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Plenty of moves, piles of thoughts

'If At All' by Kibbutz Contemporary Dance. Photo by The Nation

Publication Date : 18-01-2013


Israel shows why it's a major player in the world of contemporary dance


Last month was my third trip in six years to the Suzanne Dellal Centre for Dance and Theatre's annual event "International Exposure" and I sincerely hope it won't be my last. I was in good company too, taking in performances from 10am until almost midnight with festival producers, cultural officers and journalists from around the world, many of them thinking of the possibilities of bringing the shows to their respective countries. After six days witnessing the latest developments in Israeli dance, I returned home creatively rejuvenated.

The subject matter varied and so did the style. Creative freedom was at such a level that I often thought of France. After a few days, it became clear that this small and young country was blessed with a great number of competent dancers. The fruitfulness of the performances showed that for dance to prosper, you need more than skilful dancers; choreographers as well as composers and designers are crucial too. Otherwise, it would become like that in Thailand, or even China, Korea and Japan whose many top dancers are not working domestically at the moment.

Exemplary works were Niv Scheinfeld and Oren Laor's "Two Room Apartment", a revival of the seminal work premiered 25 years ago by Liat Dror and Nir Ben Gal. While the original featured a man and a woman, this tribute comprised two men - and the result was both celebratory and astounding.

The globetrotting Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company's new work "If At All" proved why the troupe is such a frequent traveller. Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar, former members of Israel's highly acclaimed Batsheva Dance Company, recently founded a new group called "L-E-V", with many Batsheva alumni, and their work "House" demonstrated a highly unique dance vocabulary, with strong coherence to the similarly distinctive soundscape on which Eyal and Behar also worked.

Two dance works crossed the boundary, naturally and smoothly into the realm of theatre: Talia Paz and Nigel Charnock's, a founding member of celebrated physical theatre group DV8, "Haunted by The Future", inspired by Edward Albee's "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"; and the Inbal Pinto and Avshalom Pollak Dance Company's "Gold Fish", in which visual theatre had a strong presence.

The closing programme, Batsheva's "Deca Dance", revisited renowned choreographer Ohad Naharin's collection of works in the past decade.

With a few parts in which some audiences were invited onto the stage, it proved that Naharin's Gaga style of dance has become firmly established in the everyday lives and spirit of the people. It also proved that you don't have to be a dancer to enjoy dancing.

A work I didn't get to watch but won the praise of so many of my colleagues that I arranged a meeting with the artist was Renana Raz's "YouMake, ReMake", in which she has created short sequences of dance based on YouTube clips. As Thai people are now very YouTube savvy, I can see the possibility of a new collaboration here.

The event also presented a photography exhibition "Floating Body: Rina Schenfeld in Space and Time", honouring one of the masters who is still actively creating works, as we witnessed here in Bangkok a week before. The poster of the Friends of the Arts Foundation's International Dance Festival 2012 featuring Schenfeld was also displayed there.

The whole experience reminded me of my first encounter with Israeli contemporary dance. It was in New York in autumn 2005 and I had paid $36 for a ticket to Batsheva's "Mamootot" at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) only to be offered US$200 in cash. I didn't take the offer but instead took my seat, and soon after, realised why I had been offered so much and why dance festivals around the world have been presenting Israeli works — and their government has played a strong role in promoting this too. I also became a fan, or a stalker, of the company, watching their works also in Singapore and Melbourne. As always, I hope to see them perform in Thailand soon.

The writer's trip was supported by the Embassy of Israel in Thailand and Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Special thanks to Kuntheera Satityuthakan, Rachel Nir and Rachel Grodjinovsky.


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