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Curtain Up 2011: A Festival of Dance Premieres

Posted on 30 October 2011 by Deborah Friedes Galili


In Her Own Words by Rachel Erdos.  Photo by Yaniv Cohen.

Founded in 1989, Curtain Up (Haramat Masach in Hebrew) has become a centerpiece of Israel’s contemporary dance calendar.  In many ways, the core of this yearly platform has remained the same over the decades: up-and-coming choreographers who operate outside of the country’s major companies receive financial and artistic support to present new works on a series of mixed bills in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Yet in its most recent editions, Curtain Up has added another layer: cultivating artistic directors who are themselves choreographers.  Last year, four alumni of the festival – Tamar Borer, Sahar Azimi, Ronit Ziv, and Renana Raz – were each charged with curating an evening.  This year, Borer, Azimi, and Ziv are returning as artistic directors, applying the lessons they learned in 2010 to Curtain Up 2011, which runs from November 3-12.

Curtain Up’s three programs will each be performed twice at the Suzanne Dellal Centre and once at the Jerusalem Theatre.  In cooperation with the Choreographers Association and Tarbut L’Yisrael, the works created for Curtain Up will also be performed in Israel’s northern and southern regions, enabling these younger choreographers to gain further exposure.

So just what is on the bill for Curtain Up this year?  Here is a video preview of the three programs:

Curtain 1

Artistic Director: Tamar Borer
Choreographers: Iris Erez, Maya Brinner, Maya Weinberg
Performances at the Suzanne Dellal Centre: November 3 and 12 at 21:00
Performances at the Jerusalem Theatre: November 10 at 20:30

Video: Shuttered by Iris Erez


Video: Forest by Maya Brinner


Video: Some Fish (swim up the river to die) by Maya Weinberg

Curtain 2

Artistic Director: Sahar Azimi
Choreographers: Doron Raz, Roy Assaf, Gili Navot, Noa Zuk
Performances at the Suzanne Dellal Centre: November 4 at 22:00 and November 10 at 21:00
Performances at the Jerusalem Theatre: November 8 at 20:30


Video: Valentia by Doron Raz


Video: 6 Years Later by Roy Assaf


Video: Subject to Change by Gili Navot


Video: Speaker by Noa Zuk

Curtain 3

Artistic Director: Ronit Ziv
Choreographers: Hillel Kogan, Rachel Erdos, Osnat Kelner
Performances at the Suzanne Dellal Centre: November 5 at 21:00 and November 11 at 22:00
Performances at the Jerusalem Theatre: November 9 at 20:30


Video: Obscene Gesture by Hillel Kogan


Video: In Her Own Words by Rachel Erdos


Video: The sad little, unappreciative, Pisces, Jesus man by Osnat Kelner

More Information

Tickets for Curtain Up performances are 60 NIS.  For tickets to Curtain Up at Suzanne Dellal, call 03-5105656.  For tickets to Curtain Up at the Jerusalem Theatre, call 02-5605755.

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Curtain Up 2010: Video Preview

Posted on 22 November 2010 by Deborah Friedes Galili

Dana Ruttenberg’s Private I’s premieres in Curtain 3Photo by Gadi Dagon.

In its 21-year history, Curtain Up – Israel’s primary platform for premieres by independent Israeli choreographers – has cycled through a series of artistic directors and experimented with different formats.  To celebrate two decades of the festival’s existence in 2009, six alumni of Curtain Up created new works and selected up-and-coming choreographers to share their evenings.  Now, in a development of last year’s innovative programming, this year’s artistic directors are four artists who have previously shown their work in Curtain Up: Tamar Borer, Ronit Ziv, Renana Raz, and Sahar Azimi.  Each veteran choreographer is overseeing an evening-long program of new works by emerging choreographers, providing a valuable outside eye for the creators on his or her bill.  With this setup, Curtain Up has added a layer of artistic support to the financial assistance that has long been a major benefit of participation in the festival.

Iris Erez’s Homesick is featured in Curtain 1. Photo by Gadi Dagon.

