Keeping time in the desert

The Tamar Festival runs the gamut from soft rock to religious reggae - with some beat box and syncopated choreography for good measure.

tamar festival311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
tamar festival311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Time is definitively an elusive dimension, and it’s hard to think of an element that is more precious or more habitually abused in this country. Standing in line at the bank or driving along any road practically anywhere here can be an experience fraught with intrusion of the most annoying variety. With that in mind, the Mayumana dance troupe’s attempts to freeze time, in its latest show called Momentum, which opens this year’s Tamar Festival at the Dead Sea tomorrow evening, appears to be an inventive and daring piece of work.
Momentum has been up and running around the world for some time now and garnering full houses and rave reviews. It has been playing to packed audiences in Israel for several months, but tomorrow’s performance at the Neveh Zohar Amphitheater is its first outdoor performance.
Eylon Nuphar, co-creator of Momentum, says that the al fresco production presented the Mayumana team with some challenging logistics but that all bases have been duly covered.
“The acoustics in the amphitheater, with the surrounding hills, are excellent, so the sound isn’t a problem. But we use a lot of technology in the show, and that required a lot of planning.”
Even so, Nuphar is aware that the elements can follow their own whim at the drop of a microphone. “If it’s windy down by the Dead Sea, that can be a problem. But we can deal with that, too.”
By all accounts, Momentum is an intricate creation and, as usual, the energy output is in the stratospheric category. The members of Mayumana perform with what Nuphar calls “an inner monitor.”
“They hear a click, which helps them to synchronize with each other’s movements,” she explains.
Confused? There’s more. “There are large clocks on the stage, which dictate our actually tempo,” continues Nuphar. “One person holds a microphone and provides a beat box, which sets the tempo for the whole group. That person can actively change the rhythm or be passive and allow the clocks to set the pace.”
As with all Mayumana shows, Nuphar says that music plays an important role in Momentum. “There are music and video images relayed in loops, and we produce our own playbacks on stage along with the instrumentalists, who play guitar, bass and drums.”
Sounds very much like a dynamic state of affairs that requires a lot of work to get right. “We prepared the show for about a year,” says Nuphar.
“It is very challenging and complicated for us, but the audience doesn’t have any trouble following what we do. We want to entertain and stimulate the members of the audience, but we don’t want to challenge them.”

Nuphar also appreciates the fact that most of us in this country maintain a constant quest to meet deadlines and pack all our chores into the limited time available to us. That also comes into the creative fray.
“When we chose the theme for Momentum, we said we’ve been working together for almost 15 years – that’s a long time – and we thought we should use this time the best way we could. Time is a reference point. It can be a lot or a little, it can seem like eternity or pass by really quickly. That’s part of the thinking behind Momentum.”
Meanwhile, elsewhere on the Tamar Festival agenda, veteran soft rock singer Paul Young makes an appearance on September 27. The Neveh Zohar Amphitheater program on September 28 is evidently designed to blow the audience – and possibly the surrounding hills – away with New Yorker religious reggae superstar Matissyahu, followed by the irrepressible Balkan Beat Box music gang.
International world music icon Idan Raichel will grace the Neveh Zohar stage on September 26, while rocker Assaf Avidan and his Mojos will strut their stuff at Masada in the wee hours of September 28 (3:30 a.m. start).
High Octane rock act Hayehudim will present a quieter acoustic version of their material at their nocturnal Masada show on September 29, with Yasmin Levy and Amir Benayoun occupying the nighttime berth there on September 26 and 27, respectively.
This year’s festival also features a new Tamar Nights slot with a wine, cheese and arts compound at Ein Bokek at the southern tip of the Dead Sea, with free sunset acts each day, including Alon Olearchik, Yael Deckelbaum and Geva Alon.
For tickets and more information, call *6226 or (02) 623-7000
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