Posted on 19 September 2010 by Deborah Friedes Galili
Video: Preview of Tel Aviv Dance 2010
Four years after its founding, the Tel Aviv Dance festival – an outgrowth and expansion of the earlier Dance Europa festival – is now an eagerly anticipated annual staple of Israel’s jam-packed dance calendar. From October 4-30, dance lovers can take a whirlwind world tour of exciting, exceptionally diverse dance from the comfort of two local dance hubs, the Suzanne Dellal Centre and the Israeli Opera – Tel Aviv Performing Arts Centre (TAPAC).
Yair Vardi (director of Suzanne Dellal) and Hannah Munitz (director of the Opera House) declared in a press release, “As each year in the festival, we try to keep the Israeli audience up to date and present contemporary dance from all over the world, including intriguing, far-away places. This year the festival will host premieres from dance companies from South Africa, South Korea, and China alongside those from the U.S., Canada, France, and Israel.”
The numbers are indeed impressive: by the end of the festival, 12 companies from 9 countries will present 34 performances. And the breadth of genres and aesthetics on display is breathtaking. Tel Aviv Dance 2010’s programming runs the gamut from hip-hop to ballet and offers lavish large-scale works alongside more intimate and modest approaches.
Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s Sutra. Photo by Hugo Glendinning. Photo courtesy of Ora Lapidot PR.
Tel Aviv Dance 2010’s lineup includes some of the biggest names, old and new, in modern and contemporary dance. From Belgium hails Eastman, a young company headed by the acclaimed Flemish-Moroccan choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui. Eastman will offer Aleko, Faun, and a new work at Suzanne Dellal. Cherkaoui’s striking Sutra, a collaboration with sculptor Antony Gormley, composer Szymon Braska, and monks from the Shaolin Temple in China, will also be performed at the Opera.
The U.S. modern dance powerhouse Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater will also visit the Opera, bringing not only Ailey’s masterpiece Revelations but also George Faison’s Suite Otis, Ronald K. Brown’s Dancing Spirit, and Robert Battle’s Unfold.
Kader Attou’s Petites Histoires.com. Photo courtesy of Ora Lapidot PR.
Hip-hop also makes a few appearances on this year’s program. The French troupe Accrorap brings Algerian choreographer Kader Attou’s PetitesHistoires.com, while ten male dancers from South Korea will offer Shin Chang Ho’s No Comment. On the same bill with No Comment is Kim Jin-Mi’s A Body Conflicting with Emotion, a work for four women.
The Royal Winnipeg Ballet in Carmina Burana. Photo courtesy of Ora Lapidot PR.
Some ballet influence is visible as well in Tel Aviv Dance 2010’s lineup. From Canada hails the Royal Winnipeg Ballet in Mauricio Wainrot’s Carmina Burana and Peter Quanz’s In Tandem. 10 principal dancers from the acclaimed New York City Ballet present a program called To Dance, with excerpts of works by George Balanchine, Twyla Tharp, and Tom Gold.
Dada Masilo’s Carmen. Photo courtesy of Ora Lapidot PR.
Rising star Dada Masilo, a 24-year-old dancer and choreographer from South Africa, has also revealed a predilection towards ballet influences in her work. For Tel Aviv Dance, Masilo brings her dance theater work Carmen to Suzanne Dellal.
Also among this year’s offerings is the Spanish dancer and choreographer Miguel Angel Berna’s sweeping Goya, inspired by painter Francisco Goya.
Maria Kong in Miss Brazil. Photo by Ascaf.
Dance from Israel forms a strong presence in this year’s programming. Barak Marshall’s Rooster, which was a success at the Opera House during Tel Aviv Dance 2009, will make an appearance in 2010 at Suzanne Dellal. Batsheva Dance Company will present house choreographer Sharon Eyal’s Bill, which debuted last May, while the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company will unveil Rami Be’er’s newest work, Transform. Maria Kong Dancers Company, a collective of dancer-choreographers Anderson Braz, Talia Landa, Leo Lerus, and Ya’ara Moses, will offer their own creation Miss as well as Brazil by Idan Cohen.
