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Contemporary Israeli Dance Week in New York City

Posted on 07 June 2011 by Deborah Friedes Galili

Yossi Berg and Oded Graf’s Heroes.  Photo by Tamar Tal.

Contemporary Israeli Dance Week in New York City

by Stacey Menchel Kussell

With world renowned choreographers like Ohad Naharin, Yasmeen Godder, and Inbal Pinto, over sixty registered dance groups and many more emerging artists – Israel has become a powerhouse in the world of modern dance. While Israeli contemporary dance companies have been headlining prominent European dance festivals for years, many Israeli choreographers are still unknown in the United States. New York’s Contemporary Israeli Dance Week, June 8-12th, 2011, is going to change that.

The festival, a five-day event including performances, video presentations, and community classes, profiles nine of Israel’s up-and-coming dance groups – Arkadi Zaides, Idan Cohen, Yossi Berg & Oded Graf, Maya Brinner, Maya Stern & Tomer Sharabi, choreographers based in Israel; and Deganit Shemy, YelleB Dance Ensemble, Netta Yerushalmy, and LeeSaar Company, based in New York City. The dance films featured are by the “D for Dimension – Animative Videodance” project – a collaboration between three leading Israeli professional schools of dance, photography, and video.

The LaMaMa Experimental Theatre Club (E.T.C.), a home to New York avant-garde theater since 1961, will fittingly host the performances as part of its LaMama Moves Dance Festival, an annual international dance showcase. Created by the late Ellen Stewart, the LaMaMa E.T.C. is a world renowned cultural organization that seeks to nurture and support performance work by artists of all nations and cultures.

YelleB Dance Ensemble.  Photo by Yi-Chun Wu.

“There is really an intense and pervasive energy in Israeli contemporary dance right now,” says Edo Ceder, who is both a producer and a dancer in the YelleB Dance Ensemble. “This series will feature both Israeli choreographers based in New York and in Israel, and will be an opportunity for the U.S. to see our work represented as a community. By exhibiting both emerging and more established artists at a venue like LaMaMa we can show the full range and texture of what is really happening in the field.”

Arkadi Zaides’s Quiet.  Photo by Gadi Dagon.

While each artist investigates diverse topics in their choreography, all of the works involved in the series are in some way about pushing past boundaries. Arkadi Zaides’s internationally acclaimed Quiet, a quartet that features two Arab and two Jewish men, will make its U.S. premiere at the festival. The piece explores the concept of communication and delves into the tension of the Arab-Israeli conflict that Zaides feels is “imprinted on the body” of everyone in the region. “There has been such an emotional reaction to the piece,” explains Zaides, “it has opened up so much discussion about the need for dialogue–the need to talk, and to not be in silence, just ignoring our issues. I’m excited to show the piece and open it up to the New York audience.”

Idan Cohen’s My Sweet Little Fur.  Photo by Ran Biran.

Idan Cohen, who will present his solo My Sweet Little Fur, is also enthusiastic for this opportunity to connect with the American audience. He feels that his choreography, like many of his peers, is a coping mechanism for the confusing elements of his environment: “There is a lot of commotion in Israel – diverse people with diverse convictions who live in a very confined space. Our dance helps us articulate our identity.”

Maya Brinner’s Red Ladies. Photo by Gadi Dagon.

Maya Brinner, whose Red Ladies, will also make its New York premiere, feels that while she is challenged by her surroundings, she is also nurtured by a very supportive artistic community. Before creating her own work, Brinner performed with Noa Dar and Emanuel Gat, and studied at the Jersualem Acadamy of Music and Dance. She recognizes the importance of the excellent training available in Israel, and the great foundation the bigger companies like the Batsheva Dance Company have established for the country. Many of the dancers in the New York festival have trained or danced with Batsheva and studied with its director, Ohad Naharin. Naharin’s influence on Israeli contemporary dance has been profound, and even choreographers with different movement styles have felt his effect.

“I think we all owe a great deal to Ohad for paving the way,” says Maya Brinner who will show her work in the festival. “But, I also think this dance week in New York is an opportunity to see how far we’ve come. There are many companies in Israel now, and new projects are sprouting up all the time. We are greatly supported by our government and local arts programs, and have also received great praise for our performances in Europe and Asia. Contemporary Israeli dance has really come of age.”

