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Celebration in Pictures: Anna Sokolow Centennial at the Dance Library of Israel

Posted on 11 February 2010 by Deborah Friedes Galili

The flyer for the Anna Sokolow centennial exhibition in Tel Aviv. Courtesy Henia Rottenberg.

Attention dance history fans: this year is the centennial of choreographer Anna Sokolow’s birth, and her artistic achievements are being commemorated around the world, including in Israel.  In this guest article, Hannah Kosstrin, who recently visited Tel Aviv to research Sokolow’s work here, reflects on Sokolow’s influence on dance in Israel and highlights upcoming centennial celebrations.

Celebration in Pictures: Anna Sokolow Centennial at the Dance Library of Israel

By Hannah Kosstrin

A new exhibit at the Dance Library of Israel celebrates the life and work of Anna Sokolow (1910-2000), whose centennial is celebrated this month.  Sokolow, an American-born Jewish choreographer who worked internationally and considered Israel her second home, carved out a space for herself in the Israeli dance landscape.  She first came to Tel Aviv in 1953 on the recommendation of Jerome Robbins and with the support of the America-Israel Cultural Foundation, where she worked with Sara Levi-Tanai and Inbal Yemenite Dance Group (Inbal Dance Theatre).  In the early 1960s, she established her Lyric Theatre.  This company was active for months out of each year, and toured cities and kibbutzim throughout Israel.  Later, she choreographed for Israeli companies including Batsheva Dance Company, Bat-Dor Dance Company, Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company, Chamber Theatre, Springboard Dance Company, and Habima.  Her work touched many dancers and teachers who remain prominent in dance in Israel, including Paul Bloom, Galia Gat, Rena Gluck, Yaron Margolin, Moshe Romano, and Rena Schenfeld, and Ze’eva Cohen and Margalit Oved, who work in the United States.

With the Lyric Theatre (1962-1964), Sokolow continued to develop her performance form that she termed lyric theater, a combination of dancing and acting that blurred the lines between disciplines and created works wherein performers drew from both movement and acting bodies of knowledge.  Such works include Rooms and Dreams, originally created in the U.S. and then performed by the Lyric Theatre, and Forms and Poem, for which Sokolow worked closely with Israeli dancers to mount.  Sokolow was concerned foremost with truth in movement and with honesty in dancers’ performance. Using elements of the Stanislavsky Method that she garnered through a trip to Russia in 1934 and work with Elia Kazan and the Actors Studio in New York through the 1950s, Sokolow drew from performers’ own experiences to craft their characters within the context of each work.  Sokolow trained in Martha Graham’s technique through her work with that company during the 1930s.  Many of Sokolow’s dances from the 1930s-1940s show a strong Graham influence in her own movement via initiations by torso contractions and spirals through the back.  Sokolow’s dances from the 1950s onward, however, feature pieces crafted from movement and gestures found in daily life, from running to grasping hands to slamming against a wall.  Her work also presents quieter, vulnerable moments with arched backs and reaching arms, all while retaining the immediacy of movement coming from the “gut.”

Sokolow is known for making dances of social comment, and for reflecting humanity in the most inhumane of situations.  Dreams (1961), an evening-length group work, contains vignettes of harrowing concentration camp scenes leading to a dignified and wrongful death, while In Memory Of…543246 (1973), a solo for Rena Schenfeld, is a portrait of a Holocaust victim.  And the Disciples Departed (1967), a collaborative work with director Thomas J. Knott for American television, comments on the Vietnam war, racism in the U.S., and the rape of Kitty Genovese.  Rooms (1955), Sokolow’s landmark piece that cemented her place as a canonical concert dance choreographer, exposes loneliness, urban alienation, and unrequited desire.  The work is set against Kenyon Hopkins’ jazz score that alternates between driving adrenaline and stark atonal punctuations.  Earlier, in the 1940s, Sokolow made dances with Jewish themes and about Biblical heroines to stand in solidarity with Jews worldwide during the Holocaust.  The most well-known of these dances is Kaddish (1945), a memorial for Holocaust victims in which Sokolow defied contemporary gender conventions by laying tefillin around her arm.  Sokolow kept her Jewish identity at the core of all of her work, and her time in Israel fed and reinforced this connection.