For a more in depth look at what is in store during Tel Aviv Dance, check out the longer video below. The clips are, in order, Accrorap, Shin Chang Ho, Kim Jin-Mi, Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company, Dada Masilo, Barak Marshall, New York City Ballet, Batsheva Dance Company, Eastman, Miguel Angel Berra, Winnipeg Royal Ballet, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Maria Kong, and Eastman.
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
Co-production of Israeli Opera and the Suzanne Dellal Center
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, fromBontsha 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
Posted on 30 December 2009 by Deborah Friedes Galili
Video: Maya Brinner’s Red Ladies was one of several works exploring the individual within the group at International Exposure
A few weeks after International Exposure 2009, not only am I continuing to mull over some intriguing works that I saw, but I am still thinking about the many attendees I met and contemplating the conversations I had with them.
It was truly remarkable to see how many presenters were scoping out Israeli dance with the hopes of bringing Israeli choreographers or companies to their venues. The audience at International Exposure was well-informed, sophisticated, and worldly; its members were knowledgeable about the contemporary dance scene in their own home countries and had seen some of the latest productions from around the globe.
This diverse array of cultured visitors – and their well-informed observations – reinforced my own perception that there is indeed something especially appealing about Israeli contemporary dance. It was illuminating to talk to repeat attendees and learn that they found this year’s festival stronger than in previous years; it was also encouraging to speak with first-time visitors and discover that they found several works of interest.
I had several stimulating conversations about the festival with Brian Schaefer, a dance writer and administrator based in San Diego, California. He has generously written a thorough, thoughtful reflection on the festival for Dance In Israel, offering an invaluable perspective from outside the scene. Enjoy!
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Seeing Israel through the Lens of Dance
By Brian Schaefer
Oil and water may be the most contentious of the commodities in the Middle East. But who says art can’t be a country’s natural resource as well?
Such is the purpose of International Exposure – a type of cultural trade fair to encourage the export of one of Israel’s most valuable products: its creativity. Each year for the past fifteen years, a flock of foreign presenters, managers, choreographers, and journalists has descended upon the Suzanne Dellal Center in Tel Aviv to get a crash course in contemporary dance in Israel in the hopes that we fall in love with an artist or company and take them home with us to introduce them to our families, or rather, audiences. It’s souvenir shopping on an entirely different scale.
The Israeli Ministry of Culture brings us here to demonstrate the wealth of dance in Israel, show us Tel Aviv as an exciting, cosmopolitan city, and let us discover just how far Israel has come from the pioneering, agricultural days of the kibbutzim and sabras when Israeli dance meant communal folk gatherings, which is still how most Americans consider it. So the point of International Exposure is to destroy that myth and show us an Israel that is innovative and cutting-edge, both in its technology and in its art.
The process of actually bringing a company to the States is a complicated pas de deux that relies on a lot of other factors that come later on. But for now, for this week, it’s about seeing work. A lot of work. An exhausting amount of work.
Still, the experience is extraordinary. And the impact is powerful. Five days later, we leave with a semblance of an idea of what makes contemporary dance in Israel so vibrant. Without trying to lump everything together – after all, one of the strengths of the program is its diversity – there are a few noticeable characteristics, trends, and themes that emerge.
Niv Sheinfeld and Oren Laor’s Big Mouth. Photo by Gadi Dagon.
It’s difficult as an outsider not to read too much about the regional conflicts into the work we see. Few artists, save perhaps for Niv Sheinfeld and Oren Laor who explicitly reference Israel’s military history in the engaging trio Big Mouth, admit to addressing politics in any way.
Yet as foreign critics and presenters who for the most part view Israel from the lens of international media, we inevitably look for ways that artists respond to their social surroundings. Maybe we look too much. But perhaps also the fact that such intentional reactions to the political environment are conspicuously lacking in so much of the work we saw is equally telling.
What we actually got in many instances was a complete departure from the realities of this world, and surprisingly often, we were thrust in to the realm of the absurd where the unexpected can occur at any moment, where things are never quite as they seem or can in an instant morph into something unrecognizable. The absurdity is also in the behavior, where over-the-top characters cavort about with exaggerated gestures, inhabiting fantasy worlds in extravagant costumes and bright make-up.
Inbal Pinto and Avshalom Pollak’s Trout. Photo by Asaf Ashkenazi.
