At its roots, dance is a form that is based on faith. The first known dances were done to please the gods, softening them to bring rain or allow for a plentiful harvest. Whether in unison, solo or groups, dances were done to bring the practitioner to a state of ecstasy and to impress a higher power. Though rain dances are not part of the status quo in present-day society, even in desert countries such as Israel, those seeds of belief can still be found in movement. Furthermore, movement is intrinsically part of virtually every religious practice.

For certain members of the dance community, this link between belief and movement holds a great deal of intrigue. Four years ago, propelled by this fascination, choreographers Tami and Ronen Itzhaki initiated the Spiritual Dance Festival. The event emerged from the couple’s own long-time exploration of the place that religion, or spirituality, holds in dance. Initially, the festival took place in Jerusalem, gaining in audience and participant numbers each year.

Now, having won a place on the annual Israeli dance calendar, the Spiritual Dance Festival will visit Tel Aviv. Next week, a sample of the performances given in the 2012 program will be presented at the Tmuna Theater. The evening will consist of three pieces: Nania by Elad Schechter; Wonder Woman by Galit Liss and Iris Nais Hadar; and Admission of Sin by Maya Levi and Aharon Manor.

Schechter’s work is a quartet for four male dancers.

The piece is an exploration of group dynamics, presenting a world in which each member is free to expose a part of his inner soul.

Schechter, whose group K.A.T.A.M.O.N. is based in Jerusalem, has spent the past several years honing his own distinctive movement language. Having danced with companies such as Vertigo Dance Group, Schechter struck out on his own, making a creative home in the county’s capital. Drawing on his surroundings, Schechter delved into the life of men within the religious community in Nania. Hanania Schwartz, Asher Lev, Ron Oren and Eyal Ogen dance the piece.

In contrast to Shechter’s testosterone driven work, Galit Liss and Iris Nais Hadar present Wonder Woman, the feminine answer to religious ritual. On stage stands Hadar, a lone woman preparing her home for Friday night dinner. As she goes through the very familiar motions of fixing dinner and tidying up, her imagination wanders to her childhood, to watching her mother and grandmother prepare in this exact same way.

Anyone who has attended a Yom Kippur is familiar with service the movement executed by the worshipers.

As they speak the words admitting their sins, they repeatedly beat their heart with one fist. This ritual was the inspiration for Maya Levi and Aharon Manor’s Admission of Sin. Though Orthodox synagogues separate men and women, in this ritual the pair dance together on one stage. Through their willingness to come to terms with the wrongs they have done, Levi and Manor expose a deep vulnerability within themselves. This act is both private and public, as each dancer is both active and passive in performing the ritual.

The Spiritual Dance Festival will take place at the Tmuna Theater on December 18 at 8 p.m. For more information, visit www.tmu-na.org.il.


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