Cracking the nut

Sheketak will premiere its modernized version of ‘The Nutcracker’ at the Hot Dance Festival in Tel Aviv.

Sheketak premieres its modernized version of The Nutcracker (photo credit: C.P.U. Photography)
Sheketak premieres its modernized version of The Nutcracker
(photo credit: C.P.U. Photography)
One of the most widely loved ballets is The Nutcracker.
The story of Clara, her godfather Drosselmeyer, the dolls that come to life at the sound of a flute and the many dazzling creatures they encounter has become a staple in modern society.
Practically every dance studio in the world either produces or attends a local production of the ballet. The majority of professional ballet companies spend most of December performing The Nutcracker.
For choreographer, director and musician Zahi Patish, The Nutcracker is not only a beautiful story but also a powerhouse of musical hits. The co-founder and creator behind the successful Israeli dance ensemble Sheketak first came to know the ballet as a student in the US.
“I was educated at Interlochen College in Michigan. I spent three years there. The school was focused on ballet. Every year we produced three full ballets with props, set and costumes. We did The Nutcracker. Since then, I have had a soft spot in my heart for that ballet because it has more familiar musical pieces than any other ballet, and there is a lot of groove and great beats. There is something very engaging about the music,” he says.
Next week, Sheketak will premiere its take on The Nutcracker as part of the Suzanne Dellal Center’s Hot Dance Festival.
If you are hoping to see pointe shoes and tutus, this production may leave you wanting. However, if you had ever wondered what Tchaikovsky’s opus would look like if it had been dreamt up in modern times, Sheketak may be able to shed some light on the subject.
“If Tchaikovsky lived today and had all the multimedia elements that we have now, what would happen to the story?” Patish asks.
“We kept the story within the same lines of the original ballet, but we updated them. The story takes place today. For example, instead of a Christmas party, the opening act takes place in a nightclub. In the ballet, Drosselmeyer is a magician who brings dolls to life.
Instead of dolls, in our production, he enchants robots to dance to house, dubstep and hip-hop music.
The mice turn into bugs that take over the video and invade the stage.”
The production is the newest in a line of shows by Patish and his longtime partner Danny Rachom.
As artistic directors of Sheketak, Patish and Rachom are in charge of every element of the company’s productions, from designing the soundtrack and working in the studio with the dancers to editing the promotional videos. And if their plates weren’t full enough, Patish and Rachom are almost always engaged in choreographing a play at the Cameri Theater (Patish recently choreographed Servant of Two Masters) or creating a commercial for Bezeq, Cellcom or any of their other clients.
The two met two decades ago in Israel as young break-dancers.
They then separated to pursue their studies, Patish in Michigan and Rachom in New York. When Patish returned to Israel, he was invited to join the Batsheva Dance Company, where he spent four years under the artistic directorship of Ohad Naharin.
Upon leaving the troupe, he and Rachom rejoined to create Sheketak. What began as a company of five men now includes more than 20 dedicated artists. Patish and Rachom’s exploits have included Sheketak Rhythm in Motion, which was nominated for the prestigious Best Show Award in Germany BoomBox and Kaboom. The company has toured extensively in recent years, bringing its unique blend of rhythm and dance to Europe, Asia and North America.
“Since we started Sheketak, we’ve been developing our own movement language. The basis of the dance comes from hip hop, but it’s enriched by our professional experience – mine in Batsheva and Danny’s with several companies in America. We add in a lot of other elements such as musical instruments, body percussion and multimedia bits.
The Nutcracker is most definitely another example of the Sheketak language,” he says.
The Nutcracker will be presented on August 16 and 17 at the Suzanne Dellal Center in Tel Aviv. For more information, visit