Harnessing some Zen

The Liat Dror Nir Ben-Gal Dance Company presents its latest creation.

Liat Dror Nir Ben-Gal Dance Company (photo credit: Courtesy)
Liat Dror Nir Ben-Gal Dance Company
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The relationship between dance and music is a natural one. The ear processes rhythm, and the body moves. The relationship, however, between choreographers and music is slightly more complicated. While one artist will hear a tune and envision movement, another composes hours of material without playing a note.
“When we make a new piece, there is always the question of what music fits,” says Nir Ben-Gal, founder and co-artistic director of the Liat Dror Nir Ben-Gal Dance Company and Mitzpe Ramon dance center Adama.
The company will reveal a longawaited new work next week entitled Zen Dance. The piece, choreographed by Liat Dror in collaboration with Ben-Gal and dancers, will be presented twice and will feature avant-garde Czech singer and violinist Iva Bittova.
“About a year ago, we started to work on this new piece. One day, while we were in rehearsal, someone put on music. I asked what it was, and the answer was Iva Bittova. I looked her up and found that she was an amazing artist,” says Ben-Gal.
Dror immediately offered the idea of collaborating with Bittova.
“Liat said we should get in touch with her. At the time, we were about to go to the Czech Republic to perform. We found out that Iva lives in New York, but by chance she was going for a visit while we were in town. The meeting was very interesting and moving,” he recounts.
Calendars were quickly opened and a date was set for performances.
Thanks to the support of the Czech embassy, Dror and Ben-Gal were able to formally invite Bittova for her premiere performance in Israel.
Back at home, the company continued to work on the choreography. As Bittova is a practitioner of vocal improvisation, the dancers will discover the score of the piece along with the audience.
“We have been working with recorded music until now. Iva will do her own thing on stage. The dance is set, but the music is open. I don’t think two shows will be the same,” Ben-Gal smiles.
The collaboration with Bittova has been so thrilling for Dror and Ben-Gal that they decided to have the premiere in Tel Aviv, as well as in the more familiar Kibbutz Cabri.
“In principle, we don’t perform in Tel Aviv. We had to look for the right theater to host the show,” Ben-Gal explains.
That space is the Einav Center on Ibn Gvirol Street.
Dror and Ben-Gal are pillars in the Israeli dance community. In 1987, their duet Two Room Apartment won first place in the Shades of Dance Choreography Competition. The piece stands out as a pivotal creation in the development of Israeli contemporary dance.
“Since we started to dance, without noticing we always broke the boundaries of what is accepted, expected, allowed. When we started to dance, no one did dance in shoes, in a couple, and there weren’t any independent choreographers,” he says.
In 2000, Dror and Ben-Gal once again shattered the image of local choreographers by picking up and moving to the desert.
“We established our center in this spot because we believe that dance and culture can exist in the periphery.
We invest a lot of energy and thought in this philosophy, and we live it,” he asserts.
Adama is now home to the professional company, the annual Adama Festival and the Adama Dance School. All the classes given are open to dancers with varied levels of experience, from none to tons.
Recently, Adama initiated a residency program for choreographic development.
“Before we established Adama, we were given a residency in the Loire Valley in France. The experience really changed our perspective,” says Ben- Gal.
With a kind of pay-it-forward mentality, Adama opened its doors to artistic peers.
“In Tel Aviv, it is really hard to find studios. We offer two weeks to a month to emerging artists to live here, work here and eat here; and, in return, they perform. It gives them an opportunity to create outside of their normal lives. It is great for the choreographers and for us. On Succot, we have a festival of pieces that were created here for here,” he says.
All things considered, more than 2,000 guests from Israel and abroad visit Adama yearly, pulling the cultural center of Israel slightly south.
For Dror and Ben-Gal, viewing performances is just one way to connect with artists.
“When people come to our festival, they sit with us, eat with us, hike with us and dance with us. When they come to the show, they already know us and the dancers,” he explains.
Zen Dance will be performed on April 16 at 9 p.m. at Kibbutz Cabri (Tickets: 052-801-1523). On April 19 at 9 p.m. at the Einav Cultural Center in Tel Aviv (Tickets: (03) 521-7766). For more information about Adama, visit www.adama.org.il.