Perhaps no Israeli choreographers better encapsulate this aesthetic and sensibility than Inbal Pinto and Avshalom Pollak. At International Exposure, the duo showed excerpts from the company’s repertory, the charming Rushes, made a few years ago for the American company Pilobolus, and the new evening-length work Trout, created in 2008 in Norway. In each, the zany characters and extravagant sets and props transport audiences into an imaginary place that may resemble reality at times but clearly isn’t.
Barak Marshall’s Rooster. Photo by Kfir Bolotin.
In Barak Marshall’s Rooster, we took a colorful visit to the shtetls of the 19th century to witness a love triangle mixing stories from the Bible and Yemenite folklore with a period aesthetic and surreal scenes of, for example, a man “laying” eggs in his mouth. It’s a work that, while perhaps a bit unfocused and difficult to follow for non-Hebrew speakers, exudes energy and charm and provides a strong showcase for the performers.
Across the board (for the most part), International Exposure guests walked away with a deep appreciation for Israeli dancers, whose focus and commitment is a noticeable strength of the performances.
Other works that dove into the absurd included Yasmeen Godder’s LOVE FIRE, complete with the gutting of a stuffed creature resembling some combination of goat and lion, an unexpected shower of blue glitter, and a dramatic illuminated heart made of diagonal fluorescent tubes. Yossi Berg and Oded Graf’s study in masculinity, 4 Men, Alice, Bach and the Deer, also made use of a life-sized dead animal, raising peculiar questions about the role of taxidermy in Israeli society. Okay, not really, but seeing both works in one night gave something to think about.
Michal Herman Dance Group’s Fellowship, based on a short Kafka story, embodied absurdity in the extreme mannerisms of its characters and their exaggerated interactions, as did Irad Mazliah’s Unter den Linden.
While not necessarily “absurd,” Artour Astman & Ilana Bellahsen’s ArtLana presented the two artists as babies in a wide-eyed, charming duet. The grotesque masks in Noa Dar Dance Group’s Anu suggested something of the absurd but dealt more explicitly with another theme that was largely prevalent throughout the festival – the struggle between the urge for individual expression and the pressure to conform.
The aforementioned Big Mouth tackled the topic effectively as did Maya Brinner’s Red Ladies, which followed a trio of women from synchronized harmony to individual awareness and then group conflict.
But perhaps no dance company in the world embodies this tension between group cohesion and individual identity than the Batsheva Dance Company, whose new work Hora closed the festival.
Batsheva Dance Company in Ohad Naharin’s Hora. Photo by Gadi Dagon.
Batsheva’s artistic director Ohad Naharin shifts quickly and effortlessly between complicated group sections, done in perfect unison (in a way that no other company can approach), to solos that marry abandon and control in surprising harmony. It’s a tactic utilized in several of his recent works, and just because it’s a recognizable pattern doesn’t mean its predictable. Yet here, the tool loses its impact. While past works like Shalosh (Three) or Mamootot, though still abstract, feel like they follow some sort of arc, Hora in comparison feels circular. At the end, we’re back at the beginning and as a result, it’s a bit harder to appreciate the journey, but then again, maybe that’s the point.
Naharin has always had eclectic music taste, easily moving from a traditional Passover song to the Beach Boys to soundscapes that he himself creates. In Hora, the score consists of some of the most recognizable and clichéd pieces of music by Strauss, Wagner, and John Williams borrowed from the archives or classic science-fiction films. Like the title of the work, Naharin challenges the audience to rearrange its reference points for the associations we have created throughout our lives.
As a result, he creates extremes of possibilities and the space in between where anything can happen and meaning is left ambiguous. Throwing viewers from one end of the spectrum to the other (from familiar to unfamiliar) with unrelated and nonsensical movements forces us to fill in the gaps of how they relate and what it all amounts to. And while you may not walk away with an answer, Batsheva ultimately leaves an impression that, indeed, there is something human within this controlled chaos after all.
I always get a sense, watching Batsheva, that there is something dark and explosive just under the surface, and that’s another thread that seemed to weave its way through the festival of Israeli choreographers and companies. Noa Dar’s Anu plunged suddenly into simulated rape, and Berg and Graf’s 4 Men, Alice, Bach and the Deer similarly incorporated sexual violence into the narrative.
