Participating in the annual Curtain Up festival, the country's major platform for new works, is a rite of passage for Israeli choreographers. Reflecting on her history with the festival, choreographer Noa Dar explains, "It really was my school and my initiation program for my choreography." Now Dar and other veteran choreographers are returning to Curtain Up for a special 20th anniversary season and they are initiating a new generation of dancemakers into the circle of Curtain Up participants. As in past years, Curtain Up 2009 boasts several programs of hot-off-the press choreography. Yet this year, there is a twist. Each of the six concerts is headlined by an established choreographer who in turn selected one or two emerging choreographers to join the bill. The result is a sumptuous spread of Israeli contemporary dance featuring both the field's most acclaimed artists and some of its freshest rising stars. Nimrod Freed of the Tami Dance Company chose both Anat Grigorio and Dafi Altebab to join him in Curtain 1 because they are "authentic, passionate and creative in an unusual way." Freed's Subtext, Grigorio's Daydream, and Altbeb's Under the Rug all imaginatively uncover and probe the hidden sides of life. Curtain 2 is enlivened by the electrifying energy of Vertigo Dance Company and its younger division, the Vertigo Ensemble. Performed against a strikingly geometric black-and-white set, Noa Wertheim's new Mana explores the essential differences between men and women. Danced with verve by the Ensemble, Elad Shechter's Roni casts a broader gaze at the dynamics of control in contemporary life. Yasmeen Godder was a frequent presenter in Curtain Up during the early 2000s, but her premiere in Curtain 3 marks a dramatic departure from her previous works. LOVE FIRE, a duet danced to classical waltzes, reconsiders romanticism and includes a "performative installation-based response" by visual artist Yochai Matos. Iris Erez, who regularly collaborated with Godder as a dancer, unleashes her own choreographic power in the trio Numbia. The clean lines, precise angles and graceful curves of the body take center stage as the Tel Aviv Dance Company performs two works in Curtain 4. Waves of movement wash over the dancers in BLOSSOM, a premiere by the company's co-artistic director Ya'ara Dolev. Guest choreographer Michael Miler also displays what Dolev describes as a predilection for "pure, clean movement in space" in his Number 6. When Noa Dar selected Maya Brinner and Irad Mazliah for Curtain 5, the three choreographers talked about uniting their program with a common theme. Dar says that Brinner's The Red Line, Mazliah's Unter den linden, and her own Us deploy unique perspectives on "difference versus conformity and stillness or stuck positions versus mobility and change." For Curtain 6, the team of Niv Sheinfeld and Oren Laor joined forces with dancer/choreographer Keren Levy to produce Big Mouth. Using their personal relationships to Israeli society as a jumping off point, the trio investigates the conflicting desires of belonging to a group while maintaining one's self-expression. The program is rounded out by Noa Shadur's Into the Night, which compares the reality of death with its melodramatic theatrical representation. Traditionally, Curtain Up hosts an additional program by a well-known group, and this year's guest concert is guaranteed to make a big splash. Inbal Pinto and Avshalom Pollak's Trout, which premiered in 2008 in Norway, floods a black-box stage with water to create an otherworldly setting where dancers mix with musicians from the experimental Kitchen Orchestra. It's a magical way to cap off Curtain Up's celebration of creativity. Curtain Up runs from November 24 to December 7 at the Suzanne Dellal Center in Tel Aviv and from December 8-14 at the Rebecca Crown Auditorium in Jerusalem. Tickets (100 NIS for most shows) are available at 03-5105656 (Suzanne Dellal Center) and 02-5605755 (Rebecca Crown Auditorium).