When Tel Aviv-based choreographer Dana Ruttenberg first met Oren Shkedy, dance was not an art form the latter felt particularly connected to. A film director, Shkedy had doubts about the communicative impact of an ephemeral form such as dance. In the years that followed and as the two grew closer and eventually married, Shkedy’s heart warmed to the form.
Today, Ruttenberg and Shkedy create as a team, bringing together their fields of expertise. This weekend, they will present Moving Picture, a weekend of dance and film at Warehouse 2 in the Jaffa port.
“We always avoided working together,” laughed Ruttenberg over coffee and lemon bars at Nola Café in Tel Aviv. “We didn’t know what would happen if we did. As it turns out, working together is its own kind of relationship. It’s fun and challenging. Creating is often very lonely so it’s nice to have someone else to share the process with.”
Ruttenberg has been creating work in Israel for the past decade. After graduating from Columbia University in 2000, she established her own company in New York called The Red Hill Project.
Four years later, Ruttenberg decided to return to Israel. As an independent choreographer, Ruttenberg has shown her work all over the country. She is frequently invited to teach and present her dances abroad. She is currently a visiting artist at Florida University.
Recently, Ruttenberg has become curious about the possibilities of presenting dance in unconventional spaces. Her work Naba, in which audience members are given a headset through which they can determine the soundtrack to the piece, is currently being performed in the galleries of the Tel Aviv Museum. The meeting of dance and film is another part of this exploration.
Moving Picture is part of Warehouse 2’s new initiative called Curating Creator.
“The project invites artists to premier a work of their own and to curate a weekend of events that connect to their practice,” explained Ruttenberg.
“When I heard about the initiative, I knew that I wanted to create my weekend with a focus on the connection between dance and film, which I am just discovering myself.”
In 2012, Ruttenberg and Shkedy decided to throw caution to the wind and collaborate.
The resulting project, ScreensArt, premiered at the Fresh Paint Festival in Tel Aviv. “We made a series of clips that were soundless. They were shown in the foyer of the space as the audience entered,” she explained. ScreensArt will be on display this weekend and is free of charge.
Following their success at Fresh Paint, Ruttenberg and Shkedy collaborated on the film version of Private I’s, a duet for two male dancers. The piece premiered during the 2010 Curtain Up Festival and went on to be presented around Israel and abroad. For the film version, Shkedy scouted locations that would enhance the atmosphere of the piece, which harks back to James Bond of the Sean Connery era.
“After years of working only in the live medium, I was amazed by the experience of having a film to work with. Private I’s got invited to screenings at a number of festivals abroad. I saw that my work could go anywhere in the world in a tiny envelope.
It was crazy discovering that dance can travel so easily.”
Though Ruttenberg has shown Private I’s in Chile, Colombia, Turkey, Hong Kong and the United States, this weekend will mark the Israeli premier of the film version.
Also premiering this weekend will be Glove Story, the silver screen edition of a piece Ruttenberg created for the 2012 Curtain Up Festival. In Glove Story, four characters grapple with the tension between reality and fantasy.
“Through working with film, I realized that even when I make work for the stage, I create scenes. I imagine that the audience will zoom in during certain moments, like a camera. When I create work for the stage, an element that is missing for me is the visual side, the set design. I think that’s a problem of the fringe scene and it’s due to budget problems,” she said.
For the filming of Glove Story, Ruttenberg took her dancers to a number of gorgeous locations such as the outside of the Holon Design Museum and into an events’ halls. “The experience of filming has definitely enriched the stage performances we have had since. I realized that during the process we talked about being in an event’s hall. Having performed those scenes on location has made the images much stronger for the dancers.”
Throughout the weekend, audiences will be invited to attend screenings of Trash Dance, a documentary film about a choreographic process that takes place with garbage collectors as dancers. “We saw Andrew Garrison’s film while we were abroad and were totally blown away,” said Ruttenberg.
For this weekend, Ruttenberg researched and compiled a mini-archive of Israeli dance. “I was at the Dance On Camera Festival in New York and I saw that they were showing archival footage of Jose Limon. It was so wonderful to get to watch that footage. When I returned to Israel, I asked myself if that kind of footage existed here. I went to a library and found reels of Batsheva Dance Company from the 1950s and works by Noa Eshkol that she had created for different ceremonies.”
These findings will be screened several times throughout the weekend and are open to the public free of charge.
Another special event to take place during the weekend is an updated version of a silent movie. “For a long time I’ve wanted to bring back the silent movie. So I put together movies from the archives, which will be screened to the beautiful sound of Yonatan Avishai playing the piano,” she said.
And if watching so much dancing makes people want to shake their own tail feathers, Ruttenberg and Shkedy have arranged an XBox Kinect station where audience members can either watch or participate in Dance Central, a movement game.
Moving Picture will take place from September 26-28 at Warehouse 2 in the Jaffa Port. For more information, visit www.choreographers.org.il.