Getting lost in dance with Leela

Wertheim was also joined by longtime collaborator Ran Bagno. “We took a break after many years of working together, and it’s great to go back. His music really fits this work.”

April 26, 2019 17:08
3 minute read.

"Leela," the new production from Vertigo Dance Company. (photo credit: RAM KATZIR)

Every choreographer will admit that each artistic creation bears its own impossible moments. The act of making art is intrinsically based on approaching the unknown, and most artists find themselves humbled by the myriad questions that a process can offer up.

On the afternoon that we spoke, Noa Wertheim was in such a moment. Just a few weeks away from the premiere of Vertigo Dance Company’s premiere of “Leela,” Wertheim was finding it hard to see the light at the end of her creative tunnel. There were glimmers but also a fair share of worries.

“It’s been a very difficult process,” she divulged. “I’m in the very hard moments right now. I’m on the edge of losing my mind.”

Wertheim is an old hand at exactly the type of insanity that was troubling her. After countless creations, running a leading Israeli troupe and establishing an ecological dance village, Wertheim knows how to take the good with the bad. She won’t sugarcoat her experiences, but she’s not too thrown by them either.

“We had our first few runs of the piece last week. I started to feel the heartbeat of the piece, and I started to smile again,” she laughed.

“Leela” is the newest to join the repertoire of Vertigo Dance Company, a list that includes “Birth of the Phoenix,” “White Noise,” “Mana” and many other works.

In Sanskrit, “Leela” means “a cosmic game.” It is the play between reality and God’s will.

“We started the creation a year ago, working on and off when there was time,” Wertheim said. “For the past two months, we’ve been a laboratory mode in the studio. Now we are at the end of it. I wanted some lightness. I felt that if I really looked at all the heaviness of the world around me, I would jump off of a peak. So I asked myself, ‘How do I treat this world with lightness? How do I play?’”

Wertheim brought this concept of play to her dancers and collaborators, as well as the idea of the space between Heaven and the real world.

“Ram Katzir, who is an incredible Israeli artist, designed the space. He created this huge set. It plays a huge part in the work. The stage has several layers, which goes along with the idea of the bigger picture,” she said.

Wertheim was also joined by longtime collaborator Ran Bagno. “We took a break after many years of working together, and it’s great to go back. His music really fits this work.”

Another familiar face in the team is that of costume designer Sasson Kedem. Here, Wertheim called on Kedem to go against the usual gender-neutral look and design specified outfits for the men and the women.

“This piece deals a lot with the idea of the Garden of Eden, with Adam and Eve and free will. There is a very important moment in the text about Adam and Eve, in which Adam blames Eve for tempting him with the apple. We worked with that concept, and so the clothing had to be different for the women and the men,” she explained.

“I think the dancers look different in this piece than in others. They are such an incredible cast; the talent level is through the roof. The dancers were full collaborators on this work,” she said.

And though she is still in the throes of the process, Wertheim is able to appraise a slight change in her aesthetic in “Leela.”

“I feel it’s different,” she said with excitement.

Leela will begin its journey next month around Israel. In July, it will tour in Italy, in Naples and Matera, where it will be presented on an outdoor stage.

Leela will be presented from May 13 to 29 throughout Israel. For more information, visit

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