory as well as choreographic workshops allow dancers to work with multiple teachers, sample a variety of styles, and broaden their horizons. With this particular select faculty, even a single teacher may expose dancers to a range of movement. Marshall highlights Jalet’s “cross-cultural approach,” marveling that he and Cherkaoui mix “theater with ethnic movement with release with acrobatics; it’s just endless, the world he brings!”
Besides expanding the participants’ physical abilities, Bridge: Choreographic Dialogues 2010 will challenge dancers to develop their artistry as active members of the choreographic process. Marshall remarks, “The emphasis this year is the dancer as creator . . . these other choreographers really have a very democratic and dancer-as-creator mode of creation, so what I hope to really offer to the participants is to open their eyes to their abilities as a creator, not just as an interpreter.” Furthermore, Marshall notes that Bridge has served as a launching pad for dancers’ careers, enabling them to meet both local and visiting choreographers and fostering strong professional connections. Marshall himself has found several dancers for his recent works Monger and Rooster through Bridge.
The stimulating interaction runs both ways, with not only the dancers but also the choreographers benefiting from the mix of participants and approaches. Most of all, Marshall explains, foreign choreographers who have taught at Bridge have discovered what he calls “the wow of the Israeli dancer and the Israeli artist and the Israeli soul.” He elaborates, “Everybody who has participated in the three previous workshops came with their own preconceptions of Israel, first of all, and consequently of the Israeli dancer, from their limited knowledge. I know that everybody has gone away with this deep impression about the power of Israeli dancers. And I’m always very, very proud of that; I think that Israeli dancers offer something [that is] so powerful and overwhelming and all-encompassing.”
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