FEX Festival bringing a specialized light to flamenco dancing

The FEX Festival will run from January 5-7 at the Habait Theater in Jaffa.

Performers at this week's FEX Festival at the Habait Theater in Jaffa. (photo credit: Yaron Abulafia)
Performers at this week's FEX Festival at the Habait Theater in Jaffa.
(photo credit: Yaron Abulafia)

In the current cultural milieu in Israel, audiences are becoming increasingly specialized. Social media, digital exposure to different art forms and the increasingly high intensity and cost of living have created a situation in which audience members will likely frequent one or two types of cultural events at one or two venues. The errant spontaneous or transient audience member is a highly sought-after individual by presenters and is often hard to find. Another explanation is that audiences like to know and understand what they’re going to see.

For niche genres like contemporary dance and flamenco, audiences are usually highly specific and include individuals that have prior knowledge of the form. However, Adva Yermiyahu wishes to change that. This weekend, she will present the first-ever edition of the FEX Festival at Habait Theater in Jaffa. The program includes three days of performances by local and foreign artists, master classes, panel discussions and an installation that Yermiyahu assures will be enjoyable for people who have no knowledge of flamenco whatsoever.

“People often tell me that they don’t go to see flamenco because they don’t understand it,” says Yermiyahu over the phone. Her infant son is babbling in the background, which doesn’t thwart her in the least from laying out the vision of this new and innovative initiative.

“I dreamed of creating an event that would be like the finale at the school but only with flamenco. It’s a platform that gives Israeli and Spanish female artists opportunities to experiment on the basis of flamenco. It’s a festival with a very specific and precise vision.

Adva Yermiyahu

Who is she?

‘OCHO’ (credit: FLORENCIA O’RYAN ZUNIGA)‘OCHO’ (credit: FLORENCIA O’RYAN ZUNIGA)

Yermiyahu has been splitting her time between Spain and Israel for over a decade. She is one of the most intriguing artists in the country, blending contemporary art forms into an ongoing exploration of the boundaries of the flamenco sound and movement language. In addition to making her own work, Yermiyahu cultivates new talent as the artistic director of the Adi Foundation’s annual competition.

Her dream for the FEX Festival was inspired by her studies at the School of Visual Theater. “I dreamed of creating an event that would be like the finale at the school but only with flamenco. It’s a platform that gives Israeli and Spanish female artists opportunities to experiment on the basis of flamenco. It’s a festival with a very specific and precise vision.

“The boundaries in flamenco are being explored in Spain and all over the world. The form is coming to include other art forms, such as performance and theater. FEX’s agenda is to promote that and to give it an expression,” she explains.

ONCE YERMIYAHU was ready to speak the dream out loud, she was able to find others who wanted to join in the FEX journey. “It’s my initiative but from the moment that it came out, it became the dream of other women, too. I was joined by Giselle Daye in Israel and Mízical Producción Artística in Spain. Together, we created this festival from nothing. We found a space that would host us, Habait Theater, which feels very right because Habait’s agenda is very much about experimental and exploratory theater.”

Where is the festival going to be held and who will be there?

The festival will occupy two halls in Habait Theater, the main stage and the black box (a smaller theater space). Hillel Kogan will present ThisIsSpain, a collaboration with veteran Israeli flamenco artist Michal Natan, which recently premiered as part of the Curtain Up Festival. Brother and sister duo Michal Ben Lior (dancer) and Dan Ben Lior (musician) will present ImPort – The Flamenco Session together with musician Shai Bechar and guest dancer Adi Akiva. Cuban artist Ivelisse Gonzalez and collaborator Pablo Ordas will perform Syncretismus. Israeli flamenco artist Sharon Sagi will present E Motion II.

Yermiyahu will premiere in new work during the festival, a collaboration with Spanish artist Andres Marin entitled Agua. “Andres Marin is one of the biggest Avant Garde flamenco artists in Spain,” she beams. “He has been my maestro of the last decade. We have been working on ‘Agua’ for two years in phases. We started during corona and then it became a dance film.

We have since adapted it to become a stage creation. I had the fortune of working with an artist that I could learn from, as well as the pleasure to stand with him on stage as a colleague.”

Off stage, FEX will host an installation by Adi Livne called Compas. Dr. Idit Suslik will present a lecture on the state of contemporary flamenco and will also host a panel discussion featuring several of the presenting artists. Yermiyahu will host an introductory lesson at the Mandel Cultural Center. All of the events off-stage will be open to the public free of charge.

“I have been working towards this festival for so many years in so many different avenues,” says Yermiyahu. “I believe it’s happening at the exact right time and I can only hope that people will come with open hearts and will share the joy and excitement we feel.”

The FEX Festival will run from January 5-7 at Habait Theater. For more information, visit: www.habait-theatre.org.il.