Lone wolves dance

In his new duet with dancer Shiraz Dagan, Kittens&Puppies, which will premiere this weekend during the Culture and Sport Ministry’s Curtain Up Festival, Gilad Jerusalmy explores the animal inside.

 GILAD YERUSALMY and Shiraz Dagan in ‘Kittens&Puppies.’ (photo credit: YAIR MEYUHAS)
GILAD YERUSALMY and Shiraz Dagan in ‘Kittens&Puppies.’
(photo credit: YAIR MEYUHAS)

There is a certain confusion when it comes to the public image of wolves. 

On one hand, we accept that some wolves prefer solitude, hence the term “lone wolf.” On the other, we are confident that wolves’ best chance of survival is in a pack. 

To Gilad Jerusalmy, these ideas are not mutually exclusive, rather, they give a glimpse into the complex world of one of Earth’s most beautiful creatures. And perhaps, they offer a reflection of our own tendencies as humans in society. 

In his new duet with dancer Shiraz Dagan, Kittens&Puppies, which will premiere this weekend as part of the Culture and Sport Ministry’s Curtain Up Festival at the Suzanne Dellal Center in Tel Aviv, Jerusalmy explores the animal inside. 

Jerusalmy, 32, is one of the most in-demand artists in the Israeli dance community today. He started out as an actor and then switched gears to study dance at the Maslool Professional Dance Program and at Austria’s Salzburg Experimental Academy of Dance. He has performed in works by a long list of choreographers including Niv Shenfeld and Oren Laor, Rachel Erdos, Dana Ruttenberg, Olivia Court Mesa, and currently splits his time with Europe, where he works with Emanuel Gat. Jerusalmy balances out conveying the choreographies of others with his own creations, which are thoughtful, precise and political in an unconventional sense. In addition to his life on stage, Jerusalmy teaches adults and children around Israel. 

Outdoor performance of the Vertigo Dance Company by the Suzanne Dellal Centre on June 30.  (credit: COURTESY OF THE SUZANNE DELLAL CENTRE.)Outdoor performance of the Vertigo Dance Company by the Suzanne Dellal Centre on June 30. (credit: COURTESY OF THE SUZANNE DELLAL CENTRE.)

“The process for this piece began in Berlin, where I received a residency at Dock 11 through Machol Shalem Dance House,” he says over an oat milk cappuccino at Edmund Coffee in southern Tel Aviv. It is late afternoon, and a storm is blowing into the city, creating an apocalyptic glint over the outdoor tables. Rain begins to spatter on our table but, a thrill-seeker, Jerusalmy prefers to stay outside, close to the action. He wears a bright purple sweatshirt, is toting a yoga mat and has red nail polish on one hand and green on the other.

“I was very alone in Germany. The loneliness was a big feeling there. I became very busy with my social image, with what I am in society and how I perform myself. This was in contrast to my inner world, which was full of pain, suffering, passion and urges. I was thinking about how hidden these things are from the outside eye.”

Upon returning to Israel, Jerusalmy began a second residency, this time at the Menashe Dance Studio. This is the home to Carmela Dance Group, a pre-professional company directed by choreographer Noa Shiloh. “I made a piece for Carmela last year during which I met Shiraz. I knew I wanted to work with her,” he explains. “I originally wanted a big cast but when I entered the studio with Shiraz, there was something very strong. We were a man and a woman, and that evoked so much. I was interested in looking at a man and a woman dealing with intimacy where it is clear that the man is queer. I’m masculine but I have a strong feminine side and Shiraz is the mirror image of that.”

In Dagan, Jerusalmy saw a reflection of his slightly younger self. Dagan is muscular, intense and wild, as is Jerusalmy. Both embody a type of explosive energy that is captivating on and off of the stage. “She’s different from me and I knew her body would bring something new out of my material. But she is also a very hard worker and in this strange way, working with her was like seeing a female version of myself at 25.”

Working with Dagan opened a new chapter for Jerusalmy, who, until now, had worked with either the male body or with his mother. In his first duet EARTH (female), Jerusalmy danced alongside Tomer Giat, both in underwear. In Separation Pangs, he was joined by his mother on stage. And in the solos Pil-Pilon and Penetration, which is a dance film, he focused on his own form to convey themes of sexuality, intimacy and desire. These themes are very much present in Kittens&Puppies. 

“We are looking at social codes through animalistic behavior. I looked at wolves, at the lone wolf versus the desire to be in a pack, at the self that is wild against the self that is social. That notion carried through the entire process. We are like animals in a cage that the audience visits and interprets in their own way,” he says. “We are like family, siblings, lovers and also total strangers and everything else that exists in nature. We go through these states. We are two hunks of meat and emotion.”

As with all of his works, Jerusalmy is certain that not everyone will love Kittens&Puppies. “I’m growing to accept this fact. It’s not a narrative piece, it’s not theatrical. There are no clear emotional codes. We want it to be parts in a sequence.”

He adds that this is his first work with music and that while the costumes are minimal, he called on veteran costume designer Veronika Szor to craft the clothing for this work. The work will be performed in Inbal Theater, a first for the Curtain Up Festival, which usually prefers the main stage of the Suzanne Dellal Center. The festival will also include shows in Kfar Blum and at the Machol Shalem Dance House in Jerusalem. 

Jerusalmy will be joined in the Curtain Up Festival program by choreographers Lior Tavori, Olivia Court Mesa, Shaked Mochiach, Stav Marin and Merav Dagan, Uri Shafir, Andrea Costanzo Martini, Omri Drumlevich, Annabelle Dvir and Rebecca Laufer with Mats van Rossum. The festival was led by artistic directors Dana Ruttenberg and Oded Graf. 

Kittens&Puppies will be presented as part of Curtain 4 in Tel Aviv on December 18 and 24, in Kfar Blum on December 19 and in Jerusalem on December 22. For more information, visit www.curtain-up.co.il