Tag Archive | "Israeli culture"

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Viewing an Israeli Vision with Diasporic Eyes: A Look at Renana Raz’s “We Have Been Called to Go”

Posted on 02 March 2009 by Deborah Friedes Galili

Renana Raz's "We Have Been Called to Go"

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

After months of avid concert-going, Renana Raz’s evening of work titled Avodah Ivrit (Hebrew Labor) proved to be more than just another enjoyable evening at the Suzanne Dellal Center.  The experience of viewing this concert was so significant that I immediately poured my musings into an essay.

Avodah Ivrit contained two dances, and it was the second – We Have Been Called to Go – which stirred my excitement and sparked my writing.  Out of the many dances I had viewed up until this point in March 2008, We Have Been Called to Go contained the most overt onstage treatment of Israeli society.  As the work employed and played with cultural symbols, and as the audience reacted audibly, I became aware that I was watching this not as an Israeli but as a transplanted Diaspora Jew.  I was fascinated not only by the subject matter but also by the perceptions of viewers from different backgrounds.

Nearly a year later, my understanding of Israeli culture has deepened as I have integrated further into this society as an olah hadasha, a new immigrant.  By now I have discovered other works which tackle the issues of Israeli identity and cultural codes.  Yet We Have Been Called to Go remains one of the most compelling dances to shed light on Israeli society – and to illuminate my own evolving knowledge and spectatorship of Israeli culture.

Below is my initial reflection on Renana Raz’s We Have Been Called to Go.  I first published “Viewing an Israeli Vision with Diasporic Eyes” on March 17, 2008 in my own blog.

* * *

It’s after midnight, and I just opened my Israeli folk dance mix on iTunes to listen to track number 5, the hora that opened Renana Raz’s We Have Been Called to Go.  My body is nearly jumping out of my desk chair, searching for the right pattern of mayims as the familiar drums quicken, while my mind is picturing the smaller motions of the four performers in tonight’s concert.

The bodily sensation I am having right now is the same bodily sensation I experienced in the darkened theater.  Here’s the amazing thing, though: because Israelis were brought up on folk dance, nearly everyone in that theater had access to the same kinesthetic response.

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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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