Curtain Up '09 Suzanne Dellal Tel Aviv November 23-28 Upon celebrating its 20th anniversary, the Curtain Up Festival looks back with pride, counting its contributions and taking credit for the successful upsurge of a long line of talents who benefited by taking part in its events. The public funds allocated to the yearly event - used to support budding talents in mid-growth - were spread further, beyond their official mandate, in order to show off the brightest feathers in the administration's cup, namely, certified dance companies, some with a good record abroad. The immediate result was that in six programs there was room for only eight budding talents, each under the auspices of an already-established company. Basically, the festive celebration had reduced by about 50 percent the number of openings for the younger generation. The upside was also quite obvious: most programs had at least one totally professional, refined production. For Curtain Up ticket buyers, it meant better artistic return for their money. For the younger artists, each tutored by a full-fledged company, it meant having to compete for attention on the same stage with the best, which overshadowed them, at least in three of the four programs I observed so far. This year's edition opened with Vertigo, directed by Noa Wertheim and Adi Sha'al, which premiered Mana (Light). The piece stormed the stage with well-stratified, perfectly cohesive choreography, with Vertigo enjoying perhaps the best dance ensemble it ever had. The work had fluidity and the introverted intensity of Tai Chi, under bright kabbalistic light, full of spirituality and Far Eastern aesthetics. Vertigo's disciple, however, had little chance next to its tutor. Overshadowed, under-coached, with less experienced dancers and expertise, Elad Schechter's chance was seriously impaired . Curtains One and Four were mostly adequate, at best. Some needed much more studio time and didn't get it; others managed. Anat Gregorio impressed in Daydream, with captivating performance talent. Others, like Ya'ara Dolev, had more time than they could chew. Another young artist who didn't fair so well by comparison was Iris Erez and her work Numbia, which competed for attention with the highly charismatic and talented Yasmeen Godder, who gets much international attention. Godder's Love Fire, an unconventional duet with a guest, is a brilliant creation, a culmination of several previous productions which suffered from surplus effort to make some provoking points with too little sublimation. Form-wise, Godder breaks all the rules and as a performer can get away with anything with her magnetic, powerfully enigmatic presence. Even dressed in drags as a lazy suburbanite, sewing fur pieces on her partner's shabby t-shirt, she transforms from innocent house wife in plastic slippers into a menacing volcano who spits fire. Godder is distinctive, even odd, on our dance landscape and anywhere else, with her unique convention-defying performance perceptions. Bold and daring and this time also rather funny, Love Fire is a winner. Curtain Up runs at Suzanne Dellal through December 7 and at the Jerusalem Theater December 6-14.