The exhibit at the Dance Library of Israel commemorates Sokolow’s career through photographs and other ephemera, and it runs through September 2010.  The Dance Library of Israel is located at Beit Ariela, 25 Shaul Hamelech Boulevard in Tel Aviv.  More information is on the Beit Ariela library’s blog.

For information about Sokolow Centennial celebrations outside of Israel, please visit:

Hannah Kosstrin is a Ph.D. Candidate in Dance Studies at The Ohio State University (OSU). Her dissertation project focuses on Anna Sokolow’s work from 1927-1961. It is supported by the OSU Melton Center for Jewish Studies, the P.E.O. International Sisterhood, and the OSU Department of Women’s Studies Coca-Cola Critical Difference for Women Graduate Studies Grant for Research on Women, Gender, and Gender Equity. She has performed, choreographed, and taught in Boston, MA and Columbus, OH, U.S.A.

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Barak Marshall’s “Rooster”

Posted on 05 February 2010 by Deborah Friedes Galili


Video: Barak Marshall’s Rooster

Another guest at International Exposure 2009, Talia Baruch, covers the San Francisco-area dance scene for her blog GoSee– Dance. She wrote some reviews of dances she saw here in Israel in December for her website and is generously sharing them here on Dance In Israel.

Talia’s third article is about Barak Marshall’s Rooster, which was a hit at both Tel Aviv Dance 2009 and International Exposure 2009.  Read below to learn more rich background about Rooster and to hear Talia’s take on the work.

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International Exposure 2009 — Suzanne Dellal Center | Barak Marshall

By Talia Baruch

ROOSTER

Co-production of Israeli Opera and the Suzanne Dellal Center

Choreography: Barak Marshall | Costume Design: Maor Zabar | Set Design: Sergey Berezin | Lighting Design: Felice Ross | Photography: Avi Avin & Kfir Bolotin | Guest Artist: Margalit Oved | Soprano: Lilia Gretsova | Review & Copywriting: Talia Baruch

This dance-theater piece is based on I.L. Peretz’s Bontsha the Silent, Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot and on stories from the Bible and Yemenite folklore.

“Here on earth the death of Bontsha the Silent made no impression at all. Ask anyone: Who was Bontsha, how did he live, and how did he die? Did his strength slowly fade, did his heart slowly give out, or did the very marrow of his bones melt under the weight of his burdens? Who knows?

Bontsha was a human being; he lived unknown, in silence, and in silence he died. He passed through our world like a shadow. When Bontsha was born no one took a drink of wine; there was no sound of glasses clinking. When he was confirmed he made no speech of celebration. He existed like a grain of sand at the rim of a vast ocean, amid millions of other grains of sand exactly similar, and when the wind at last lifted him up and carried him across to the other shore of that ocean, no one noticed, no one at all.”

I.L. Peretz, from Bontsha the Silent

After watching a bounty of dance performances back-to-back at the 2009 International Exposure Dance Festival/Suzanne Dellal Center, it was Rooster that hit home and made me go see the show a second time the following week.

Barak Marshall’s Rooster. Photo by Kfir Bolotin.

Rooster opens with the night chirps of grasshoppers and ends with the twitter of morning birds.  The events unfold in & out one night.  One night that digests interactions in a Kafkan sequence, that throws in the mix Theater of the Absurd, Vaudeville and Greek Mythology, that reels in Balkan, Gypsy, Middle-Eastern and American-Yiddish tunes, all mashed up into one burning stew.

The show reveals a man’s subconscious stream of thoughts under the spell of a dream.  And trailing through this flow of feverish thoughts is the vivid image of the Rooster, which also means Gever (“man”) in Hebrew.  The allusion to the story of I.L. Peretz’ Bontsha the Silent, implies Barak’s appeal for self-assertion: “trust your desires and act on them.”

The Rooster, with its flamboyant erected cockscomb and fluttering feathers — pecking, idling, roosting, kakadoodledooing — mirrors the villagers: their rapacious jealousy, pestering gossip, vaunting vanity.

