On Friday morning, while many were strolling along the beach or out for brunch, a heap of Israel’s independent choreographers assembled in the Suzanne Dellal Center’s main hall for a very unusual and thought-provoking event. As part of the dance hub’s silver jubilee celebrations, director of Suzanne Dellal Yair Vardi invited Ran Brown to curate an event entitled The Artists’ Say Conference in which choreographers of all genres of dance and movement could contribute and read aloud their personal manifestos. The event preceded the official opening celebration, which took place Tuesday night in the form of a gala performance.
In Brown’s and Vardi’s eyes, Suzanne Dellal’s anniversary is an opportunity to not only to see but also to hear from the choreographers who create the dances that fill Israel’s stages. The word “manifestos,” chosen by Brown, is perhaps a tad off-putting, if not a bit militant, however the event itself was incredibly civilized.
Months ago, Brown put out a call to as wide a dance community as he could reach, urging each and every dance maker to scrawl out their thoughts, practices, gripes and dreams on paper. Brown then carefully and quite beautifully compiled these texts into a book, which was distributed at the entrance to the event. Not all of the choreographers whose words filled the pages of the book were present and even fewer chose to read their statements aloud. While many styles of dance were represented, the heads of major companies, namely Ohad Naharin, Yasmeen Godder and Inbal Pinto, disappointingly opted out of participation.
After a short welcome speech, Brown turned the stage over to the artists. Each one chose to approach the word manifesto from a different angle. Ronit Ziv’s rhyming spoken word evoked a few hearty chuckles from her peers. Rina Schenfeld’s photomontage provided glimpses into key moments in Israeli dance history. Several issues repeated themselves such as the lack of older dancers in the local milieu, the need to be recognized as professionals by the establishment, budgetary strife and of course, the need to be loved.
Maya Brinner held up the words “Content” “Is” and “Form,” alternating the order over and again. “Each creation kills the one before it, which killed the one before it, which killed the one before it,” she dryly stated. “It is forbidden to give in to gimmicks. It is forbidden to lie. It is forbidden to put on airs and it is forbidden to whine,” she went on in what was a very concise and well-put statement.
Dana Ruttenberg eloquently drew a line between her personal struggles and the socio-political environment in the country. She spoke of her dream to work with the dancers she works with today in 10 years’ time, when all involved have gone through some things and have grown up. She spoke of the dismissal in Israeli cultural of work that is innately physical.
“Movement in Israel is a field of young people,” she said. “There are two reasons. The first is obviously financial....The second, it seems to me, is connected to the problematic Israeli mentality of ‘any job is a respectable job.’ Israelis don’t work in construction, not in the field and not in dish washing. Israelis just don’t respect physical labor.”
Following the manifestos, the room was opened up to a Q&A session.
The event is hopefully a taste of what is to come in the next 25 years of the Suzanne Dellal Center. With it, Brown opened a pathway for artists to express themselves not only through their work but also through their words, filling in a gap for intellectual discourse on dance in the local community. And while the number of open seats in the audience may point to a preference toward the latter form of self-expression, The Artists’ Say Conference was an event that must be repeated at least once a year.