Winter Portraits: an evening of choreographies and dancing both by the professionals and by all.

As a Londoner (I feel I can officially call myself a Londoner after 10 years of London living), I strive to wear the most stylish vintage clothes, know the trendiest unknown bars and go to “cool” events. Last night I had achieved the Tel Aviv equivalent.

Winter Portraits is part of Portraits, founded by Yarden Raz (choreographer and dancer in Israel). There appears to be a “portrait” session both winter and summer: an evening of choreography, dance and art all coming together. The event was held at a wonderful studio (reminiscent of “The Vatican” rehearsal space in East London, with the roads leading to the studio being filled with unique cafes, street art and warehouses-turned art spaces). As I walked into the space I instantly felt “East London”: fairy lights, a small darkened room with beer bottles, a dance studio (overlooking the street art filled streets) and many “arty” types of people standing around. We were ushered upstairs to a studio where we all sat on the floor - obviously chairs are so last year - and how happy I was with this choice: I felt like I was looking into some secret art project. Of the evening there was Luc Jacobs & Yaara Moses, Yarden Raz & Stav Struz, Yaniv Avraham, Adi Boutrous, Erin Shand & Irit Amichai, Mor Gur Arie and finally Lazaro Godoy. In the small studio intimate space I was blown away by all of them, their ability to move so quickly and sharply with such a cool edge! In particular, the solo choreography of Yaniv Abraham and the solo performed by Luc Jacobs & Yaara Moses were outstanding. These two people have been mentioned in my blog before.

Both dancers, Yaniv and Yaara, have taught me Gaga. Yaara was the “sweet” Gaga teacher who then in the evening impressed me as a fierce performer in Batsheva’s Sessions. In fact, in the afterparty, I asked her how she transformed from a sweet girl to such a soul-piercing severe performer - to which she couldn’t explain how: either she has a natural talent or was scared by the typical "drunken English” vibe I must have given her. Her solo has been a solo performed in the past (see below), however her performance is now twice as powerful. Yaara punched, sliced and diced her way through the solo, with whirlwind explosions of movements to moments of feline-like steps, whether as a cat looking for attention from her owner, or the “cool cat” of Top Cat.

Yaniv is the teacher who pushes everyone past their limitations in Gaga and in performance skills. With Yaniv's and Yaara's connections to Batsheva (Yaniv as ex-dancer and Yaara as current Batsheva dancer), they proved that they are the future of Batsheva. Before last night, I believed Batsheva were on the forefront of what contemporary dance is, however Yaniv (and Yaara) have changed my perception. It appears that it is the ex-Batsheva dancers who are now producing the new wave of movement.

Yaniv blew us all away with his solo as he quickly but so calmly moved in space and would suddenly freeze unexpectedly. He wouldn’t just freeze as a hip hop dancer would “pop” his muscles to freeze in a position but as if he was an animal waiting to “pounce” on his pray. He breezed through his fast-paced, complex dynamics as if he was relaxing and reading the Sunday newspaper (sorry I should use the Israeli equivalent: as if he was relaxing in a Tel Aviv café on a Saturday morning!) As Batsheva have this mixture of inner fire bursting out versus the smooth inner flow of Gaga, the future seems to be a “cool” vibe as if the dancers are “too cool for school”.

Then came the “coolest” part of the evening: the afterparty! The party had very cheap drinks with Tel Aviv’s finest and hippest DJs in a darkened, fairy-light-lit room. As we were all grooving and throwing very impressive shapes (as we were all obviously dancers) a solo broke out, the type you see in street dance movies... but only better and with a higher quality of choreography. Even though she danced with elements of krump and waack, she moved in a way that wasn’t typically hip hop dance but with a sense of the Israeli “inner animal”. She was responding to her inner groove rather the groove of the music as hip hop dancers do... later I learned that she is a Batsheva dancer herself!

The afterparty continued long into the night with ordinary dancers mixing with the professional dancers in a very relaxed atmosphere (one particular Batheva Dancer “smashed” the dance floor with energetic dance battles). Even though the dancers and organisers were very mostly Israeli, the crowd was very European. This is a clear proof that the whole world is coming to Israel to get into the groove of this amazing dance world.

A big thanks to Yarden Raz for organising Winter Portraits and pushing for choreographers' artistic vision to be displayed in the “coolest" way. I am very much looking forward to be sizzled by the Summer Portraits that she will create. Please check out Portraits Facebook page for stunning photos of the dancers, and you may find photos of me dancing the night away!