Odelya Kuperberg can't imagine life without dance. "It's a need," says the poised 29-year-old choreographer/dancer, her dark hair pulled back, her expressive hands articulating her point. "Dance is like breathing or eating. And because it's my body, it's close to me. It's where I feel at home."
Her 20-minute piece "From Three to One" will appear in Curtain 3 in this year's Curtain Up Dance Festival. It is part of a body of work that started with "Transparency," a well received workshop piece that she made in New York in 1999.
In Hebrew the piece is called "Mishalosh yotzet achat" after a children's game where somebody is always the odd-man out. The street children in her dance "test feelings of not belonging. It's a place or situation of homelessness of all sorts," she says. Kuperberg explores how this "resonates with passersby, and how their ordinary movements link up with the language of dance."
Kuperberg has made a dozen or so dance pieces since she became independent in 1999, the year she went to New York for further study. Since then she's worked in various spaces including the Tmuna Theater, the School of Visual Theater in Jerusalem (from which she graduated and where she now teaches), and at the Arab-Hebrew Theater.
"In New York I studied with a lot of different people, especially in the field of improvisation. Because it relies so strongly on instinct and the senses, you have to be attuned all the time."
For Kuperberg dance is also about integrity, clean movements and very precise timing: "It has to be just so." She illustrates her words with fluid gestures, indicating "the absolutely right movement for the dancers and the dance." Her ideas come from everywhere, like cell dividing (Mitosis, '05), or a story (99 People on a Tree, '03).
Kuperberg was born and grew up in Jaffa. Her parents immigrated as children - her mother from Morocco in 1954 and her father, born to Holocaust survivors, in 1951 from Lodz in Poland. Her career in the arts started when her teacher told her parents that Odelya was gifted, and that they should enroll her in the School of the Arts. She auditioned, was accepted, and because the dance department had less students, "I got sent there. From the first day I decided this was for me. There's no pretence, no need for words. Either you can or you can't." And she could.
Scholarships from the Israel America Cultural Foundation and other institutions for dance and choreography followed. After her graduation from college she danced with various choreographers such as Anat Danieli and Ronit Ziv, and is of course dancing in "Three" now.
Right now Kuperberg doesn't contemplate forming her own company. It's too soon, she says practically, both for personal and economic reasons. Participating in Curtain Up will, however, enable her to be seen in International Exposure (beginning December 5), which showcases local dance talent for foreign festival and dance company managers. "I hope something will come of that. Right now the exposure I have is enough for me, but one day, I know that I'll want to fly higher."
And she probably will.
Curtain Up plays at Suzanne Dellal in Tel Aviv from November 14-23 and at the Ma'abada in Jerusalem from November 26-28.