New steps for the old songs

Dancer/choreographer Rina Schenfeld puts together her moves with Leonard Cohen's tunes.

lady on stage 88 224 (photo credit: Tamar Lam)
lady on stage 88 224
(photo credit: Tamar Lam)
Sometimes things just come together. So it is with Dancing to the End of Love, dancer/choreographer Rina Schenfeld's newest work that "dances Leonard Cohen," as she puts it. The 80-minute evening, set to 14 of Cohen's greatest songs, premieres August 6 at the Suzanne Dellal Center in Tel Aviv as part of the Maholohet festival. The first half is "Hallelujah," danced by Schenfeld and Hemi Goldin, and the second is "In the Palm of Your Hand," danced by the company. In 2007, Schenfeld was part of the audience at the Israel Festival for The Troubadour of Music and the Word, an evening of Leonard Cohen songs translated superbly into Hebrew by Kobi Meidan. Transported, Schenfeld begged a tape from Meidan, who is also her son-in-law, took it home and "went nuts with the music. I danced to it by myself in the studio, used it in class with my students, based improvisations on it for the company… the Hebrew translation and the musical arrangements are so elementally Israeli." Two years ago, in an effort to take herself off some kind of pedestal she feels the local public had put her on, she made videos of herself dancing in her kitchen, her bedroom, her studio and other venues, intimate videos that show her with her cat, waking from a bad dream, playing with gravity at the Dead Sea. Then she put the videos aside. "One day, I thought that these Hebrew translations of Leonard Cohen's songs and the videos might fit together." She tried, they did - thanks to video artist Yuval Cohen - and slowly Dancing to the End of Love was born. Schenfeld, for those who are unfamiliar with her work, is one of Israel's seminal dancer/choreographers. In 1963, the Baroness Bathsheba de Rothschild pried her loose from the Martha Graham Dance Company to become principal dancer of the newly formed Batsheva Dance Company. In 1984, Schenfeld formed her own dance company. Her dance language has always been associated with the unusual use she makes of everyday objects, such as feathers in Swans ('04), designer clothes ("the closest to the image a person has of him or herself," '05) and last year, set to the music of Vivaldi's Four Seasons, Floating Fabrics.