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Bridge: Choreographic Dialogues 2010

Posted on 07 July 2010 by Deborah Friedes Galili

Video: Bridge: Choreographic Dialogues 2009

“My personal aim is to really create an Impulstanz type of workshop program in Israel,” says Barak Marshall, choreographer and artistic director of Bridge: Choreographic Dialogues.  “Ideally, that’s really where I want to take this festival.  I think it’s necessary, and I think that the time is right for us to have an international dance festival.”

It’s an ambitious goal, but as Bridge: Choreographic Dialogues grows and evolves each year, it’s also one that is perfectly logical and increasingly attainable.

From its start, Bridge was centered on building strong international connections.  In 2006, Miki Yerushalmi of the Jewish Federation’s Tel Aviv/Los Angeles Partnership approached Barak Marshall about creating a dance program.  Marshall, who currently splits his time between the two cities, recruited UCLA and the Suzanne Dellal Center as partners and developed what he calls a “choreographic exchange program.”  During the summers of 2007, 2008, and 2009, L.A.-based choreographers – often working in diverse forms absent from the Israeli scene, such as hip-hop and kathak dance – traveled to Tel Aviv to teach two-week workshops with Israeli dancers.  Meanwhile, in May 2008, Ronit Ziv, Niv Sheinfeld, and Idan Cohen shared their artistry with L.A. dancers in a similar intensive.  Plans are in the works for more Israeli choreographers to teach and perform in L.A. in the future.

Here in Israel, the Bridge summer course is becoming an annual highlight of the Tel Aviv’s bustling dance scene, providing an infusion of wide-ranging workshops with a world-renowned visiting faculty.  This summer, about 100 dancers – including 5 students from the prestigious CalArts dance department, a handful of other dancers from the U.S. and Europe, and tens of Israelis from around the country – are expected to study with the most international roster of teachers yet.  “I really wanted to for a very long time bring a more European influence into the course,” explains Marshall of his decision to expand the faculty from its original L.A. base.  Among this year’s teachers are Damien Jalet, who has risen to prominence as a choreographer within the Belgian collective Les Ballets C. de la B. and as the co-director of Eastman alongside Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui; Lisi Estradas, a Spanish-trained former Batsheva Ensemble dancer who also works with Les Ballets C. de la B.; and Michal Mualem, who danced with several local choreographers before joining Sasha Waltz & Guests and creating her own productions with her partner Giannalberto de Filippis.  “These are 3 international and incredible artists, and I went very consciously after them to come and do the course,” Marshall reflects.

Further adding international flavor to this year’s Bridge are South Korean choreographer Chuck Park, the Paris Opera Ballet’s Bruno Bouché, and Caracas Ballet founder Maria Barrios Zaks.  Even the teachers who are fixtures on the local scene, like Naomi Perlov, Jay Augen, and Marshall himself, boast a significant record of international work.

The diversity of the faculty pays dividends for Bridge’s dancers.  “What I’m really trying to expose the dancers to are just a myriad of different ways of moving, a myriad of vocabularies and knowledges,” states Marshall.  Classes in ballet, contemporary technique, and contemporary repertory as well as choreographic workshops allow dancers to work with multiple teachers, sample a variety of styles, and broaden their horizons.  With this particular select faculty, even a single teacher may expose dancers to a range of movement.  Marshall highlights Jalet’s “cross-cultural approach,” marveling that he and Cherkaoui mix “theater with ethnic movement with release with acrobatics; it’s just endless, the world he brings!”

Besides expanding the participants’ physical abilities, Bridge: Choreographic Dialogues 2010 will challenge dancers to develop their artistry as active members of the choreographic process.  Marshall remarks, “The emphasis this year is the dancer as creator . . . these other choreographers really have a very democratic and dancer-as-creator mode of creation, so what I hope to really offer to the participants is to open their eyes to their abilities as a creator, not just as an interpreter.”  Furthermore, Marshall notes that Bridge has served as a launching pad for dancers’ careers, enabling them to meet both local and visiting choreographers and fostering strong professional connections.  Marshall himself has found several dancers for his recent works Monger and Rooster through Bridge.

