Rachel at Intima-Dance Festival

A British olah has scaled the heights of the Israeli dance world in four short years.

With tight curls and olive skin, Rachel Erdos comes off as a native Israeli. No-one would guess she's actually from the northern UK city of Newcastle. We meet in the grungy industrial area of Hamasger Street, where the Tmuna Theater is located and where Erdos will present her first fully self-choreographed piece "The Birds and the Bees," as part of the Intima-Dance Festival. We sit in one of the performance areas that doubles as a bar, but are chased out by the never-ending sound check for that night's performances. We move to one of the inner rooms of the theater and sit on the old tattered sofas befitting a South Tel Aviv balcony. Twenty-seven-year-old Erdos talks about growing up in Newcastle, the daughter of a psychologist and a teacher, and then moving to London to study dance at the Roehampton Institute, followed by a Masters from the Laban Centre. "I used to tell everyone I wanted to be a dance therapist," says Erdos, but that she admits that was just something she said so that she wouldn't get too many negative reactions to her true ambition, to be a dancer and choreographer. Ever since making aliya three and a half years ago, Erdos has pursued her passion. But penetrating the small world of the dance scene in Israel has not been an easy task. "At first, I felt like an alien," she says. "But I had some phone numbers and I called, and things kind of progressed from there." Erdos describes the dance community as a small world, both in the UK and in Israel. "The standard is very high in Israel, and you have to prove yourself to audiences and critics, but there's some really interesting stuff going on," she says. The real obstacle in Israel is more "logistic" than "creative," she explains. Just finding rehearsal studios can be a draining task. Erdos now works as a Rehearsal Director for two choreographers, Sally Ann Friedland (of Dance Drama Company) and Yoram Karmi (of Fresco). "My job is to be the outside eye," she explains, "I look at the piece in an objective way, to polish it off and perfect the dancers' performances." She points out that both for the dancers and the choreographers themselves, it's sometimes hard to judge a piece objectively, and understand why something does not feel quite right. This is where Erdos comes in. But with her piece "The Birds and the Bees," Erdos takes control, and the results look promising. This duet, featuring a pair of lovers, is set to a backdrop of David Attenborough's narration of animal mating rituals. A sold-out performance in the UK saw the audience cracking up at graphic descriptions of the animal kingdom and its extraordinary array of body parts and actions, projected on the human species. Erdos describes the enthusiastic albeit less raucous reactions at a recent showing at the Suzanne Dellal Centre in Neve Tzedek. The well-established Intima-Dance Festival, now in its fifth year, will take place from August 24 to the 27 August, and features 11 choreographers presenting their interpretations of this year's theme: "Home." When asked how her piece fits into this concept, Erdos responds that relationships are central to the concept of "Home." She describes a workshop attended by all the choreographers and dancers in the festival. This was the first time she'd ever seriously asked herself, "what is home?" Many different ideas were tossed around. Home is where you grew up. Home is your parents. Home is your body. "Home is the connections you have with people, rather than the space you live in." But even more to the point, "home is yourself, wherever you might be situated." One participant performed a monologue to his couch, as a symbol of home, thanking it for the long hours of comfort it provides. Many can probably relate to this idea! "Home was once my family, but home is now me," says Erdos. On the topic of aliya, Erdos feels relatively settled here, but has no fixed plans about the future. Her plan has always been to attempt making a life for herself in Israel after college, and that's what she done. So far so good. Erdo has a relatively mixed social group, both Israeli and Anglo and describes her level of Hebrew as "quite fluent," but also points out although that her "dance lingo" is "brilliant," she can't say the same for her political vocab. Erdos' passion for dance is obvious with every word she utters, and it's a pleasure to see an olah thrive in Israel in her career of choice, especially in such a precarious field. What does she hope to offer her audiences with the "The Birds and the Bees?" "Dance is entertainment after all, so as long as the audience has fun and there's some food for thought, I'm happy," says Erdos. It's surely this happy-go-lucky yet confident attitude, which is partly responsible for Erdos's success, and all that after less than four years in the country. The rest may be attributable to talent and perhaps a pinch of luck. The Intima-Dance Festival comprises 11 artists in two Programs, A and B, each presenting his/her memory or interpretation of "Home," whether personal, social, public or nostalgic. "The Birds and the Bees" plays on Thursday, August 25 at 8:30 p.m., and on Saturday, August 27 at 5:30 p.m., and 8:30 p.m. Other performances include "Going Nowhere Slowly" by Dana Yahalomi, and "The Lemon of Pink" by Doron Raz. For information and reservations, call (03) 562 9462.