Where worlds converge

The Between Heaven and Earth Festival connects the secular with the observant.

Between Heaven and Earth Festival (photo credit: Courtesy)
Between Heaven and Earth Festival
(photo credit: Courtesy)
There is no religious practice that excludes the body. Be it kneeling, bowing, sitting in meditation, pounding one’s chest, covering the head or limbs, the observance of rituals always includes a physical element. When choreographer Ronen Itzhaki initiated the Between Heaven and Earth Festival, also known as the Spiritual Dance Festival, it was this connection that he wanted to bring to light or, more correctly, to the stage.
Based in Jerusalem, Itzhaki and his wife have spent the past several years investigating the relationship between belief and movement. As the artistic directors of the Ka’et Ensemble, they have found a way to siphon religious passion into intriguing dance.
Since the beginning of the festival, Between Heaven and Earth has called on secular and observant choreographers to create original works to be premiered during the event. Each festival has a topic or issue at its heart that the chosen artists are asked to consider. This year, the theme was the interface between body and mind. Three women – Rachel Erdos, Alice Dor- Cohen and Einat Ganz – were chosen to interpret this notion, translating the conceptual into the physical.
The program premiered in late November in Jerusalem and will now be presented at Mahsan 2 in the Jaffa Port. Aside from these three premieres, a host of artists will present works that connect with the spirit of the festival. The three-part program will take place on Tuesday night.
For her work entitled Edna, Dor- Cohen called on three fellow veteran dancers. Noa Rosenthal, Sally-Anne Friedlander and Galia Livor had all, like Cohen, spent time dancing with the Batsheva Dance Company. They had each graduated from the troupe and gone on to continue exploring their relationship with dance over time. Their experience has taught them to live the moment and, more importantly, to dance the moment.
The Man Upstairs by Erdos is a trio for dancers Snir Nakar, Yoav Greenberg and Gil Kerer. In this work, Erdos and her cast explored the many hand gestures involved in Jewish practice. From washing hands to covering eyes, Erdos has translated the world of prayer into an intimate and poignant work.
The original score by Alberto Schwartz breathes life into the dancers’ precise movements. Erdos was born to an observant family in Newcastle, England. This project provided her an opportunity to reconnect with the practice she was raised within.
On Wednesday night, Between Heaven and Earth will bring two additional programs to Mahsan 2.
First, a four-part program featuring works by the Itzhakis, Aharon Manor, Liat Kahana and Hanania Schwartz will take the stage.
Following that, the Ka’et Ensemble will present two pieces from their growing repertoire.
March of the Beggars by Idan Forges transforms the physicality and movement of vagrants into poetry. Drawing on his background in theater, Forges creates works that interweave movement with real-life situations.
The festival will close with Highway Number 1 by Tami and Ronen Itzhaki. This piece is a seminal work for the Ka’et Ensemble and for the greater dance community. It was with this work that Ka’et first gained the attention of the local dance audience. In the years since the premiere of Highway Number 1 and the establishment of Ka’et and the Between Heaven and Earth Festival, the notion of religious dance companies has opened up widely in Israel. Around the country, groups of observant dancers have come together to create and perform, breaking through a wall that had divided dance and religion. The women of Daniella Bloch’s Nehara Dance Company have mirrored Ka’et’s male cast. There is no doubt that this festival has created a platform for a whole new type of dance and fresh discourse about the body, the mind and the spirit.
The Between Heaven and Earth Festival will take place at Mahsan 2, Jaffa Port, on December 17 and 18.
For more information, visit www.docdance.com.