And in all that chaos of color and cruelty and caring, of plucked feathers, warm embraces and longing to our womb roots, there lays the connection between hen and human. Being chicken — fearful; plucking feathers — slaughter; Tarnegol Kaparot — sacrifice (the Jewish ritual of sacrificing a rooster for atonement); and the forever existential loop: Which came first, chicken or egg?

Barak Marshall’s Rooster. Photo by Avi Avin.

Barak Marshall was born in Los Angeles to a Yemenite Israeli performer — Margalit Oved — founder of the Inbal Theater Dance Company. Barak, a true auteur, nursed on the rich brew of his cultural diversity. In his creative work, he draws themes, flavors and voices from the exotic ingredients that nourish his roots. He peppers his staged art with implied Jewish heritage, Yemenite folklore and biblical text, like the excerpt noting the twelve tribes (this piece is written for twelve dancers).

Barak created Rooster for the 2009 Tel Aviv Dance Festival, after the great success of his former piece — Monger — featured at the 2008 Tel Aviv Dance Festival.

Talia Baruch is a writer and translator covering the dance/theater scene in San Francisco, where she has been living for the past 11 years. She is the founder of Copyous, providing creative copywriting and Localization Strategies. The ingredients that shaped her life are the explosive dance scene in urban Tel Aviv, where she grew up, the pea-green English country side, where she inhaled a handsome amount of fresh-manure & horseback-countered through endless woods, and the 24/7 Localization/Internationalization business bustle, that put perspective to it all. www.copyous.com

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Interview with Barak Marshall: Dancing between Israel and America (Podcast) (Part 1)

Posted on 05 November 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.)

Barak Marshall in "Aunt Leah"

Barak Marshall in Aunt Leah.  Photo courtesy of Barak Marshall.

(You can subscribe to this podcast using the iTunes software by clicking this link to the podcast feed.)

When we sat down to talk in January 2009, I discovered that a conversation with Barak Marshall is very similar to his choreography: fast-paced, peppered with diverse cultural references, and chock-full of attention-grabbing details. These qualities had captured my eye when I saw the premiere of Monger, and when I saw a rare restaging of Barak’s first work, Aunt Leah, I realized these were hallmarks of his craft since the day he stepped into the studio.

As we cafe-hopped in bustling central Tel Aviv during a Friday afternoon, Barak and I delved into a deep, lively discussion covering both his own choreography and the larger context of contemporary dance.  Join us for the first part of our interview as Barak talks about his background, his connection to Inbal Dance Theater and Yemenite dance, and the trajectory of his early career from the making of Aunt Leah to his appointment as the house choreographer for Batsheva Dance Company in 1999.  Barak, who splits his time between Tel Aviv and Los Angeles, also reflects on the development of Israeli contemporary dance and differences between the dance scenes in Israel and the U.S. Continue Reading

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Tel Aviv Dance 2009 Mixes Global and Local Dance

Posted on 17 October 2009 by Deborah Friedes Galili

Rite of Spring Compagnie Heddy Maalem in Rite of Spring.  Photo by Patrick Fabre.

Tel Aviv used to host a popular festival called Dance Europa, attracting cutting-edge companies from across Europe.  Three years ago, the festival expanded to include offerings from around the globe, and now the annual Tel Aviv Dance festival is a highlight of the city’s cultural season.  Tel Aviv Dance 2009 runs from October 16 until November 13, with shows at the Suzanne Dellal Center and the Tel Aviv Opera House.  To find out more details about performances, please visit the Dance In Israel Calendars.

A version of this article, titled “Hot Dance for Cold Evenings,” was published in the Jerusalem Post.

Hot Dance for Cold Evenings

“Everyone wants to come to Tel Aviv. Everyone wants to perform here,” says Yair Vardi, director of the Suzanne Dellal Center.  Judging by the roster of world-renowned dance productions about to descend on the city, Vardi’s boast is not an exaggeration.  In the last few years, the annual Tel Aviv Dance festival has become a destination for both rising stars and well-established names on the international circuit.  Now, Tel Aviv Dance 2009 will mount fourteen programs at the Suzanne Dellal Center and the Tel Aviv Opera House. A special initiative will bring three of these concerts to Haifa as well.

This year’s schedule of performers is particularly diverse, both in geographic origin and in aesthetic.  Here’s the lineup:

Australia


Video: Tania Liedtke’s Construct.

