At the start of each year, I thoroughly enjoy going to The Place to watch Resolution! to check out the new choreographers, styles and trends evolving in the dance world - I love seeing if there is a new wave or style evolving. Therefore, I was very pleased to be attending Israel’s version of Resolution!, named Curtain Up.
Before the show, I had the opportunity to attend a talk given by Curtain Up Co-Director Ronit Ziv. A really intriguing point that she made is that dance in Israel has only really developed in the last 10 – 15 years, thanks to Curtain Up. This started me speculating about the development of dance in Israel: perhaps as more international choreographers were used in the modern dance era rather than Israeli choreographers, this may have held Israel back in terms of dance development? No matter how much we lament the dwindling arts funding available in the UK, new dance in Israel seems relatively underfunded. In the UK, there are platforms for new choreographers such as Resolution! or The Place Prize [or even Cloud Dance Festival - Ed]. Furthermore, choreographers and companies can apply to the Arts Council and elsewhere for funding. Additionally, choreographers can study further, with a range of MA courses in choreography on offer to develop their choreographic skills further.
In Israel, however, this level of support appears less apparent. Ronit Ziv talked about how she selects the work and how she works with the choreographer and gives them feedback; it's a very personal process. Most new choreographer platforms in England use auditions or videos for their selection process. Here in Israel, the artistic directors spend time with the choreographers to decide who is most receptive to feedback and has a good work ethic. Ziv mentioned how interviews could take place in cafés or at homes, thus making the process all the more personal. With our “British” organised style, especially with the mountains of paperwork we plough through in the dance world!, this can risk stifling the creative process or even discouraging choreographers.
Curtain Up’s personal touch, I feel, is a reflection of Israeli culture in general, which is very laid back compared to Britishness. This in turn nurtures an Israeli choreographic voice as well as the choreographer's own voice.
So what new choreographic pieces did I see? Sharon Vazanna's The Feast (new to Curtain Up), Gili Navot's May Contain Nuts (ex Batsheva dancer, Gaga teacher, third time at Curtain Up) and Roy Assaf's The Hill. In the UK, we have twice had the honour of watching Roy Assaf dance in Emmanual Gat Dance’s pieces at Sadler’s Well’s. This was his second Curtain Up.
Sharon Vazanna’s The Feast was a work with three female dancers. She used a variety of bold souds from opera music to Martin Luther King's speeches to match the strong themes of The Feast. One of the dancers ran to centre upstage and grabbed a red cloth from the floor, which was then used as a bull cape. Another dancer ran under the cape, holding her body curved over with strong steps as though she was the bull. She then grabbed the cape and ran quickly around the stage with the cape held in the air. This quick running was reflected in the overall pace of the dance: quick, always on the go, and strong. The dancer with the cape then fell to the floor abruptly with the cape within her mouth. She crawled heavily and jaggedly to lie down in a huddle...she was to be the feast. One dancer grabbed a fork and the other dancer grabbed a knife, and appeared to be feasting on their deceased bull. After celebrating their find, the two dancers then performed “feasting” actions such as biting their arm or hand, or even one dancer stood on one leg with her other leg out stretched in front as she pecked at her out stretched leg. I must admit I was waiting for the “fiery” Israeliness style of contemporary dance but did not see it. Nevertheless, the sense of gorging and feasting, almost as though in a horror movie, gave me the satisfaction of the Israeli ferocious style. You could tell that the choreographer Sharon Vazanna was new to the choreographic world as the choreography was too obvious at this point, however with her bold musical choice and themes, I know she is going to develop to a strong ferocious choreographer.
Gili Navot’s May Contain Nuts was a work where I did see this “Israeli” body/dancer in action. Again, this work had three dancers - an Israeli trend or a consequence of financial constraints? This piece was about secrets and trying to tell a story that they don’t want to tell. One by one, each dancer moved in her or her own manner with a slight twisting or breaking of the joints, very Gaga-influenced, especially as one of my Gaga teachers was one of the dancers! The build of music was reflected in the developmet of the “Gaganess” until the dancers broke into unison. There appeared to be only two brief moments when all three dancers danced in unison: at the start and at the end. I felt the lack of unison between the three dancers very peculiar, however the interesting and unusual contact between them made up for it. For example, one woman moved slowly with tension to a sitting position as a man stood behind her, holdig her on her bottom. This piece captivated me: their animalistic moving bodies filled me with wonder and made me want to keep watching more and more.
Roy Assaf's The Hill was the winner of the evening. This was a trio with three male dancers, based on the battle of Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem. The dance started with a drum roll while the house lights were still on and the stage curtains were closed. As the curtain opened, two of the dancers were standing downstage centre, facing the audience. The third dancer was standing still upstage right with his eyes closed. The two dancers at the front stood with their arms folded and the dancers flicked, extended and flexed their hands in time with the marching band music, making the audience laugh - also when they turned around and squeezed their own bottom cheeks with their hands in time with the military music. The military music then climaxed and stopped as the dancers suddenly ran to catch the falling third man, with the humorous atmosphere quickly fading away.
Music was then reintroduced, playing an element of a soft Jewish folk song, while the dancers lightly, slowly stepped around stage in a circular pattern, resembling Israeli folk steps. There was a sense of memory from army days, the sense of friendship bonding people together in the army, while the sense of responsibility to fight was quickly added when the folk steps transitioned from light and slow to heavy and quick marching steps. The dancers appeared to regress to their own experiences in the Israeli army as they stared blankly with almost tears in their eyes as they fought to protect the stage and each other. This piece moved me both through the power of the dancers and their focus, and by the choreography. From seeing this piece I know that Israel is STILL going to be an exciting place for dance in the future.