Steppin’ out in Tel Aviv

Ready for a bit of cultural matchmaking? The fourth annual Tel Aviv Dance Festival offers an array of artistically expansive, multinational productions from all over the world.

311_dancers (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Chock-full of impressive and artistically expansive productions from all over the globe – that’s the upcoming fourth annual Tel Aviv Dance Festival, which will be held between October 4 and 30 at the Suzanne Dellal Center and the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center (TAPAC), with one show at the Herzliya Performing Arts Center.
Over the three and half weeks, there will be contributions from China, South Korea, France, the US, Canada, South Africa, Spain, Belgium and Israel.
A prominent element is the amount of cultural border-hopping and genre-melding in the productions: for example, the China-Great Britain synergy, Sutra, which marries the talents of Belgian-born choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, who has Moroccan roots, to a design by British sculptor Anthony Gormley and the music of Polish composer Szymon Brzoska.
If that isn’t enough of a multinational production, the onstage exponents of the piece are 17 monks from the Shaolin Temple in China who specialize in kung fu.
“Martial arts is a way of life for the monks,” notes festival artistic director Yair Vardi, “and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui worked with them at their monastery.”
The result is a visually arresting show that feeds off the energies and textures of all the above cultures. Sutra will be performed four times at TAPAC from October 4-7, with live music provided by a quintet.
The South African contingent at the festival will put on a high-octane and rawly expressive show of a different ilk. Based on the character of Carmen, young dancer-choreographer Dada Masilo says she delved into the eponymous woman’s more vulnerable side and describes her approach to the production as an attempt “to find the vulnerability beneath the cold, heartless exterior.”
By all accounts, Carmen does not appear to be an entertainment item for the fainthearted.
Masilo has gained a reputation for being rooted in the classical discipline of the art form, combining white-hot agility with finely honed dance technique.
The current production involves 12 dancers careering through a captivating piece of choreography in which Masilo showcases her ability to blend high speed with precocious theatricality.
Sex, lust, violence and death abound to a soundtrack that includes Rodion Shchedrin’s Carmen Suite for strings and percussion, based on Georges Bizet’s Carmen; Maria Callas singing the “Habañera,” and two sections of Arvo Pärt’s Lamentate.
THERE IS MORE physical dance on offer in South Korean choreographer Changho Shin’s No Comment, which has been doing the rounds of the Western world’s major stages for the past eight years.
Originally written as part of Shin’s master’s degree studies, the production involves eight male dancers performing an energetic and, at times, acrobatic techno- pop depiction of news reporting on the Iraq-US conflict.
No Comment is part of a double-header at the Suzanne Dellal Center on October 9 and 10, together with Kim Jin-Mi’s A Body Conflicting with Emotion, a work for four female dancers. The former is performed to a highly varied musical backdrop, courtesy of London-based world music fusion outfit Transglobal Underground and Balkan powerhouse composer Goran Bregovic.
“No Comment is based on high energy,” explains Vardi, while A Body Conflicting with Emotion is more lyrical and feeds off traditional Korean music. My sense is that the Koreans look for their own inner truth, but also incorporate Western influences and Western techniques.”
With 12 companies from nine countries putting on 34 shows during the course of the festival, Vardi says that he and his fellow artistic director, Hannah Munitz, aim to offer the Israeli dance-loving public a showcase of the artistic endeavor in progress in the big wide world.
“It is important for people in this country to get a taste of the contemporary dance work going on out there,” declares Vardi, “including from the more remote, fascinating parts of the world.” Judging by the amount of cultural matchmaking in the festival lineup, Vardi and Munitz appear to have a penchant for ethnic mixing and matching.
“Creators look for new things the whole time and, with globalization, there is a clear pattern of new fusions emerging in the dance world,” observes Vardi. “I believe the crossover orientation is very enriching, rather than diluting each of the cultures which are fed off in a particular production.
“I don’t think cultures are in danger of losing their identity through cross-fertilization.
Each work is an entirely new creation that feeds off the language, body movement and the society. It is a constantly evolving dynamic process.”
There are certainly plenty of dynamics on offer at TAPAC on October 10 and 12, when Spanish dancer and choreographer Miguel Angel Berna brings his Goya show to town. Berna is a returnee to the festival, and this time he and his company will perform his newest production, taking in flamenco and theatrical ornamentation in a journey through dramatic sounds and sweeping movement that depict the visual world of painter Francisco Goya.
Meanwhile, French choreographer Kader Attou of hip-hop outfit Accrorap, which will perform Petites (Little at the Suzanne Dellal Center on October 6 and 7, says he strives to create multicultural works rather than achieving cultural fusion. Attou’s oeuvre typically incorporates contrasting elements which clash, spawning aesthetic and energetic offshoots.
The current production sets aggressive hip-hop dance against a definitively grey and uninspiring urban backdrop, with not a little humor thrown into the mix.
Attou talks about “telling different stories, hopping from one subject to another, and mixing together performances, emotions and musicality in a quite farcical show.”
On the home front, the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company will offer Transform, choreography by Rami Be’er, at the Suzanne Dellal Center on October 11 and 12. The subtext of the show talks about “the hidden inner attributes of movement that change its shape.”
At the tail end of the festival (Suzanne Dellal Center, October 27-30), the Batsheva Dance Company will perform Sharon Eyal’s visually powerful and musically enriched Bill with a cast of 21 dancers.
Canada’s contribution to the festival is provided by the Royal Winnipeg Ballet and features a robust double-header: an award-winning rendition of Carmina Burana, choreographed by Mauricio Wainrot to the sweeping music of Carl Orff, and In Tandem with Peter Quanz’s production, enhanced by Steve Reich’s music. The Royal Winnipeg Ballet will perform at TAPAC on October 14-16.
The ever-popular Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater from the States, under the aegis of artistic director Judith Jamison, is no stranger to the festival, and this year the company weighs in with a couple of programs – Dancing Spirit, Suite Otis, Unfold and Revelations and Festa Barocca, In/Side and Revelations. The company will perform the first program at TAPAC on October 26, 28, 29 and 30, and the second at the same venue on October 27, 29 and 30.
There is more heavyweight Stateside dance on offer from the New York City Ballet (NYCB) at the Suzanne Dellal Center on October 20-22, with Apollo, which is choreographed by NYCB founder George Balanchine and based on a tale about the deity and the three muses, with music by Stravinsky. That will be followed by “Junk Duet” from Twyla Tharp’s Known by Heart, which has been described as “a wonderfully wacky pas de deux for dueling lovers,” and Tchaikovsky Pas De Deux by Balanchine.
The company will also perform something that smacks of this part of the world, with Shanti by Tom Gold and music by New Yorker radical Jewish and avant-garde music envelope-pusher John Zorn. Shanti is a piece for a lead couple and ensemble of four, with some Middle Eastern motifs woven into the movement.

For tickets and more information about the Tel Aviv Dance Festival, call the Suzanne Dellal Center (03) 510-5656, or TAPAC (03) 692-7777, or go, or