Modern Israeli movements

Ensemble Ka’et performs ‘Heroes’ in Tel Aviv.

Ka’et Ensemble (photo credit: NAAMA DESHEVSKY)
Ka’et Ensemble
(photo credit: NAAMA DESHEVSKY)
There is a well-accepted theory that human movement is determined by several factors, the leading one of which is environment. People who spends most of the lives walking on tundra as opposed to desert sand or soft earth will hold their spinal column and extend their feet in a certain way. It is also widely known that folk dances from each region of the world are an expression of the type of terrain on which they were developed. As a group that has lived all over the planet, Jews have adopted various elements from the places they have lived in. From Eastern Europe to North Africa to the Middle East, the Jewish body tells the tale of many regions, histories and lineages.
In the performance Heroes by Ensemble Ka’et, the dancers embody physicalities from the Jewish past.
“We started to research the movement language of the Jewish man,” explains founding Ka’et company member Hananya Schwartz.
Heroes will be performed next week as part of the Odessa Tel Aviv Festival at the Eretz Israel Museum. The festival, curated by Alex Riff, will include music, theater, dance, lectures and visual art.
“We looked at Jews from Eastern Europe to see if they have specific movement characteristics as compared to the new Israeli man.
We looked at what happened to us and what is happening to us here in Israel today. We explored the haredi movement in Israel 2017, which has absorbed a lot of aggression from society and the reverse effect, the delicacy that is extending out of the movement,” he says.
As part of their research, the company members studied the life and work of seminal Israeli dancer and choreographer Baruch Agadati.
“Our company is also a school for men. We are trying to live on the seams between everything that happens here. Baruch Agadati was the first dancer in the Holy Land. He brought a combination, a mixture of ballet and Yemenite dance. I think today the ground is much readier to accept these things, to present the confusion and the power in this multi-ness. Heroes reflects that research,” Schwartz explains.
Schwartz, 36, is a proud member of what he regards as a unique and deeply important dance endeavor. Prior to the establishment of Ka’et Ensemble by choreographer Ronen Itzhaki, observant Jewish men were kept on the fringes of the contemporary dance community at best. Religiously observant dancers, both male and female, had to make the choice between upholding their beliefs and pursuing artistic expression. From appropriate costumes to contact with the opposite sex to rehearsals and performances on Shabbat, a dancer’s life provides hurdle after hurdle for the religious dancer. For the members of Ka’et, a company that allowed them to dance while not compromising their practices, seemed like a dream until it became a reality.
For Schwartz, Ka’et affords him the chance to express the things he cannot fit into his life. He began performing on a whim.
“My first performance was with my solo, and it was a surprise. Ronen, who was the director of the school, saw some material I had worked on in my second year at school. He called a festival, told them about my piece, I had a presentation, and it was my jump into the deep waters. It was a very confusing experience. I don’t know if I was ready, but it was a very powerful performance,” he recounts.
“The stage has given me a lot. I teach Judaism, and there are things I can express in words, but there are things I can’t express with them. Dance and stage allow them to explode out,” he says.
One of the most stunning and distinct things about Heroes is the intense connection among the cast members. As a long-standing group, the Ka’et team has developed a family-type bond.
“We have been together for six years,” says Schwartz. “We have a very intense connection There is a lot of vulnerability there and a lot of trust. I really enjoy coming to the studio and being together. We go through a lot – stress, injuries. We know each other’s ups and downs, advantages and disadvantages.”
Getting into the different roles of Heroes allows Schwartz to delve into something he refers to as “psycho-dancing.”
“It really interests me to be in and out of the performance at the same time. I am a vehicle serving the choreography. I have to fulfill something, and the adrenaline and the movement, they do something. I want to go through a personal experience in the performance, while I am fulfilling the demands of the choreography. As we go forward, I succeed and fail at that more. That’s what interests me as a performer,” he says.
Ka’et Ensemble will perform ‘Heroes’ on September 14 at the Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv. For more information, visit