Standing on the brink

This year’s Curtain Up Festival consists of four evenings of dynamic new performances.

Standing on the brink (photo credit: Courtesy)
Standing on the brink
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Twenty-three years ago, when Nili Cohen and the Ministry of Culture and Sport initiated the Curtain Up Festival, they had no idea the impact the event would have on Israeli dance. At that time, modern dance was taking hold as a relevant, invigorating art form in local culture. With only a few official ensembles active in the field, Cohen extended a hand to independent choreographers, who were quickly becoming a force in the community.
“We wanted to ensure the future of the next generation of choreographers in Israel,” said Cohen in a recent press conference for the Curtain Up Festival. “From this stage, nearly 90 percent of Israel’s current choreographers at one point emerged. Those artists went on to further establish themselves in the field, be it by creating companies or by continuing to independently present their choreographic vision.”
After more than two decades at her post, Cohen informed the crowd that this would be her last time hosting such an event. “I believe this is my final time standing up here in front of you all,” she said, “and I am very moved.”
The press conference was indeed an emotional event, with 11 artists on the verge of premieres. Each of the chosen choreographers was presented by the artistic director who mentored throughout their creative process, either Ronit Ziv or Yoram Karmi. Then, a short presentation of the upcoming premiere was given.
This year’s festival consists of four evenings, two curated by Ziv and two by Karmi.
This is Ziv’s third season as an artistic director for Curtain Up, a role she was given after presenting eight new works as a participant in the festival. Karmi, on the other hand, is one of the few Israeli choreographers never to have passed through the channel of Curtain Up.
Karmi’s evenings, Curtain 1 and Curtain 2, contain works by five emerging choreographers. Curtain 1, Karmi explained, is a break from the usual programming of the festival in that it contains only two works. “I wanted to give each of these two choreographers a chance to have a bit more time on stage,” he said. The two women in this program are Maya Brinner and Dana Ruttenberg, both veterans of Curtain Up. Brinner’s Crumbs is a quartet in which four dancers explore unusual movement qualities. Armed, by Ruttenberg, is also a quartet, which has strong theatrical undertones woven together with Ruttenberg’s signature physicality.
Curtain 2 is an intensely diverse program, ranging from pure dance to theater. Olivia Court Mesa and Yochai Ginton dance Dafi Altabeb’s duet Never the Less. The piece presents a couple in intimate moments of both deep love and subtle violence. Idan Yoav’s The Unfortunates is stark, political and powerful. Yoav blends text and dance together seamlessly, creating a strange and unusual other-worldly ambience. Finally, Eldad Ben- Sasson’s Strange Attractor is danced to Ravel’s Bolero. This trio is Ben- Sasson’s new interpretation of an iconic piece of music and is full of surprising dynamics.
Ziv’s two evenings each consist of three pieces. Curtain 3 will unveil Sharon Vazana’s The Feast, Gili Navot’s May Contain Nuts and The Hill by Roi Assaf. Vazana’s trio for three women is sensual and charged, with images of devouring space, air and one another throughout. Navot’s piece, also a trio, has all the groove of her previous works, with an outstanding cast to carry it. The Hill, danced by Assaf, Yigal Foreman and Shlomi Biton, is clever if not a bit cynical.
Curtain 4 will begin with Shlomit Fundaminsky’s Fly, Fly, Lie. Danced by three compelling female performers, the piece explores the inner world and sanity of a woman. Joker by Shlomi Frige is a quirky, theatrical exploration of entertainment. Finally, We Do Not Torture People by Noa Shadur takes a look at the harsh educational systems of independence-era Israel.
The Curtain Up Festival will take place from November 14-29 with performances at the Jerusalem Theater and the Suzanne Dellal Center. For more information, visit