Company E dance.
(photo credit: Courtesy of Paul Gordon Emerson)
WASHINGTON – When veteran dance executive Paul Emerson decided to launch a new dance company last month that would collaborate with international dancers, the first country he chose to work with was Israel.
“You never get a second chance to make a first impression.
I wanted it to be with some of truly the finest work in the world,” Emerson explained.
“It was important to put our best foot forward, and I couldn’t imagine a better foot forward.”
Emerson, whose last Washington- based dance company faced financial difficulties, has hit on a new formula to fund dance productions that bring to DC the best of international choreography.
His “Company E” consists of a troupe of American dancers who partner with the many embassies – and their cultural attaches, budgets and promotion lists – to perform works created by choreographers from the embassies’ countries.
The American dancers also take their performances abroad with funding from the State Department’s cultural budget.
For Company E’s debut of Next: Israel last month, the group performed five modern dance pieces choreographed by leading Israel-born and trained artists: Ohad Naharin, Yossi Berg, Oded Graf, Andrea Miller, Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar.
“Everyone is pushing themselves and they’re pushing each other,” Emerson said of the innovation coming out of Israel as compared to the “comfortable” approach taken to dance in many other countries, including the United States.
He suggested that Israel’s unique environment might have something to do with that distinction.
“There’s something visceral in how this work is being made, and I don’t know if that’s because there’s always a sense of immediacy” in the society, he said. “People in Israel live very much in the moment, and art is something that needs to be in the moment.”
The US artists in the company spent time training in Israel in late 2011 before finishing up rehearsals in the DC area.
American dancer Delphina Parenti, who performed a duet with Tom Weinberger, the one Israeli performer who joined Company E as a visiting dancer for Next: Israel, said she noticed a major difference between the dance world in Israel and the US.
Dancing in Israel “really pushes so many boundaries,” she said after a rehearsal with Weinberger. “What’s avantgarde to us is not avant-garde to them.”
“It feels really refreshing to see American dancers approach Israel work, especially in terms of what it brings out of them,” Weinberger said of his experience on the project and in the United States. “I don’t feel that people here are taking enough risks.”
“Obviously it’s affected by the culture, by the day-to-day reality” in Israel, he said, where people are “less safe, they care less about what people might think. They don’t care whether you [the audience] are satisfied, they’re creating to express themselves.”
Company E will be performing in Israel in May.