This year’s line-up of choreographers includes some faces familiar to Curtain Up audiences.  Iris Erez was featured last year on Yasmeen Godder’s curtain, Elad Schechter shared the stage in 2009 with Vertigo Dance Company, and Maya Brinner showed her work on Noa Dar’s 2009 program; meanwhile, Michael Getman presented his work in previous seasons of Curtain Up.  Other artists in this year’s festival have shown their recent works in Tmuna Theater’s annual Intimadance and in Shades of Dance, a biennial platform for new choreographers that often serves as a stepping stone to Curtain Up.

Shlomi Frige’s Rashomon premieres in Curtain 4.  Photo by Gadi Dagon.

Besides the four programs, this year’s Curtain Up includes an array of events that encourage interaction between the artists and the wider public.  Conversations with the artistic directors and choreographers will precede some of the performances, and a series of workshops will be held in conjunction with the Amuta (the Choreographer’s Society).  The culminating event of Curtain Up 2010 is a landmark symposium geared to spark conversation about dance and the body.  Organized by Yael Nativ, this symposium will be held on Friday, December 3 in Jaffa at the Teiva, 19 Sderot Yerushalayim, from 9:00 until 1:30 in the afternoon.  The first session will contain more academic discussions of selected topics, and the second session will feature four dialogues between dance scholars and each of the artistic directors of this year’s Curtain Up festival.  Admission is free to the public.

Rotem Tashach’s Monuments is featured in Curtain 2.  Photo by Gadi Dagon.

Dance lovers in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem can catch the four curtains in late November and early December at bargain prices – tickets are a mere 60 NIS.  The Curtain Up programs will tour later this season to other areas around Israel, including Kfar Blum and potentially Dimona.  And if you’re not in Israel – or if you just want a sneak peek at what you’ll see onstage soon – check out the video preview of each curtain below!

Curtain 1

Directed by Tamar Borer, Curtain 1 features works by Iris Erez and Michael Getman.

Performance schedule:
Suzanne Dellal: November 25 and December 3
Jerusalem Theatre: December 2


Video: Iris Erez’s Homesick


Video: Michael Getman’s Father and Feather

Curtain 2

Ronit Ziv served as the artistic director for Curtain 2, which includes works by Tammy and Ronen Itzhaki, Rotem Tashach, and Ofra Idel.

Performance schedule:
Suzanne Dellal: November 24 and December 2
Jerusalem Theatre: December 1


Video: Ofra Idel’s Horse Tail


Video: Tammy and Ronen Itzhaki’s Have You Done


Video: Rotem Tashach’s Monuments

Curtain 3

Under the artistic direction of Renana Raz, Curtain 3 features the work of three female choreographers: Gili Navot-Friedman, Maya Brinner, and Dana Ruttenberg.

Performance schedule:
Suzanne Dellal: November 27 and December 1
Jerusalem Theatre: November 29


Video: Maya Brinner’s The Show


Video: Dana Ruttenberg’s Private I’s


Video: Gili Navot-Friedman’s Check-in

Curtain 4

Three male choreographers – Ariel Cohen, Elad Schechter, and Shlomi Frige – will show their work in Curtain 4, under the artistic direction of Sahar Azimi.

Performance schedule:
Suzanne Dellal: November 26 and December 4
Jerusalem Theatre: November 30


Video: Elad Schechter’s Funis


Video: Ariel Cohen’s The Battle for the 21st Century’s Love


Video: Shlomi Frige’s Rashomon

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A Peek into Nimrod Freed’s Choreography

Posted on 06 June 2010 by Deborah Friedes Galili

Video: Nimrod Freed’s Peep Dance

This article was initially published as “Close Encounters Series: Nimrod Freed” on The Winger in 2008, prior to a performance of his Peep Dance at Central Park SummerStage in New York.

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Nimrod Freed. Photo by Eyal Landesman.

Close Encounters Series: Nimrod Freed

My initial encounter with Nimrod Freed was in autumn 2007 via e-mail.  I first contacted him because he was on the faculty of the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance, my host institution here in Israel during my Fulbright grant.  We met, though, at a different college with a focus on teacher training: Seminar HaKibbutzim in northern Tel Aviv.