From far-off Australia comes Tania Liedtke’s Construct, which pairs power tools and physical prowess to comedic effect.

North America

Nacho Duato's "Gnawa"

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago in Nacho Duato’s Gnawa. Photo: public relations.

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago offers a taste of American contemporary dance with repertory by Jim Vincent and Alejandro Cerruda.  This popular troupe adds a bit of foreign spice with Gnawa, a dance by Spanish choreographer Nacho Duato set to intoxicating North African rhythms.

Europe

Other productions have a similar international mix, including two which involve European countries.


Video: Heddy Maalem’s Rite of Spring.

Although Compagnie Heddy Maalem hails from France, the fourteen dancers in its rousing Rite of Spring are from Mali, Benin, Nigeria, Senegal, and Guadeloupe.


Video: Andalucia Lejana is choreographed by Victoria Eugenia, Manolo Marin, Silvia Duran, and Yoko Komatsubara

Meanwhile, the flamenco flavored Andalucia Lejana is a collaboration by four choreographers with dancers from Spain, Japan, and Israel.

Ballet Nacional de Espana

Ballet Nacional de España.  Photo: public relations

Flamenco assumes center stage again in Ballet Nacional de España’s program, featuring fifty dancers and musicians.  The troupe is performing Jose Antonio’s La Leyenda and Aires de Villa y Corte.


Video: Yoshua Cienfuegos’s Cisnes Negros.

Also from Spain is Cienfuegos Danza, whose director Yoshua Cienfuegos takes a dark look at our animal instincts in his contemporary Cisnes Negros.

Last Touch First

Michael Schumacher and Jiri Kylian’s Last Touch First.  Photo by Robert Benschop.

Europe’s strong presence in this festival is rounded out by Last Touch First, a production from the Netherlands. On a stage strewn with sheets, six dancers move in slow motion through Michael Schumacher and Jiri Kylian’s spellbinding choreography.

Asia

Several choreographers and companies from Asia are also making an appearance at this year’s Tel Aviv Dance.

My Dream

Wang Honghai’s My Dream showcases the riches of Chinese dance and music, but with a twist: the work is performed by nearly 100 members of the China Disabled People’s Performing Arts Troupe.

BMDC

Beijing Modern Dance Company.  Photo by Wang Zhe.

The Beijing Modern Dance Company, China’s premiere modern dance company, displays a more adventurous style in Gao Yanjinzi’s Oath and Hu Lei’s Unfettered Journey.


Video: Shang Chi-Sun & Dancers

Taiwanese choreographer Shang Chi-Sun offers two more contemporary works, Nuwa and Dialogue II.


Video: A mixed bill by three Korean choreographers

Three Korean choreographers who won the 2008 Choreographic Festival at Seoul are sharing a mixed bill.  Ryu Seouk Hun presents Uncomfortable, Huh Kyung Mi offers Evolution, and Lee In Soo shows Modern Feeling.

Israel

Amidst this select global spread of top-notch choreography, it is a testament to Israeli dance that three programs in the festival are wholly devoted to work made locally. Batsheva Dance Company, which arguably has the greatest international reputation of any Israeli group, presents two contrasting concerts by artistic director Ohad Naharin.


Video: Ohad Naharin’s Hora.

Hora, Naharin’s most recent work, is danced to Isao Tomita’s synthesized versions of familiar melodies and performed against a vivid green set.  Naharin’s Mamootot offers an altogether different viewing experience as audience members surround the dancers in the studio.


Video: Barak Marshall’s Rooster.

Barak Marshall’s Monger was a hit in last year’s festival, and now he is returning with a new production, Rooster.  Twelve powerhouse dancers, one opera singer, and Margalit Oved – the legendary Inbal Dance Theater star and Marshall’s mother – trace a narrative inspired by Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot and Y.L. Peretz’s “Bontsha the Silent.”  This mix of talent, combined with Marshall’s masterful storytelling and marvelously multi-layered movement, sets Rooster on a pathway to success – and premiering in Tel Aviv Dance doesn’t hurt either.  Reflecting on his second Tel Aviv Dance experience, Marshall muses gratefully, “This is a twice in a lifetime opportunity I’ve been given!”

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