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Remembering Big Performances at Suzanne Dellal’s Big Stage

Posted on 19 July 2009 by Deborah Friedes Galili

Barak Marshall's "Monger"

Barak Marshall’s Monger.  Photo by Gadi Dagon.

This summer has already been so packed with festivals and performances that I have barely had time to reflect, but I figured it’s high time that I post an article I wrote at the end of Suzanne Dellal’s Big Stage.

I’ve been to numerous festivals since moving to Israel, but the Big Stage stands head and shoulders above many others in my mind.  There was something magical about the festival’s outdoor setting, and each impressively large-scale performance brought its own theatrical marvels to the already enchanting space.  Further adding to my enthusiasm about the festival was the dual reason for its existence: Tel Aviv’s centennial and Suzanne Dellal’s 20th anniversary.  It’s pretty hard to top that!

I first published the article below as “Big Performances” in the Forward on June 19, 2009.  Read on to get a sense of what this spectacular festival was like – or to refresh your own memories of this momentous event.

* * *

Big Performances

An eager crowd took its seats high above the Suzanne Dellal Center’s plaza for the opening of the three-week festival Habama Hagdola — The Big Stage.  Two majestic palm trees framed the large outdoor stage, and the center’s main building provided a picturesque backdrop.  A glance around revealed the impressive scenery of the first century of Tel Aviv: quaint red-roofed homes of the Neve Tzedek neighborhood overtaken within a few blocks by modern skyscrapers.

But it was the action onstage that captured the audience’s gaze.  Rooted in a wide stance, five women grabbed their heads and raised their arms in exasperation.  Rocking vigorously in place, they performed a series of intricate gestures. Even the smallest motion — a lift of the hip, a tilt of the chin — was delivered with attitude.  The movement grew, the pace quickened, and the tension built as five men approached the women.

This nuanced, lively dance — Barak Marshall’s Monger — was only part of the excitement onstage.  The popular band Balkan Beat Box lent its infectious rhythms and hypnotic vocals to the choreographic excerpts.  As the dance and live music mixed, Marshall recounted, “the energy on the stage was explosive and surprising.”

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