Not only does Nimrod teach at both of these institutions, but he also is the artistic director at Tel Aviv’s Beit Tami, a spectacularly located community center that is equipped with a few studios and a small performance space popular with independent choreographers.  There he runs the Tami Dance Company, which currently brings together one actor with several dancers in dance theater works.

As I learned about all of Nimrod’s roles during that first meeting at Seminar HaKibbutzim, I realized – in the very best way – that I had got more than I bargained for!  Speaking with him gave me a much clearer sense of the institutional map of Israeli contemporary dance.

Nimrod Freed’s Peep Dance. Photo by Anatoly Michaelo.

I also learned about Nimrod’s own career, from his beginnings in folk dance to his intensive study of concert dance, which was sparked by his involvement in an opera production of Samson and Delilah at age 16.  His interest in dance theater developed after seeing Pina Bausch’s Café Müller , and subsequently, he studied acting and directing at Tel Aviv University.  A class there with guest teacher Kei Takei proved to be a major turning point; indeed, soon afterwards, he joined her company Moving Earth in New York.

Nimrod stayed in the U.S. for just over a decade, and during this time, he also formed his own dance theater company.  It was an invitation to perform in the Israel Festival which paved the way back to his native country.  Through his teaching of improvisation and pedagogy, his choreography, and his leadership at Beit Tami, he has contributed enormously to the vibrant Israeli contemporary dance scene – but even as he maintains a home base in Tel Aviv, he continues to work internationally. Nimrod’s company has toured to Europe and Japan, where he met Min Tanaka and picked up a butoh influence.

Spectators at Nimrod Freed’s Peep Dance. Photo by Itamar Freed.

In July 2008, Nimrod returned to New York with the Tami Dance Company for a performance of Peep Dance at Central Park SummerStage. Like Israeli crowds, the American audiences clustered around colorful structures and put their eyes up to peepholes to sneak a peek at the dancers inside.

Nimrod Freed’s Subtext. Photo by Gadi Dagon.

Nimrod’s latest work, Subtext, was shown as part of Curtain Up 2009 at the Suzanne Dellal Center in Tel Aviv and the Rebecca Crown Auditorium in Jerusalem.

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Exploring Israeli Society through Dance at International Exposure 2009

Posted on 02 January 2010 by Deborah Friedes Galili


Video: Promo for Arkadi Zaides’s new Quiet

As guest writer Brian Schaefer wrote in his article, for most visitors from abroad, International Exposure is a veritable “crash course” in Israeli contemporary dance.  For me, however, International Exposure serves another purpose.  Since I’m now intimately familiar with both the scene as a whole and with the artists themselves, this festival provides an unparalleled opportunity to consider developments in the field over the last year.

While Brian rightly noted that the vast majority of works in International Exposure did not overtly address the Israeli context, a few works did tackle issues in Israeli life – and as someone who has seen the vast majority of contemporary dance created in Israel since 2007, I can vouch that this is a notable shift.  Out of all the dances I watched during my first two years in the country – a number which easily surpasses 100 and probably nears 200 – I can probably count the number of works which explicitly examine Israeli culture and society on less than two hands.  Most of them, such as Renana Raz’s We Have Been Called to Go, were works that had premiered in previous seasons; while I saw this dance on stage, I had to seek out other works such as Yasmeen Godder’s Strawberry Cream and Gunpowder on DVD.  Indeed, when I saw Hillel Kogan’s Everything at Exposure in January 2008, its focus on Israeli machismo was such a revelation because it was the only new work I had seen which openly examined an aspect of Israeli identity.

So it was absolutely astonishing for me to watch as not just one but a handful of the offerings at International Exposure unmistakably explored Israeli society. Two of these dances had premiered just weeks earlier in the Curtain Up festival, and while they both took the relationship of the individual to the surrounding Israeli society as their main theme, they approached the subject from different personal perspectives and aesthetics.

Noa Dar’s Anu.  Photo by Tamar Lamm.

