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Two years ago the Foreign Office sent Oren Halali to Angola to produce and direct a 10 minute dance piece on behalf of the Israeli Embassy for Carnival in Luanda, the capital. The 100 or so dancers were from various tribes who'd walk to rehearsals in the mornings, sometimes for many hours, and then walk home again in the evening.
"We worked on a sandy floor with the mountains all around us and a view of the sea below," says Halali, "and I came to feel as though the dancers were one tribe to whom I must assure success and give them the strength to achieve it, just like the Children of Israel in the desert."
That was when his decade-long dream of creating a musical piece on the life of Moses became concrete. He came home, started to work, and now Moses - the Real Story is finally premiering at the Holon theater from June 6-10. It's the story of Moses told in song and dance from the day that Pharaoh's daughter finds him to the moment where the Jews (without Moses) enter the Promised Land.
"Moses' life was full of ups and downs," says singer Tal Sondak who plays the title role, "successes and failures and their attendant emotions. Moses is a colorful and passionate person, somebody very real, a person, not a myth. What happens to him happens to all of us. I feel very connected to him."
Moses is Halali's ecreation. He wrote the book and the music and did the choreography. But in no way is Moses just his, says Halali, emphasizing that "this production is truly a cooperative and collaborative effort. Everybody threw themselves into it and gave their all. Working was a delight every moment and I felt an excitement I've never had before."
"Working with Oren was great," says Sondak, "I hadn't known him before. There's lots of color on stage, and he's taken the story to new musical heights and I really like the results."
Regarding the songs, Halali admits, "I really don't know where they came from. I'm not a musician, but I started to write the music and recorded myself singing. Some of the melodies just arrived, others I worked on to complete the development in the story."
Perhaps the tunes were just incubating, because the idea of Moses really started long ago. Halali, 38, was born in Ramat Gan. His mother died when he was 10 and little Oren was sent to the Boyar school in Jerusalem. It was there that the story of Moses first penetrated the consciousness of this other motherless little boy who grew up to become a choreographer - a choreographer whom his government has since sent on frequent missions throughout the world. Ten years ago the idea of Moses got another nudge. Halali was in Sao Paulo, Brazil, organizing the Carmel folk-dance festival that hosted 84 groups from all over the country.
"A man called Meir Ben Yitzhak gave me a book of legends about Moses," recalls Halali, "and I was fascinated. I started to do more research and it was then that the idea of the musical was born."
Its central idea, says Halali, is that the potential for leadership is inborn, as are the abilities and characteristics "to do things for oneself and the community. We all have a Moses inside us. All we have to do is tap what's there so that tomorrow, when we're not here anymore, the world will be a better place."
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