For choreographer Dana Ruttenberg, what is means to be Israeli is a daily question. Having spent bouts of her formative years in the United States, Ruttenberg returned to her home country each time with a fresh perspective on issues large and small, from standing in lines to foreign policy.
“There are two parallel lines in me, Israeli and American. Even though I’m not American, I spent so much time there and many of the references from my youth come from America,” explained Ruttenberg in a recent interview with The Jerusalem Post.
This week, she will host an evening at the Suzanne Dellal Center boasting two works that express and investigate Ruttenberg’s take on “Israeliness.” The performance is part of the annual Hot Dance Festival.
The first piece in the evening, Private I’s, premiered in 2010 as part of the Curtain Up Festival.
When Ruttenberg first mentioned James Bond to the artistic team of Private I’s, she was met with blank stares. Having recently embarked upon a creative process focused on masculinity, Ruttenberg threw out the most obvious reference she could think of.
“None of the four men in the process,” she explained, referring to dancers Uri Shafir, Ofir Yudilevich and musicians Noam Inbar and Adam Scheflan, “had any connection to this image of James Bond. They didn’t see anything manly about holding a martini glass,” she laughed. “Bond got thrown into the mix, where he met a lot of Israeli references that the crew was more familiar with.”
As they plunged forward with their research, both in and out of the studio, Ruttenberg and company picked up on a common ground that all of their manly man references shared.
“All of our male heroes are men who either killed or were killed,” she said. “We asked a lot of questions about what it means to be a manly man and what does it mean when you realize that you aren’t one.”
The second piece in the evening is called Armed. Danced by a cast of four, Armed was first seen as part of the 2012 Curtain Up Festival.
“I created Armed when I came back from completing my Master’s degree in the States. I had gotten used to the space that you have in the States. I was at Ben-Gurion Airport and this man behind me hit me in the leg with his cart. It was as if he decided that my personal space ended exactly where my body ended. In Israel, there is such a flexible sense of boundaries, be it physical, emotional or political. When I researched personal space, I found that the more populated the place and the smaller it is, the smaller each individual’s personal space is.”
In Armed, the four dancers, Uri Shafir, Ayala Frankel, Inbar Nemirovsky and Adi Boutrous dance with gloved hands.
“Gloves are supposed to protect you while they allow you to go into dangerous spaces.
When a doctor puts on gloves he can go into any cavity in your body. The gloves allow for more and more contact. The message of Armed isn’t that we need to get closer to each other but an open question about personal space and what happens with it.”
Following her evening in Hot Dance, Ruttenberg will head for Italy, where Private I’s will be presented as part of a site-specific festival. Then, in September, she will host the second annual Project 48, in which choreographers, dancers, dramaturges and other artists create works using the speed-dating model.
Over the course of two days, the participating artists are thrown into groups in order to create an original dance work in twenty-four hours. This process is repeated creating 10 works that will be shown at Warehouse 2 in Jaffa. The idea is to create quickly, without preconceived notions and hopefully, without fear. Though the performances are only one month away, Ruttenberg refused to divulge names of this year’s Project 48 artists.
“The artists that choose to take part are people who aren’t afraid to play. The project doesn’t suit everyone,” confessed Ruttenberg.
“It’s like a blind date or spin dating, you show up not knowing who you will work with. I don’t release the list of who is going to take part until they arrive so that people can’t decide in advance whom they want to work with within the project. If the chemistry isn’t there, it’s only 48 hours.
Each time is a trial run because each time that it happens it gives more people courage to take part in it. The more established you are, the scarier it is to fall. You become stagnant because you have something to lose.”
This year, all rehearsals will take place at Studio Naim in Tel Aviv, with live streaming broadcast online.
“Project 48 pops a bubble because no space is left hermetically sealed. It is full sharing,” she said.
Private I’s and Armed will be presented on August 21 at the Suzanne Dellal Center. For tickets, visit www.suzannedellal.org.il