In Noa Dar’s trio Anu (Us), one dancer – perhaps dressed to look younger in pigtails and a skirt – is initiated into the group, first observing her two fellow performers and then modeling herself after them until she becomes a participating member.  Though at times the context is universal, there are several scenes which bear the recognizable imprint of Israeli culture.  Gathered center stage in a tight circle, the trio performs a speeded-up mishmash of Israeli folk dance steps; occasionally, one dancer breaks out of the group, causing the others to pause, but then the three immediately resume their folk dance at an even more frenetic pace.  Another powerful section references the army service which is compulsory in Israel.   Juxtaposing stylized miming of military actions (loading, aiming, and shooting guns; throwing grenades; scoping out a building and breaking in; strip searching a suspect) with sweetly tranquil classical music, the scene is chilling.

Niv Sheinfeld and Oren Laor’s Big Mouth.  Photo by Gadi Dagon.

Whereas Anu follows the process of indoctrination into society, Niv Sheinfeld and Oren Laor’s Big Mouth considers the reverse process of an individual critically considering this group mentality.  The strains of an Israeli folk song set the stage even before the curtain rises, and the tone is further established as the three dancers (Sheinfeld, Laor, and Keren Levi) begin by turning their backs on the audience and striding in unison around the perimeter of the space.  Gradually, the trio’s regimented marching is punctuated by Israeli folk dance steps – a mayim here, a three-step turn there – and eventually, Levi tries to break out of this seemingly never-ending pattern with her own idiosyncratic movement.  Later, to the swelling melody of an Israeli military hymn, Levi stands downstage and slowly opens her mouth wide until her face is distorted in the shape of a silent, terrible scream; this simple yet virtuosic act leaves a haunting imprint even after the booming music dies down and Levi’s face returns to its normal state.  Despite the tenderness with which Sheinfeld and Laor cradle Levi during their final trio, keeping her perpetually aloft while passing her back and forth, the emotion which prompted such an agonized cry clearly lingers, prompting her to leave the group at the close of the work.

Besides Anu and Big Mouth, two other brand-new works showcased in International Exposure 2009 also seemed to be colored by the political and social dynamics within the Israeli context.  Rami Be’er’s choreography has often explored Israeli life, and his Infrared, which the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company premiered in November, seems to follow in this pattern.  Though much of the choreography itself is more abstract, the work opens with a man’s voice solemnly intoning a poem (written by Be’er) about soldiers in a garden and with one dancer slowly emerging from what appears to be a body bag.  Meanwhile, Arkadi Zaides’s Quiet, which was presented in a studio showing as a work-in-progress, features a mixed cast of Jewish and Arab performers and effectively plays off the tensions between these two groups.

After two years of barely seeing any choreography explicitly grappling with the Israeli context, I couldn’t help but wonder why so many dances were now openly invoking this subject and its intense undercurrents.  Could it perhaps be that, after the war in Gaza last year, some choreographers felt compelled to reexamine their surroundings?  What other political and personal factors were at work?

Noa Dar’s Anu.  Photo by Tamar Lamm.

In a conversation with Noa Dar prior to the premiere of Anu, she said that her latest work stemmed from her experiences as “a mother and also as a citizen” of Israel.  While Dar talked about how her young children’s education was already “printing on them their future and the future as soldiers,” she also recounted her experience at a protest against the incursion into Gaza in 2008, during which not only right-wing counter-protesters but also passersby cursed the demonstrators as traitors.  The choreographer further discussed the media’s one-sided account of both Gaza and the 2006 Lebanon war and brought up recent legislation curtailing the rights of Arab Israelis.  “This work came out of these experiences, out of this fear that this country is getting more and more closed,” Dar acknowledged.  She continued, “It’s about the uniformity that Israeli culture brings and trying to explore how to survive it, to go against it but still be inside, to be able to comment on it, to try to change it.”

Niv Sheinfeld and Oren Laor’s Big Mouth.  Photo by Gadi Dagon.

