One of the points of clarity that the last period has brought with it is in the differentiation between what is necessary and what is expendable. For each of us, individually, there are people, activities and amenities we cannot live without and others we can part ways with for the time being. For those specific things and people, we are willing to go out on a limb, to take measured risks and to sacrifice certain comforts. When the coronavirus crisis hit Israel, choreographer Galit Liss was about to do several things: to tour to Japan and Germany and to move forward with a new performance. Unlike many or all of her peers in the dance world, Liss’s dancers are all above 60 years of age. Some are in their 80s. “We had to ask how to come back and how to stay safe,” says Liss over the phone. “Our oldest dancer is 80. Not everyone came back to the studio after the lockdown. We were 14 and now we’re 12. It really showed me what is important. Artists are not working; budgets are cut and suddenly I see how much strength people had to choose to be in this artistic space. We choose this unstable ground and find a way to create a life that is possible for us. And that gives strength. There is health but there is also mental health.”After months of hiatus, Liss reconvened with her remaining dancers and continued the journey toward Blue Zone, which will premiere next month as part of the Israel Festival. The return to the studio was not without its challenges, in fact, some of these accouterments found their way into the work.“There was the first lockdown in March,” chimes in Orit Gross, longtime dancer and collaborator with Liss. “We worked on Zoom. When things reopened, there was a choice. We are all considered high risk because of our age. Not all of us are completely healthy, some of us have partners who are ill… I chose not to give up. It’s complicated, to not give up on the creation I had to give up on a lot else. I don’t meet people and I don’t go to malls. I had another grandchild and I see him but with a mask. But mostly, I protect myself so I can come to the studio and feel safe. In the show, we are start-to-end with masks. There are gloves as well. We are not dancing freely. The body moves, dances, deals with challenges in the creation and the bottom of the face is closed off.”FOR THE past 12 years, Liss has focused her creative energies on the elder female body. She began by teaching workshops, which evolved into one cast and then another. Her works Gila and Go have won critical acclaim in Israel and abroad. Having left audiences awestruck by the 18 performers of Go, Liss went back into the studio with a few of her trusted collaborators to begin a new project. In Go, Liss drew a line between two extremes: ballerinas and fighter pilots. On stage, her dancers grappled with both images, at once embodying the stereotypes of masculinity while presenting the fantasy of so many little girls. In Blue Zone, she looks at how the Zionist ideal and femininity can exist in the same space, within the same bodies. “We met in November 2019,” explains Liss. “We started with the idea of unstable ground. With how the body can find a way to create stability on unstable ground. It led us to questions about home and acclimation. It’s unbelievable how much those images became relevant. We talked about home and belonging. Orit brought a card that her parents got when she was born, it’s from the Ramat Gan Municipality and was sent to each home that had a child. It was written, “a daughter who is loyal to her parents and country.” Gross goes on to say that she was living abroad prior to the birth of her first child. At some point in her pregnancy, she realized she needed to return to Israel to give birth. She traces that desire back to that card, to the sentiment it transmitted. In the work, the 12 dancers question and explore their perception of Zionism and of the role of the female Zionist. Their musings are accompanied by an original score by Avi Belleli. “He kept saying, ‘You’re so nice but not everything is nice,’” Liss says. “We wanted to bring the protest, the anger, but through the elder body it was hard to bring that place without illustrating. The music is like lava about to erupt. It’s between the past and the future. We use material that is between old and futuristic – low tech to high tech.”Whereas in Go, the dancers wore flight suits, in Blue Zone they are clad in dresses made by designer Maya Bash. “The dress speaks to the Zionist ethos but it’s also feminine. You can see them in these dresses. They’re showing,” Liss adds. The name of the piece reflects the capsule in which Liss was eventually able to work, in spite of risks and restrictions. “The blue area, which is a concept, refers to places where people who live in the community. There is one in Okinawa. There is a high level of social engagement. Everyone has a place. They live longer, healthier lives. If only we could find it here. I think in this unstable situation our artistic work is our blue zone. It keeps us.”Galit Liss will present Blue Zone at the Israel Festival on September 9 and 10. For more information, visit www.israel-festival.org.