The stimulating interaction runs both ways, with not only the dancers but also the choreographers benefiting from the mix of participants and approaches.  Most of all, Marshall explains, foreign choreographers who have taught at Bridge have discovered what he calls “the wow of the Israeli dancer and the Israeli artist and the Israeli soul.”  He elaborates, “Everybody who has participated in the three previous workshops came with their own preconceptions of Israel, first of all, and consequently of the Israeli dancer, from their limited knowledge.  I know that everybody has gone away with this deep impression about the power of Israeli dancers.  And I’m always very, very proud of that; I think that Israeli dancers offer something [that is] so powerful and overwhelming and all-encompassing.”

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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:


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.


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.


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.


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.


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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Karmiel Festival 2009: Israeli Folk Dance and More

Posted on 02 August 2009 by Deborah Friedes Galili

Karmiel Dance Festival

Karmiel Dance Festival.  Photo by Mati Elmaliach.

When many people hear the phrase “Israeli dance,” they think of Israeli folk dance.  And while the Karmiel Festival includes all sorts of dance done in Israel – including contemporary, jazz, and ballroom – it’s Israeli folk dance which forms the core of the country’s largest dance festival.

Shlomo Maman, who has been involved with the festival for ten years and took over the artistic directorship from Karmiel’s founder Yonatan Karmon, explained that the idea to have some mix of dance styles was present from the festival’s start in 1988.  “The main issue of the festival is the Israeli folk dances, but it’s very important for us to bring other groups,” he says.  “All meet together which makes this very big and very interesting . . . everyone will learn from the others.”

This year, the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company, Ido Tadmor, Rina Schenfeld, Vertigo’s second company, and a group of dancers from the renowned Paris Opera Ballet will make appearances at Karmiel.  Yet the bulk of the festival – which boasts 5,000 dancers and 80 events over a mere 3 days – is composed of concerts, competitions, and even classes in folk dance.

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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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Les Ballets de Monte Carlo in Tel Aviv: Ballet for the 21st Century

Posted on 18 June 2009 by Deborah Friedes Galili

Video: Les Ballets de Monte Carlo in Jean-Christophe Maillot’s Altro Canto

Dance history buff that I am, I was thrilled when I got to interview Jean-Christophe Maillot.  Why?  He directs Les Ballets de Monte Carlo, which in some ways carries on the legacy of the legendary Ballets Russes.  Yet even with these rich historical roots (or perhaps because of them), this top-notch company presents decidedly 21st-century work.  Read on to understand why!

This article was first published as “A Midsummer Dream” in the Jerusalem Post on June 14th, 2009.

* * *

“Each time I go to a new country, I always go with a tremendous hope that what we will bring is completely different – because the environment is different, because the culture is different, because the history of the country is different,” explains Jean-Christophe Maillot, choreographer for Les Ballets de Monte Carlo.

Since 1993, the French-born choreographer has led Monaco’s world-renowned dance company on tours around the globe.  Yet for Maillot and most of the troupe’s 46 dancers, the company’s performances at the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center will mark their first visit to Israel – and Maillot is looking forward to it.

Maillot’s hope may well be fulfilled on this tour.  Firmly rooted in the classical ballet tradition while moving forward with a distinctly contemporary style of choreography, Les Ballets de Monte Carlo is indeed different from much of Israel’s dance scene.  This contrast should prove exciting not only for Maillot, but for Israeli audiences as well.

Though it may seem paradoxical, Les Ballets de Monte Carlo’s freshness stems from a rich history.  Monaco’s ballet tradition stretches back to the early decades of the 20th century, when Russian impresario Sergei Diaghilev brought his famed Ballets Russes to Monte Carlo.  The ground-breaking company dissolved when Diaghilev died in 1929, but it was reconstituted three years later by Colonel de Basil and Rene Blum.  Conflicts between the directors led to a split, and under Blum’s leadership, the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo continued to win praise with its cast of star dancers and inventive choreographers.

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