Mitzpeh Ramon is known for its enormous erosion crater, desert scenery and
Although 190 kilometers (118 miles) south of Tel Aviv – Israel’s
culture capital – the Negev town is also gaining attention for its artistic
Israeli choreographers Liat Dror and Nir Ben-Gal helped put
the slow-paced community on the culture map 13 years ago when they set up the
Adama Dance Art Healing Center. Located in the town’s Spice Route Quarter, Adama
is a multifaceted complex that offers classes and workshops, accommodations,
studios and a performance venue.
Of course, it also offers an inimitable
vibe. The vastness and stillness of the surrounding landscape energize Dror and
“It’s a very unique place. The geography, the place
itself, it’s very beautiful,” Dror tells ISRAEL21c. “It’s very important for us
to connect the geography with the community. The atmosphere here is one of
togetherness and at the same time each person can find his own way and own
things to do.”
In their role as choreographers, Dror and Ben-Gal have
many achievements under their belt. In 1987, their work Two Room Apartment won
Israel’s prestigious Shades of Dance competition and set them on the path to
domestic and international recognition.
Today, that work is still hailed
as a milestone of the contemporary Israeli dance scene for its poignant look at
the friction and intimacy of a couple’s relationship.
Their next works
also received broad interest – Inta Omri (a dance based on the music of Egyptian
superstar Umm Kulthum) and Dance of Nothing (a balance of artistic expression
with healing, attentiveness and understanding) – and the husband-and-wife team
quickly found themselves on the global touring circuit.
Then, at the
height of their fame, they decided to leave Tel Aviv and move to Mitzpeh Ramon
to find a way of originating, practicing and performing dance that was more in
tune with their views on life and healing. They turned a deserted industrial
hangar into a bastion of dance, movement and harmony. And they called it Adama,
which means “earth” or “land” in Hebrew.
“When we came to Mitzpeh Ramon
we moved out of the mainstream world of dance,” says Dror, who with Ben-Gal
trained in Jerusalem at the Rubin Academy and with the Kibbutz Dance
Company. “We’re not just about giving performances. We teach
dance, movement and healing.”
Dror and Ben-Gal feel they’ve found the
connection between relaxation and expression and work hard to pass on their
secrets to the rest of the world. From their hangar they run the Liat Dror Nir
Ben-Gal Dance Company with seven dancers, a dance school, healing workshops,
support groups, corporate seminars, a summer camp and even a
People from across Europe, the United States, South America and
around Israel make the off-the-beaten-track trek to Mitzpeh Ramon to learn
Adama’s language of movement.
“Our work method integrates supporting,
healing movement together with the accuracy and physical skill of professional
dance,” explains Dror.
Some people come independently while others take
part in MASA programs or come as part of a tour or corporate fun day.
year at Adama was incredibly powerful and life-changing. I grew in confidence
and strength, deepening my connection to my body, learning to trust more boldly
my capacity to create as an artist,” writes foreign student Rebekah Hart on
From its early days as a desolate hangar, today Adama is
a beautiful desert oasis offering eco-friendly mud houses and teepee rooms. The
couple and the company dancers cook, clean and garden.
They also hold
festivals every Passover, Succot and Shavuot for up to 400 people (“We teach
regular people from high school to hi-tech”) and the only caveat is to come with
curiosity and an open mind.
The festivals differ from other holiday
events “because they’re for the young and old together. Everyone has the option
to move and to be able to dance even if they’re not a dancer,” says Dror. “One
gets a lot of quiet from the desert. It’s a holiday but also learning... to just
Dror and Ben-Gal’s latest piece, Up Chi Down Chi, debuted in 2012
and has already been performed on European stages.
Up Chi Down Chi is a
play on Hebrew words. “Up Chi” is the onomatopoeic sound Israelis make when they
Chi, according to Far Eastern traditions, is life energy, causing
change, reproduction, movement. The choreographers explain that “the sound that
we make when we sneeze implies an uplifting of the chi.”
The work has
been hailed for its unique movement language that reflects their alternative way
of life. The dance company is now planning a European and North American tour
with Up Chi Down Chi for this summer and autumn.