Dancing against the stream

By definition, the innovative A-genre Festival defies description.

Dancing against the stream (photo credit: tamar linder)
Dancing against the stream
(photo credit: tamar linder)
The need to categorize is a part of the human system. Compartmentalizing ideas helps us to keep information in check, giving order to what is often an overwhelming existence. For artists, the audience’s n eed to understand where their work fits into the larger picture of culture often presents problems. For example, for years, film director M. Night Shyamalan ( The Sixth Sense ) was marketed as a maker of horror movies, a fact that deterred many moviegoers from seeing his films. After investigating the problem, Shyamalan’s people replaced the word “horror” with “fantasy,” opening the director’s works up to a whole new demographic.
Increasingly now, during performances, people lean over to ask each other what category the show they are seeing falls into. “Is this dance? Is it performance art? Theater? Mime?” As artists widen their areas of collaboration, live performance becomes less easily identifiable as one thing or another, often causing confusion for the viewer. For this purpose, the Tmuna Theater in southern Tel Aviv established the A-genre Festival, which takes place this weekend.
The festival began five years ago as a platform for creators from many different facets of the performance world to find a stage that wouldn’t require of them to define themselves as one thing. Ever since the first festival, A-genre has been a beacon to theater directors who want to try out integrating dance into their work, clowns who are dabbling with video art and choreographers who want to take on pantomime. The freedom provided by the programmers of the festival has allowed for a type of endless opportunity, bringing out unique works of art that stand alone in the cultural milieu of the country.
This year, curator Yair Vardi asked the artists involved to take on the question of what is mainstream. As a performance space, Tmuna is clearly identified with the fringe scene. However, Vardi explains, this fact should not be taken for granted. After all, without the mainstream, there would be no fringe and visa versa. The two streams of culture are dependent on each other and could not exist in a bubble.
More than 30 artists will perform throughout the three days of the festival in a variety of spaces at Tmuna. The events will kick off with The Hidden Tenant, Please Come Back Ceremony by Itamar Alkalay, Ronit Rolland and Tal Siano. This performance tells the tale of Unicorn, a New York squatter with a particularly unusual life story. Video, music, dance and text will be used to invoke the spirit of Unicorn and, hopefully, to bring his energy to the stage.
Choreographer Ronit Ziv will present her newest work, Left of Center, a retrospective of 20 years of dancing on Israeli stages. Ziv’s piece is a solo and will offer a rare glimpse into the inner life of one of Tel Aviv’s veteran fringe dance makers and performers.
For their new piece, 15 Minutes, Amit Hadari and Uri Frost began with a quote by Andy Warhol. “In the future,” said Warhol in what became a household phrase, “everyone will be world famous for 15 minutes.” Perhaps Warhol foresaw the invention of reality television. In 15 Minutes, Hadari stands on stage alone, grappling with the notion that her time has come.
In his own words, Guy Gutman’s piece From the West to the Moon is a meeting between “myself, Levinsky Park, the moon and Frank Sinatra.” In this work, seasoned playwright and director Gutman calls into question the progression of Israeli society by looking at the Sudanese population in south Tel Aviv. In making this work, Gutman teamed up with the Levinsky Park Library, a house for books in more than 16 languages and a community center for the neighborhood.
German label Essay Recordings will present their inaugural endeavor, Jewrhythmics, an evening of Yiddish disco music. Orchestrated by Ilya Dimitriev and Joe Fleisch, this performance aims to affirm that the Yiddish language is not dying. Rather, it is alive and kicking to a synthesizer.The A-genre Festival will take place from March 7-9. For more information, visit www.tmu-na.org.il