The festival, produced by Edo Ceder, Michal Gamily, and Hila Kaplan, is the first Israel focused dance event of its kind in the U.S., and has plans to develop into an ongoing tradition. “We don’t expect to change the world with one festival,” says Ceder. “But we do hope to make an introduction and foster dialogue. We want to show others the variety and the power of the dance that comes from our nation.”

Contemporary Israeli Dance Week runs June 8-12, 2011 at the La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club. 74A East 4th Street (btw Bowery & 2nd Ave) New York, NY 10003. For more information call: 001 212.475.7710 or go to www.lamama.org

About the Guest Author

Stacey Menchel Kussell received her Master’s degree in European and Mediterranean Studies from New York University. She has previously written on the Mediterranean experience of the Holocaust, and the Jewish community of Spain. Her work has been published in the Jerusalem Post, The Forward, and Presentense Magazine. Her current project examines contemporary Israeli dance.

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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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International Exposure 2008: Day 3

Posted on 22 January 2009 by Deborah Friedes Galili

(Video: Hillel Kogan’s Everything)

It’s another jam-packed day of dance-watching!

Like Day 2 of International Exposure, Day 3 features two programs from the 2008 Curtain Up Festival.  We’ll start our day at 2:00 p.m. with Curtain Up 4:  Tomer Sharabi’s Monk, Hillel Kogan’s Everything, and Maya Stern’s Black Sea. At 5:00, Michael Getman’s Monday and Maya Levi’s Lifeline from Curtain Up 2 will complete the showings from this annual festival of premieres.

In between these two concerts, we’ll take an inside look into the Batsheva Dance Company.  We’re invited to Studio Varda for an open rehearsal of Ohad Naharin’s Project 5, a work for five women that premiered in July.

The evening is full of options for adventurous International Exposure attendees.  Across town at the Cameri Theater, Galia Fradkin’s La Mariposa is playing at 7:00 and 9:30 p.m.  At 8:00 and again at 10:00 p.m., Noa Dar’s Tetris will transform the choreographer’s central Tel Aviv studio into a most unusual performance space.  And at the Suzanne Dellal Center, Studio A will be the venue for the Acco Dance Center’s showing of Simon Rowe’s Welcome to Valhalla! at 8:30 p.m.

The Choreographers Society will host a reception at 9:00, which will no doubt be a welcome break before a 10:00 p.m. concert of four more works.  The Tel Aviv Dance Company will perform part of Ya’ara Dolev and Amit Goldenberg’s Tokyo Oranges, while the Nadine Bommer Dance Company will offer an excerpt from Bommer’s Manimation. Mami Shimazaki’s Chiki, Chiki 123 and Elina Pechersky’s Elina’s Muses round out the last program of the day.

See below for more videos and links.

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Israel’s Curtain Up Festival: “Another Op’ning, Another Show” for Contemporary Dance

Posted on 30 November 2008 by Deborah Friedes Galili

(Hillel Kogan’s “Everything” will premiere in the 2008 Curtain Up Festival)

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“Another Op’ning, another show
In Philly, Boston, or Baltimo’
A chance for stage folks to say hello
Another op’ning of another show.”
-Lyrics by Cole Porter for the musical Kiss Me Kate

It’s time for another op’ning of another show – again, and again, and again (and again) – in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem this month. The 2008 Curtain Up Festival will bring 4 programs worth of premieres by independent choreographers to the Suzanne Dellal Center and The Lab (HaMaabada) during December.  Michael Getman, Maya Levy, Rachel Erdos, Tomer Sharabi, Maya Stern, and Hillel Kogan will each present new works, as will the collaborative teams of Sahar Azimi and Odelya Kuperberg; Yossi Berg and Oded Graf; and Niv Sheinfeld and Oren Laor with the participation of Ronit Ziv.  The entire festival opens at Suzanne Dellal on December 3 with a special presentation of Inbal Pinto and Avshalom Pollak‘s Shaker, which recently toured the United States.

For a listing of this year’s Curtain Up performances in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, please visit Dance In Israel’s Events page.  You can read both Helen Kaye’s preview and Ori J. Lenkinski’s preview of the festival in the Jerusalem Post and view the Suzanne Dellal Center’s Hebrew program of Curtain Up.  Finally, I’ll leave you with “Another Op’ning, Another Show,” which I wrote for my own website on November 20, 2007 after attending last year’s Curtain Up Festival.  Make sure to click below and view the rest of the post; there’s another video to whet your appetite!

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