French dance invasion

Four dance productions from France push the choreographic and visual envelope just about as far as it will go.

This weekend, audiences in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv - particularly fans of modern dance - will be able to experience a French connection. This Friday and Saturday, Jerusalem's Hama'abada (The Lab) and the Suzanne Delal Center in Tel Aviv will play host to four dance productions from France that push the choreographic and visual envelope just about as far as it will go. On Friday afternoon in Jerusalem is Fabrice Lambert's Le Reve (Dream), which reflects its creator's background in classical and modern dance. The festival blurb describes the show as "blurring the reference points of space and time." Le Reve opens with a video piece that presents unusual aspects of the human body and gradually segues into landscape imagery. The dancer then left adds his own movements to the expansive visual background. Hama'abada managing director Guy Melamed expects Le Reve and the other French Connection shows to be well-received. "There is a healthy avant garde dance scene here," he says, "and we have a very good working relationship with the Suzanne Delal Center. And of course, the French have a lot to offer in this area." This weekend's choreography blast precedes more upcoming French contributions to Israel's cultural landscape. "In 2006, there will be an entire French cultural season in Israel. The French will open a cultural facility here - like the British Council or Goethe Institute - and there'll be a lot of things coming over here from France during the year," Melamed says. The French Connection is the perfect appetizer. "We are bringing over four of the leading French avant garde choreographers this week and, as the French are the leaders in this field in Europe, we're getting the best Europe has to offer," he says. Melamed believes the shows' influences from multiple dance genres give them a wide appeal. "At Maabada, we feel that this form of contemporary dance breaks across artistic boundaries and delves into areas of visual art and music and thereby makes it more accessible to more people." Meanwhile, Alain Buffard and Emmanuelle Huynh's Wall Dancin' Wall Fuckin' places gender gaps, and how we deal with them, front and center. During the show, Buffard and Huynh will perform around and against a wall that divides the stage into two halves. The idea is to examine unwritten codes of sexuality and gender behavior, and the way we manipulate them, while the dancers explore the relationships between man, woman and video. "We're delighted to have Alain Buffard here," says Melamed. "He is one of the leading dancers and choreographers in Europe." The French Connection aims to bring in audiences with a wide range of artistic interests, but it isn't tailored to mainstream entertainment needs. Numero, which will be performed by Huynh and Nicolas Floch, explores the connection between the visual arts and dance. Over the years Huynh has collaborated with a great variety of artists from the visual arts and literary worlds, and much of that is incorporated into Numero. "The dancers harness their mode of thinking to space, paths through space, and mass," Melamed explains. "This a voyage of deception with distorted and threatening objects, flying light fittings, science fiction elements, a sexy woman, an animated cardboard box and all sorts of unexpected things." The fourth item on the French Connection agenda is American-born Mark Tompkins' Hommages. Tompkins serves as the artistic director of international dance company Dreams Associated and continually looks for projects with dancers, musicians, lighting engineers and purveyors of plastic art. Hommages revolves around four characters who display angelic, devilish and fantastic behavior. Tompkins portrays these attributes starkly, sometimes almost vulgarly, as he aims to produce a thought-provoking, emotive and highly animated final product. The question remains, however, whether our foreign visitors might be trying to show us something that is so far from our national and cultural mindset that we just won't get it. Or does the universality of the arts theory apply here. "I'm sure they will bring something from a different world to us," says Melamed. "But that's part of what it's all about. It doesn't matter whether the artist comes from - they will bring another world to the stage. It's a kind of voyeurism, Healthy voyeurism." This weekend's French Connection performances include: Le Reve - December 16 at 1 p.m. at Ma'abada; Wall Dancin' Wall Fuckin' - December 16 at 10 p.m. at the Suzanne Delal Center; Hommages - December 17 at 9 p.m. at the Suzanne Delal Center; and Numero - December 17 and 9 p.m. at Ma'abada.