In a country as small as this one, news travels fast. Every success is noted, every unglamorous moment is discussed. And in a circuit as closely woven as the Israeli dance community, ever plie and tendu has the potential to turn heads. Therefore, when Nili Cohen, chair of The Department of Dance in the Ministry of Culture, decided to change the format of the biggest dance festival in Israel, torrents of gossip, rumors and opinions flooded the associated dance channels.
Since its inception in 1989, the Curtain Up Festival has always run a certain way. A member of the artistic community has been appointed yearly by Cohen and her predecessors to audition emerging choreographers and to select from among them the most promising new works. This year, in honor of the festival's twentieth anniversary, Cohen opted to shake things up with a new artistic initiative. Instead of giving one person the task of selecting who is in and who is out, Cohen approached seven established choreographers and put the directorial reins in their hands.
The seven chosen artists are Nimrod Freed, Yasmeen Godder, Niv Shenfeld, Noa Wertheim, Amit Goldenberg and Yaara Dolev of Tel Aviv Dance Company and Noa Dar, each of which graced the stage of the Curtain Up Festival at one point or another on their respective ascensions to success. Cohen charged each with the task of identifying the next generation of choreographers; the ones to keep an eye on. During this year's festival, an evening will be dedicated to each established choreographer during which they will host the artist or artists they chose to invest in. In addition, the Inbal Pinto Dance Company, which also participated in the festival en route to international acclaim, will premier a new work, Trout.
Rumors of the new programming plan began to circulate in the beginning of this past summer, and, in the months following, the list of who was in expanded, contracted and underwent small changes. Some of the curators opted to bring their chosen choreographer to their dancers. Others worked with separate casts. The final list is as follows.
Program one: Nimrod Freed/Tami Dance Company will host choreographers Dafi Eltabeb and Anat Gregorio. Program two, which will open the festival will include Vertigo Dance Company's new piece Mana and a new work for The Young Vertigo Company by choreographer Elad Shechter. These performances will officially unveil The Young Vertigo Company, a recent expansion to the Vertigo family. In program three Yasmeen Godder will be hosting long time dancer Iris Erez. Program four will feature the Tel Aviv Dance Company with two works; one by co-artistic director Yaara Dolev and the other by Michael Miller. Program five will see Noa Dar Dance Group hosting Irad Mazliah and Maya Brinner. in program six the Niv Shenfeld Dance Company will be hosting Noa Shadur.
ALL TOLD, fourteen new works will be shown during the three weeks of the festival. Performances will begin at The Suzanne Dellal Center and continue on to The Rebecca Crown Auditorium in Jerusalem.
One undeniable upside to the change in the Curtain Up Festival is that it will bring some new blood onto the stage. It is no secret that although the festival's mission was to bring new dance to light, the same paticipants were welcomed back year after year with open arms. While the established choreographers chosen this year have all participated in the festival in the past, the young choreographers have not.
One of the newcomers is Irad Mazliah. Mazliah made a name for himself in Israel and abroad as a phenomenal dancer and performance artist. He recently took the stage in Yossi Berg and Oded Graf's premier Four Men, Alice, Bach and The Deer. Mazliah's piece for three dancers, Unter Den Linden, takes its name from a street in central Berlin. During a recent interview at Carpaccio Bar in Tel Aviv, Mazliah was hesitant to over-explain his process. "If you want to know about my work, come to my studio. Talk to my dancers, to the people I work with. I have chosen dance as my vehicle of self expression, not words," he said. In fact Mazliah's dancers were more than willing to throw in a word about him. Said Ofir Najary, "I can say a lot of things about him; a million things even. He's pushing me to break out of my habits, to try his habits on for size. I really enjoy him."
This new initiative has also presented the established choreographers with a golden opportunity to design their own evening. Amit Goldenberg, co-artistic director of the Tel Aviv Dance Company, has been a part of the Curtain Up Festival many times, both as a creator and as a dancer. Goldenberg and Dolev's decision to bring upcoming choreographer Michael Miller to their cast of dancers was a natural one, he said. "We saw his work in the Shades of Dance Festival last year and really liked it; his perspective, his use of space and his work with a large group. We knew that the idea of this year's festival was to guide a young artist and when we saw him, we knew. It was a good connection," said Goldenberg. As a veteran of the festival, Goldenberg welcomes the change in programming. "I think it's great. I hope it continues in this way," he said.
The Curtain Up Festival will run November 24 to December 13. Tickets and more information are available at www.suzannedellal.org.il.