Forever young

Assembling a cast of middle-school-aged children is the main element that sets Shani Granot and Nevo Romano’s new work apart in this week’s Curtain Up Festival.

The child actors in 'An Hour with All-Eaters' (photo credit: GADI DAGON)
The child actors in 'An Hour with All-Eaters'
(photo credit: GADI DAGON)
At first glance, the rehearsal for Shani Granot and Nevo Romano’s new work looks like an after-school program. The performers meander through the space, casually discussing their sock choice with one another while absentmindedly sending text messages. Granot and Romano sit at the front of the studio observing, occasionally asking one of the dancers to concentrate and answering questions about the sequence of the piece.
As the run for the show, which is part of the Culture and Sport Ministry’s Curtain Up Festival at the Suzanne Dellal Center, begins, it is clear that there are many uncertain moments left in the minds of the performers. Ten minutes in, the dancers stop almost completely to argue about when to start singing. Granot and Romano gently urge them to continue, promising to clarify once the run is finished. At no point do the choreographers seem frustrated or put off by the cast, rather they accept the chatter as a welcome part of the process.
The duo’s work stands out in the landscape of this year’s program for many reasons. For one, neither Granot nor Romano has ever participated in Curtain Up before, nor did either ever expect to.
“We are outsiders here,” says Granot. “We aren’t part of any choreographers’ association. We produced our previous works. But when I saw the call to apply, which included a category for works that are community based, I said ‘yes! There’s an opportunity.’” Sitting at a coffee shop outside of Suzanne Dellal following their rehearsal, Granot and Romano spoke quietly while sipping coffee and smoking cigarettes.
The technical rehearsal, which took place the previous day, had left everyone involved tired if not a bit cranky.
The two met three years ago on a type of blind date.
“We were introduced by a mutual friend and we went on a date for the purpose of creation,” laughs Romano. The outcome of the meeting was better than that of most blind dates as it sparked a collaboration that has fostered three dance works including An Hour with All-Eaters. (This artistic duo is not romantically involved.)
Granot, 33, graduated from P.A.R.T.S. in Brussels. She spent 10 years dancing and choreographing in Europe before returning to Israel. She has danced in works by Arkadi Zaides and Yasmeen Godder. Romano, 32, was a member of Liat Dror Nir Ben Gal Dance Company for four years. Today he lives and works in Mizpe Ramon.
The main element that sets Granot and Romano’s work apart is that their cast is comprised of middleschool- aged children. The performers, three boys and five girls, were gathered through extended friend circles.
Some have family ties with dancers and choreographers while others joined a classmate after hearing about the project.
“I’m pretty familiar with Suzanne Dellal because my mom was in Batsheva for 12 years,” said a very confident Lynn, daughter of Mami Shimazaki.
“I’ve performed before in school shows, singing, dancing and acting, but I’ve never performed on a stage like this before,” said 11-year-old Noam.
Assembling a group proved an interesting feat for Granot and Romano. Until now, the duo has performed all of its own pieces. Because of the sensitive nature of working with children, they decided to get entire families involved. During our meeting, three parents called Granot’s cellphone to check if their child had a good rehearsal and if they were already on the way home.
“When we started, we went to each one of their homes and sat with the kids and their parents. We explained what we wanted to do, which was to make a show without manipulating or choreographing the kids too much. We wanted to gather kids that didn’t know each other so that the meeting would be new for them too. Once they agreed, we got started. The kids became out raw material and we went with that,” says Granot.
“The meeting between us and the kids and the kids with one another created this work,” adds Romano.
For the past three months, Granot and Romano have met with their cast of eight twice a week. They weathered sick days, ecstatic giggling, grumpy moments, interpersonal issues and the occasional dropout or spontaneous rehearsal-crasher.
What surfaced in the studio often got incorporated into the piece, for example the kids’ fervent telephone use.
Though they had no intention of choreographing steps for the kids to execute, it is important to Granot and Romano that the piece is clear and set.
“There is this tension about what is going to happen in the show,” says Granot. “There are parts where they can choose what they want to do and they are allowed to talk during the piece. They’re always talking anyway so we figured why leave that out,” says Romano. “Our position is that we want to show the behavior, not judge it.”
By gently guiding their subjects, Granot and Romano created their own language of rituals, rife with childhood imagery. At one point, iPhones turn into logs in a bonfire around which spooky tales are told. At another, silicon bubbles float through the air, landing on eyelashes, outstretched hands and ponytails.
Granot and Romano’s premier will take place as part of Curtain 3 at the Suzanne Dellal Center ( on November 20 at 9 p.m. and tonight at the Jerusalem Theater ( at 8:30 p.m.