Fifty years young

This year’s Israel Festival’s dance line-up offers several opportunities to see one-time-only events.

dancedance_311 (photo credit: Torben Glarbo)
(photo credit: Torben Glarbo)
This past week, the Israel Festival kicked off one month of shows and events in Jerusalem. Now celebrating the 50th anniversary of the festival’s inception, this year’s line-up is more grandiose, more varied and more exciting than in any previous year.
The festival is a complete cultural frenzy, with a wide range of events from theater and music to dance and art. For the dance lover in particular, this year’s festival offers a few unique opportunities to see some one-time-only events.
The opening night of the festival brought the Israeli Ballet to the Jerusalem Theater, with distinguished guest performers from Russia’s renowned Bolshoi Ballet. Then on Wednesday night, Ohad Naharin presented the long-awaited premiere of his newest opus for the Batsheva Dance Company, Sadeh21. The final performance of Sadeh21 under the umbrella of the Israel Festival will take place tonight at the Jerusalem Theater’s Sherover Hall.
This evening, as well as tomorrow evening, local choreographer Nimrod Freed will unveil his newest piece, which features live music alongside his signature movement. As part of the Premiere in the Studio series initiated by the festival directors, Freed’s work La will present three dancers, two singers and one accordionist. Freed has come to be known for creating intimate spaces, into which the audience gets a special peek. His work Peep Show, which encloses two dancers in a small cell surrounding by eyeholes for viewing, received rave reviews from the New York Times among others.
In the third and fourth weeks of this year’s happenings, internationally celebrated dancers and choreographers will overrun the streets of Jerusalem.
The Merce Cunningham Dance Company’s visit to Israel is of particular note, as this engagement will be their last in the country, and one of their last anywhere. As laid out in the late Cunningham’s will, the company, which has been a major player on the modern dance scene since the 1950s, will dance their last show on New Year’s Eve 2011. With only a few stops left on what has been coined The Legacy Tour, the troupe is at its best, charged with emotion and nostalgia. MCDC will present one performance at the Jerusalem Theater, as well as five events at the Israel Museum. These events will highlight both the sophisticated choreography of Cunningham, as well as the awe-inspiring art surrounding the dancers.
Their staged performance is a veritable collage of Cunningham’s best pieces. Though the famed artist passed away two years ago, his fellow collaborators have painstakingly preserved his work. This is, without a doubt, the final chance to see MCDC live in Israel.
Another not-to-be-missed performance is that of the Danish Dance Theater, which will enjoy its Israeli premiere during the Israel Festival. DDT is a truly unique company, whose name has been uttered with great frequency recently thanks to artistic director Timothy Rushton’s boundary-breaking choreography. Rushton’s work is both deeply theatrical and shockingly physical.
For those who remember and loved Adi Amit, the finalist in Israel’s Born To Dance, these shows present a chance to follow up on her career. Amit joined DDT at the beginning of the 2010-2011 season and has already received several featured roles in the company’s repertoire. DDT will perform three times during the festival, including the premiere of Rushton’s newest work, Love Songs.
The tail end of the festival will bring a new work by local duo Oren Laor and Niv Shenfeld. Entitled Ship of Fools, the piece is danced by the two choreographers and three other talented performers. Laor and Shenfeld aim to get the audience out of their seats long before they can even think about a standing ovation. By activating their crowd, Laor and Shenfeld share the feelings of uncertainty and risk with their viewers. Upon completing their engagement in Jerusalem, Laor and Shenfeld’s Ship of Fools will set sail for the 2011 Dance Festival in Montpellier, France.
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