Suzanne Dellal Center celebrates 30th birthday as director steps down

Vardi stood at the helm of the Israeli dance world, importing the companies and choreographers

By ORI J. LENKINSKI
July 15, 2019 21:49
2 minute read.
BALLET BC performs Saturday at the Suzanne Dellal Center as part of the CanaDanse festival

BALLET BC performs Saturday at the Suzanne Dellal Center as part of the CanaDanse festival. (photo credit: WENDY D.)

The Suzanne Dellal Center’s 30th birthday celebrations are taking on a bittersweet taste with the announcement Monday that its founding director Yair Vardi is stepping down.

Synonymous with Israeli dance, the Suzanne Dellal Center has propelled the form around the world, with Vardi leading the way.
With the 30th celebrations about to begin, Vardi announced suddenly that he will step down from his post in December.

For three decades, Vardi stood at the helm of the Israeli dance world, importing the companies and choreographers that he felt could contribute to the Israeli audience’s experience of dance while promoting and presenting local artists.

Vardi initiated countless programs and projects including the International Exposure Festival, which is credited with putting Israeli dance on the map.

In 2010, Vardi was awarded the Israel Prize for his contribution to Israeli culture.

Most recently, Vardi championed an expansive renovation of the center, adding a third floor to the main building, now home to the deluxe Zehava and Jack Dellal Studio. The opening of the newly improved center is the beginning of a year of amped up activities, which includes the implementation of a new initiative called The Ladder, a three-part engagement for choreographers at all stages of their careers. The Ladder is comprised of a residency for local artists, the Process/Talks series, in which choreographers can present works in progress and an artists’ circle for workshopping new creations.

Now that the tape has been cleared and the hard hats removed, and as testament to the center’s growth and influence, this summer will boast one of the richest and most diverse Tel Aviv dance festivals to be seen. For this celebratory festival, Vardi chose to focus on Israeli artists working abroad. He has invited Yigal Perry’s Peridance Contemporary Dance Company; Sharon Fridman, with the duet that put him on the map, A Donde?; New York-based choreographer Ori Flomin, with the duet In Meeting You; choreographic duo Guy Weizman and Roni Haver of Groningen Holland’s Club Guy & Roni, with the ensemble work Tetris Mon Amour; and the independent and controversial artist Arkadi Zaides with Talos.

For many of these artists, presenting work at the Suzanne Dellal Center closes a professional circle. Most of them were raised visiting the center, seeing performances and attending one of the summer courses Vardi initiated. After leaving Israel, each to their own new home, these choreographers presented work in theaters and festivals around the world. A group of them have yet to show in Israel the fruits of their time abroad.

In many ways, this program is a poetic departing gift of Vardi’s, both to the artists whom he was seminal in developing as well as to the local audience, which he spent 30 years cultivating.

The announcement of Vardi’s impending departure, while inevitable, opens a major question in the local dance community – who will be a suitable replacement for Vardi? This is a task many have coined as “impossible.”


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