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Celebrating Shavuot through Movement: Hagiga with Bodyways, Vertigo & the Amuta

Posted on 19 May 2009 by Deborah Friedes Galili

Photos: The 2009 Hagiga Celebration, including Vertigo Dance Company and choreographers of the Amuta. Studio photos from 2007 festival are by Rivi Nissim and Amos Vinikof.

For religious Israelis, the upcoming holiday of Shavuot commemorates the giving of the Ten Commandments to Moses and the Israelites at Mount Sinai.  But for this country’s dancers, Shavuot is a time for celebrating movement.  Leaving the hustle and bustle of daily life behind, they flock to more remote, peaceful dance centers around Israel for a few days of invigorating workshops and inspiring performances.

One of these annual Shavuot gatherings is Hagiga, which translates fittingly to “celebration” or “festival.”   Initiated by the portal Bodways, the event has become a holiday tradition not only for dancers but for people who are involved in other expressive movement arts such as yoga, tai chi, and Feldenkrais.  Rivi Nissim, the founder of Bodyways, emphasizes that the festival “was initiated as a physical (‘down to earth’) meeting between the artists represented in the Bodyways website and the surfers of the website.”

Nissim calls Hagiga a “wandering festival,” hosted in some years by Adama and Ashram in the Desert before moving to Vertigo Dance Company’s Eco-Art Village last spring.  No matter where it is held, the festival always attracts a spirited crowd eager to celebrate and connect through movement.

Now in its fifth year, Hagiga has grown to be a dynamic collaboration between Bodyways, Vertigo, and the Amuta (the Choreographers Society, an association for Israel’s independent choreographers).   The involvement of so many choreographers will make this year’s event somewhat more dance-centered, with several contemporary repertory workshops.  As in previous festivals, there will be a wide range of classes including Gaga, dance improvisation, pilates, Feldenkrais, acrobalance, Cuban percussion, Rio Abierto, voice, and more.  Since all of the teachers are represented in the Bodyways website, the Hagiga festival will indeed live up to its promise as a physical meeting between the portal’s users (and, on top of that, it will be quite a meeting of styles!).

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Home Port Festival: History in the Making for the Choreographers Association

Posted on 13 March 2009 by Deborah Friedes Galili


Choreographers celebrating before the opening of the Home Port festival.  Photo by Dorit Talpaz.

This may sound a bit extravagant, but I don’t think I am exaggerating.  Last night I witnessed dance history – and I hope that the opening night of the Home Port Festival (and the festival itself) will go down in the books not as an isolated moment in time but as the recognized beginning of a new stage, figuratively and literally, for Israel’s independent choreographers.

The excitement was palpable when I arrived at the festival last night, and the energy only grew as more people streamed into the enormous hangar.   While Oy Division played a rousing klezmer set, I mingled with choreographers, dancers, administrators, government officials, dance writers, and dance fans.  Everyone seemed to recognize that this collective celebration of individual creation was a momentous occasion.  The dream for a permanent home for the Amuta‘s artists, though still not fully realized, no longer seemed like an impossibility; indeed, the possibilities of what the dance scene would gain in the next weeks at Home Port emboldened the choreographers to dream anew.

After the enthusiastic crowd overflowed the risers, a one-of-a-kind dance marathon commenced.  39 choreographers from the Amuta presented a total of 33 solos and 3 duets, and 38 of the choreographers themselves delivered electrifying performances.

My intention was simply to watch and enjoy, but as each piece sparked snippets of ideas, I started scribbling furiously.  What follows is my ode to the Amuta, a series of one-line impressions from each selection.   Please read on . . .

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Home Port Festival: 54 Choreographers in 33 Concerts at the Jaffa Port

Posted on 11 March 2009 by Deborah Friedes Galili

Choreographers Association

The choreographers of the Amuta in Jaffa for the Home Port Festival.  Photo by Dorit Talpaz.

The first hint that something big was happening in Israel’s concert dance scene was an e-mail from Yossi Berg and Oded Graf about their upcoming performance schedule.  One listing mysteriously said that the duo was presenting Heroes at the Jaffa port for a choreographers festival.  Choreographers festival?  In Jaffa?  Many dance festivals here are annual ones, and I didn’t remember anything like that from last year.

Next I started to see some Facebook events popping up, with choreographers including Hillel Kogan, Noa Dar, Shlomit Fundaminsky, and Niv Sheinfeld & Oren Laor inviting friends to attend performances at the port during March.   My curiosity grew as the number of choreographers involved increased.

Finally, Yasmeen Godder pulled me over before class one day and told me I should look into a very exciting, unprecedented event: the Home Port festival.  As I talked more with her and followed a few leads, I found out that this was, indeed, something big.

The Home Port festival was initiated by the Amuta (which translates as the Choreographers Association or the Choreographers Society), an umbrella organization for fifty-four independent choreographers who draw from styles as varied as contemporary dance, flamenco, and belly dance.  Working outside of the country’s larger companies, these established choreographers are responsible for much of Israel’s flourishing concert dance scene – and all of them will present their creations in thirty-three different concerts over the next four weeks in a hangar at Jaffa’s port.

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