From Jaffa to Agrippas

Elad Schechter’s dance festival transplants shows into the nooks and crannies of the market.

Performer at the festival in Jerusalem (photo credit: COOPER HEWITT SMITHSONIAN DESIGN MUSEUM)
Performer at the festival in Jerusalem
Walking through the food market of Mahaneh Yehuda in Jerusalem, weighed down by plastic bags full of produce and spices, one would not normally expect to see dancers performing amid the shouts of grocers. However, once a year, that is precisely what happens.
The brainchild of choreographer and c.a.t.a.m.o.n. dance group founder Elad Schechter, the “From Jaffa to Agrippas” festival bridges the gap between the everyday and the stage by transplanting dance artists straight into the nooks and crannies of the market. Now in its fifth year, the festival has grown in length and scope and will present the fullest program to date next week.
“It’s the first time we’re doing such a big and such a long festival, and also the first time we are doing two different parts,” explained Schechter over the phone. Between commenting on the program, Schechter signed papers to finalize the opening of a new bank account for his nonprofit organization. He apologized heartily for the multitasking and delved right back into the festival.
“The first part is the one we know better, the part that takes place in the market. It features 10 works by Israeli artists, with collaborations with Jerusalem artists from different fields, in coffee shops and bars. The business owners open their places for young choreographers to work with the body in the very broad sense of the term. It allows the artists to look at the market in new ways, to engage in interpersonal communication that is unmediated with the audience,” Schechter said.
“This year, there are really interesting works from local artists. One work is by Kamel Jirjawi, who is a Palestinian artist. It’s the second time he’s doing a piece for us. He is based in Ramallah. He’s going to perform a piece he made specifically for a space in the Iraqi market called ‘Echo.’ I think you can’t underestimate that impact that this has. Sofia Krantz will perform in Tzalmania. Her work, ‘Slice,’ talks about the objectification of the body. She takes on the character of a butcher and turns the place into a meat market where the meat is parts of the body. There are pieces of body hanging as sausages, which were created together with a German visual artist,” Schechter went on. “Zuki Ringart will perform in the haunted building on Agrippas street, which has major presence in local Jerusalem mythology.”
The second part of the festival, which will take place this year for the first time, will inhabit the Alliance House. This element of “From Jaffa to Agrippas” stretches its arms wider into the international dance community and marks a big step forward for Schechter’s organization. International artists such as Jonah Bokaer from New York City, Martin Kilvady of Slovakia and Canadian dance artists Jason Martin and Manuel Roque.
“The second part includes workshops, panels, local performances and shows from abroad that we invited,” Schechter said. “The connective thread between the two parts is that this festival is an open space for local dance, for how we dance or create works that are relevant to the location and place that we are presenting them in, or that are influenced by their space. That was my guiding line for curating. There are great pieces in this section that connect the body to a place, location, city. We worked on this in previous years, but this year we’re getting deeper into it with each festival.”
Schechter will present two works in this year’s festival, “Premiere” and “Habnuya.”
“‘Premiere’ is a collaboration with Rand Taha, a dancer from Beit Hanina,” he said. “She is from a traditional Muslim neighborhood and she dances, teaches and creates. She is an incredible dancer and also a boundary-breaker. The piece deals with what it means to deal with your culture in an environment that is so foreign.”
Another important event that Schechter will lead is a workshop in artistic direction and development of resources for local projects. Schechter, who once lived and worked in Tel Aviv, relocated to Jerusalem several years ago. Since his arrival in the city, he has secured funds for dozens of new events and projects, established a new home for dance within Jerusalem and has assembled a thriving community of artists around his own endeavors. Though not a headliner of the festival, this meeting may prove to be one of the more useful and inspired gatherings of the program.
“From Jaffa to Agrippas” will take place through October 11. For more information, visit