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Arkadi Zaides: Community Connections and Stunning Solos

Posted on 13 September 2009 by Deborah Friedes Galili

Arkadi Zaides and company

Arkadi Zaides and dancers at Majdal Shams.  Photo by Itay Weiser.

This article was first published as “Creative Connections” in the Jerusalem Post on July 24, 2009.  The concert I describe below is already over, but audiences in China, Taiwan, and Japan can catch the same program when Arkadi Zaides and Iris Erez go on tour in October.

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Creative Connections

Arkadi Zaides is a world traveler.  A youthful Zaides made aliyah from Belarus in 1990 and, over the last decade, his talents as an eye-catching dancer and cutting-edge choreographer led him on a series of foreign tours.  So perhaps it’s not surprising that back in Israel, Zaides is focusing his creative energies on bringing worlds together through dance.

Sometimes this is a matter of linking members of diverse communities in the dance studio.  For several months last year, Zaides spent his weekends in the Golan Heights at the Druze village Majdal Shams as part of Teva Pharmaceutical Industries’ Creation and Community Initiative. There he taught workshops to a theater group and presented several of his recent works.  “The project introduced them to contemporary dance and dance theater,” Zaides recalls.  “It was a very unique meeting with very unique people.”

Now Zaides has received another generous NIS 50,000 grant from Teva for a project at Rabeah Murcus Studio for Dance and Movement in Kfar Yasif, an Arab village near Acre.  Zaides explains, “[The studio] is quite a unique initiative in the Arab sector in Israel; it’s the one and only studio for contemporary dance.”  Zaides plans to teach classes and workshops and will invite students to observe his artistic process as he rehearses a new work.

It’s not every up-and-coming choreographer that engages in these community projects, but Zaides states emphatically, “I just believe it’s a must right now.  Culture can bring people together and introduce the different populations to each other – and also, it’s a form of exchange.”

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Renana Raz: Choreographing Israeli Culture and Beyond (Podcast)

Posted on 26 February 2009 by Deborah Friedes Galili

Download the podcast (You can right-click the link and press “save as” to download the file to your computer.)

Renana Raz in We Have Been Called to Go. Photo by Eyal Landesman.

(This podcast was initially produced for Israel Seen in 2008, and the text is amended from my writing on The Winger.  You can subscribe to this podcast using the iTunes software by clicking this link to the podcast feed.  You can also subscribe for free at the iTunes store.)

Renana Raz is a relatively young choreographer, but she has already developed a unique artistic voice and an impressive body of work.  Prior to interviewing her, I viewed a DVD of her repertory and attended a high-energy performance of Kazuaria, which was inspired by and incorporated elements from the Druze debka dance.  After our conversation, I couldn’t wait to see We Have Been Called to Go, which like Kazuaria weaves folk dance – in this case, Israeli folk dance – into a decidedly contemporary concert dance framework.  When I finally saw this work, I stayed up much of the night writing in my blog about it.  For now I’ll keep you in suspense, but I’ll republish this post soon on Dance In Israel.

Before arriving in Israel, I wondered if choreographers were dealing with specifically Israeli subject matter in their work.  The short answer (and there is a long one!) is that the vast majority of Israeli contemporary dance presented over the last season has not featured explicitly Israeli characters, situations, or symbols.  Renana’s We Have Been Called to Go and Kazuaria are some of the only works I have viewed which place the Israeli context center stage.

I’m happy to say that these works captured my attention not only because of this distinction but also because of their fine craft and compelling performance.  Renana’s repertory stretches beyond the Israeli context even when she is expressly exploring it, and we talk about this in our conversation.  But – just as I gained some insight into Israeli society by watching Kazuaria and We Have Been Called to Go – you’ll get to learn a bit about Israeli culture by listening to her talk about these dances.

To see excerpts of Kazuaria and more photos, check out the rest of the post below.

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