Rami Be’er’s poem Infrared, which is also the name of the work for his Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company, follows multi-colored soldiers into a garden, which the over-produced performance suggested rather explicitly. The company appears to have a wealth of resources at its disposal and produced a glossy show that, ultimately, was lacking in the substance and urgency that many of the smaller companies displayed.
Vertigo Dance Company in Noa Wertheim’s Mana. Photo by Gadi Dagon.
Noa Wertheim’s Vertigo Dance Company similarly approached the theme of complicated group dynamics. Yet their work Mana offered a depth and sense of intrigue that made it one of the most compelling pieces of the entire week, one that brings together many of the themes discussed here in a tight, luscious, and appealing package that foreign audiences are likely to respond well to.
If another theme might be added, it’s the embrace of classical music mashed with contemporary, fragmented movement. It’s not a new idea in contemporary dance, but the idea was particularly noticeable at this festival. In addition to the well-known scores in Batsheva’s work, Godder also used the waltz for inspiration, and Idan Cohen’s take on Swan Lake paired the Tchaikovsky score with sharp, defined, lightning-quick movement that actually made the idea feel current and relevant – no small feat for such an overused score and well-known ballet. But the sense that Israelis are resisting tradition, or at least looking to re-contextualize it to their new realities, came through loud and clear.
Maria Kong in fling. Photo by Gadi Dagon.
Of course, one can’t possibly force all of the performances into only a few basic themes. Defying all categorizations was the work by Maria Kong, a new company comprised of former Batsheva dancers. fling opens with an aching violin solo, performed facing away from the audience, while projections on two columns conjure a world of dark hallways, mysterious rooms, and the constant shift of shadows, which gives the sense that time is passing us by. Without a dancer on stage for the first nearly twenty minutes, a captivating world is created. When they do appear, the dancers move with robotic precision. The slight turn of a head sends waves that reverberate throughout another dancer’s body. Similarly, fling is a subtle work that makes a big impression.
And while International Exposure aims to present contemporary dance, we were also brought to the Israel Ballet studios to view excerpts from the company’s repertoire. The dancers were proficient, the partnering well-executed. But the formality of the ballet language doesn’t seem to fit this country.
Interacting with and observing Israelis on a daily basis during the week of the Exposure, the intimacy, suspicion, joy, tension, spirit, and vitality that seems to hover over society here is reflected in the works of contemporary artists that display the same such characteristics.
In comparison, the ballet, with its sterilized look, organized structure, clear gender roles, and polished edges seems to be just what everyone else is fighting against. And that conflict is what makes the dance in Israel so fascinating.
Posted on 05 December 2009 by Deborah Friedes Galili
Barak Marshall’s Rooster. Photo by Avi Avin.
As autumn turns into winter, there’s an interesting progression from one dance festival in Tel Aviv to the next. Tel Aviv Dance introduces Israeli audiences to top-notch dance from around the globe before giving way to Curtain Up, a celebration of new Israeli-made works. And then, in a few concentrated days of concerts, International Exposure attempts to introduce Israeli dance to the world by showcasing the past year’s bounty (including recently premiered Curtain Up works) to foreign arts presenters who just might invite local choreographers to perform in their home countries.
Now in its fifteenth year, International Exposure will present the work of twenty-seven Israeli choreographers to over ninety guests including theater directors, festival directors, and journalists. These visitors will witness a stellar lineup boasting Israel’s most prominent dance companies as well as many independent choreographers at various stages of their careers. Some of the works on the program have been performed many times over the course of the year; others, such as the selections from the still in progress Curtain Up festival, are in their initial performances. Together, these dances offer a valuable retrospective on the past season and paint a representative picture of Israel’s vibrant contemporary dance scene.
International Exposure 2009 runs from Wednesday, December 9 until Sunday, December 13. Many of the concerts will be held at the Suzanne Dellal Centre and are open to the public, so local audiences can catch up on shows they missed during the last year. Other performances will be held at the Israel Classical Ballet Centre, the Nachmani Theater, Clipa Theater, and the Herzliya Theater, giving visitors a peek at the larger scale of dance venues in Israel.
Below is a day-by-day virtual tour of the festival with photographs and videos of many of the dances which will be performed. Want to learn more about the choreographers, companies, works, and festivals I mention? Click on the underlined names to see related articles published on Dance In Israel.
As we say here in Israel, צפייה מהנה – tzfiya mehana, pleasant viewing!
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