10th Annual Jerusalem International Dance Week: a MASH of Cultures, Concepts, and Communities

 Longing for faces by Iris Erez (photo credit: Vojtěch Brtnický)
Longing for faces by Iris Erez
(photo credit: Vojtěch Brtnický)

When you think of Jerusalem, what comes to mind? Is it the rich, ancient history of the city and its ageless beauty? Is it the bustling streets, the yelling for taxis, running for buses? Or is it the cutting-edge arts and culture, a gathering place for leading dance institutions, a space where people from all over the world come to see the latest, most exciting performances by independent Israeli artists?

Machol Shalem Dance House (MASH) of Jerusalem strives to give center stage to everyone who wishes to share a piece of their soul with the city. Through commissioned performances, original works, virtual reality dance experiences, study courses, and more, artists throughout the city can express their creativity and aspirations in an environment that cultivates imagination and innovation. 

The highlight of their yearly programming is the Jerusalem International Dance Week, which celebrated its 10th anniversary this year and showcased thirty-two performances by independent choreographers. The event brought dance managers to Jerusalem from around the world to encourage collaborations between the curators, programmers, and Israeli artists to experience the magic of our beautiful city. MASH’s goal is to present Jerusalem as a vibrant center for contemporary, avant-garde performance art, and to show its unique qualities to the rest of the world. 

When Love Walked in / Oded Graf and Yossi Berg (Credit: EFRAT MAZOR)When Love Walked in / Oded Graf and Yossi Berg (Credit: EFRAT MAZOR)

The event was held in collaboration with the Cultural Diplomacy Bureau of the Ministry of Foreign affairs and is part of a shared vision to expose Israeli culture around the world.

This year, Dance Week consisted of three parts - the Jerusalem international choreography competition, a showcase of Israeli pieces, and a dance festival featuring new performances for the public to enjoy. The choreography competition highlighted artists from Italy, Spain, Portugal, Singapore, France and Israel. Almost 100 managers from different platforms and companies across the globe flocked to Jerusalem to watch the new talent and recruit new choreographers & dancers for their respective dance companies. 

In past years, MASH has established international collaborations with leading dance festivals, choreography competitions and residency centers, allowing Israeli artists to form long-term relations with these leading institutions.

Everything must go / Dana Rotenberg (Credit: Vojtěch Brtnický)Everything must go / Dana Rotenberg (Credit: Vojtěch Brtnický)

MASH sees the annual Dance Week as just one of its many international projects - it’s a one-of-a-kind center where international activity is part of the day-to-day programs. 

One of the successful outcomes of the dance week is the MASH Dance Berlin Festival taking place at the Dock 11 theater in Berlin- a program that was initiated by the directors of Dock 11, after visiting the Dance Week event for a few years.

Other long-term collaborations are Quinzena de Dança de Almada, Portugal, Solocoreografico - Solo Dance Festival in Torino, Cont·act Contemporary Dance Festival- Singapore, Derida Dance Center in Bulgaria, MASDANZA in Spain and more.

Everything We Are Not - The Rise and Fall of the Desire Machines by Uri Shapir (Credit: Vojtěch Brtnický)Everything We Are Not - The Rise and Fall of the Desire Machines by Uri Shapir (Credit: Vojtěch Brtnický)

Included among the Israeli performers were artists commissioned by MASH, such as Ravid Abarbanel and Iris Erez, as well as choreographers Yossi Berg & Oded Graf. Alongside the performances, MASH facilitated two pitch events- a platform that uses the structure of a film pitch for exposure of Israeli artists with the goal of helping these artists obtain support for their endeavors from the international community. 

The selection of artists from abroad was quite impressive as well. These international artists included dancers like Brian Scalini of Italy, and Pat Toh, of Singapore, among various other exciting creators and companies. 

The winners of the Jerusalem International Choreography Competition were: “T.R.I.P.O.F.O.B.I.A” by Pablo Girolami of Italy (1st Place), “Last Space” by Frantics Dance Company of Spain (2nd Place), “Pode Ser” by Leila Ka of France (3rd Place), and “When Ruhama Met Sa’id” by Lotem Regev of Israel (4th Place). An honorable mention was given to Pat Toh for her work, Topography of Breath

During the showcase events, MASH also provided an update on an ongoing VR research project in collaboration with Kent State University School of Theater and Dance – a development process to create an environment for dancers in different locations to meet, work, and create in a virtual location. 

A presentation of the extraordinary VR technology was yet another component of the Dance Week festivities. Through the various aspects of the exciting program, visitors encountered the many ways Jerusalemites are creating fresh energy and giving new life to an ancient city. 

Although it has continued growing and flourishing in the world of high-tech, MASH has remained grounded in the core values of the dance center and the city of Jerusalem –specifically, in giving back to the community. In 2021, Machol Shalem introduced a new initiative - creating a designated performance repertoire for children on the autistic spectrum to enjoy. Works curated by Rachel Erdos, Neta Pulvermacher, and Inbal Aloni & Rosie Canaan have made dance more accessible to these children than anyone could have foreseen. 

Accessible children’s shows are not the only way the center is giving back to the community. MASH is also opening new dance and stage professional courses for underprivileged youth in the hopes of helping them along on a rewarding career path. Although MASH started small, its impact is anything but minimal. 

And you guessed it - segments of these special presentations were also shown during the upcoming Dance Week event. 

Ofra Idel, artistic director at Machol Shalem, spoke to me about how exciting it was to have an in-person festival after two years of limited international travel due to the pandemic. And with this year’s festival as packed as ever, it was insane. As Idel said, “The craziest event just took place in the craziest city in the world. And it was incredible.”

Happy 10th anniversary, Jerusalem Dance Week!

For more information, see: https://www.danceweek.org.il/

The Jerusalem International Dance week took place at HaParsa - Center for the Performing Arts, in Talpiot, The Train Theater, and the Tower of David Museum in Jerusalem.

The event was sponsored by the Jerusalem Municipality, The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Ministry of Culture, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, Steve Rosenberg, and Dr. Ellen Lippman.

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