While these recent developments spurred the creation of Anu, Big Mouth emerged from somewhat different roots.  Niv Sheinfeld and Oren Laor choreographed the dance during a period when they were frequently away from Israel; sometimes they were on tour with previous works, and at other times they were in the Netherlands where they collaborated on the new trio with Amsterdam-based Israeli dancer Keren Levi.  Sheinfeld remarked, “Somehow I think it affected this work; it made the piece somehow with reference to the Israeli culture.”  Laor chimed in the conversation, noting not only the physical distance of the three collaborators from Israel during the creative process but also other events which caused the artists to consider issues of nationalism and group identity.  While Big Mouth does include specific allusions to the Israeli context, Sheinfeld reflected that ultimately, “the way that we treat the subject is the personal level, is the individual, and how an individual acts in a group.”

Arkadi Zaides’s Quiet.  Photo courtesy of Arkadi Zaides.

Meanwhile, in the publicity for Quiet, which premieres this weekend at Tmuna Theater in Tel Aviv, Zaides explains the backdrop for his latest work.  He writes:

Quiet arose from a real sense of emergency; in light of the growing violence and mistrust between communities in Israel, constantly subjected to states of shock which never allow the space needed for reflection, and thus never allow for change. In such an environment it felt acute to create a platform which allows for an open and honest communication; a place where it is safe to let one’s demons out and set them free; where the irrationality of response is examined and emotions are bravely explored; where a broad perspective is sought and where trust is continuously built.”

With these works’ diverse reference points and perspectives, they are welcome, thought-provoking additions to the Israeli contemporary dance scene.

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The works mentioned in this article are currently performed throughout Israel.  To find out about upcoming concerts and to learn more about the artists, visit the websites below:

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Curtain Up 6: Niv Sheinfeld and Oren Laor Host Noa Shadur

Posted on 29 November 2009 by Deborah Friedes Galili

Big Mouth

Niv Sheinfeld and Oren Laor’s Big Mouth.  Photo by Gadi Dagon.

Dance In Israel: What is your relationship to Curtain Up?
Niv Sheinfeld: We made several pieces [for the festival].  I was doing work for the Batsheva Ensemble and the Kibbutz Dance Company in the beginning, but it was part of Curtain Up.  And then I did Co-Variance, Pig, and Jorona for Curtain Up, together with Oren.

Into the Night

Noa Shadur’s Into the Night.  Photo by Jewboy.

DII: What drew you to invite Noa Shadur to be the choreographer to share the bill with you?
Oren Laor:  I suggested Noa’s name, and Niv immediately said “Yes, that’s a good idea,” because we saw Noa’s work in the past, and among many Israeli independent choreographers, Noa’s sources are the ones that we feel are the best.  She looks at humans; we saw it’s never just strictly movement.  She’s an explorer, like we like.

Into the Night

Noa Shadur’s Into the Night.  Photo by Jewboy.

NS: I think [it was] also the fact that we had a good dialogue with her.  We started seeing her work and talking to her and checking things out, and we found that the language of the dialogue was fluent, and it gave us a good base.

Big Mouth

Niv Sheinfeld and Oren Laor’s Big Mouth. Photo by Gadi Dagon.

DII: Can you tell me a bit about how your new work Big Mouth started?
NS: The beginning was not from an idea; it was from working with Keren [Levi], because Keren is a good friend of mine for more than 25 years.  We went to high school together, and I got to know the dance world from her.  She was talking about coming to Israel; we said maybe we’ll make a solo for you.  We started by joking about it.  And then we invited her to get into the studio for two weeks in Tel Aviv, and interesting things came up for us.  Then we went for Amsterdam for the second period of work.

Big Mouth

Niv Sheinfeld and Oren Laor’s Big Mouth. Photo by Gadi Dagon.

NS: We were touring sometimes in this period, and we weren’t in Israel a lot, and somehow I think it affected this work. [Also] the fact that Keren left Israel, it made the piece somehow with reference to the Israeli culture.  It’s only a reference.  It’s from a very personal point of view, from our connection, this trio.  This solo became a trio; of course we found ourselves drawn in.

* * *

For listings of Curtain Up performances, please visit the Dance In Israel Calendars page.

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