'O.K-19' evening to have long-awaited dance premiere

This month, Fresco Dance Company will finally premiere 'O.K-19', which is comprised of On by Adi Salant and Kapow by Eyal Dadon.

SALANT: ‘WE all have this nonstop race going on. (photo credit: EFRAT MAZOR)
SALANT: ‘WE all have this nonstop race going on.
(photo credit: EFRAT MAZOR)
When Yoram Karmi reached out to choreographers Adi Salant and Eyal Dadon to create new works for Fresco Dance Company, he had no idea that he was choosing partners to weather an unprecedented storm. 
“Usually, you have at most five weeks with a guest choreographer,” says Karmi over the phone.
Instead, Salant and Dadon spent more than a year meeting and then not meeting one cast and then another of Fresco, piling into the company’s studio in the Central Bus Station in Tel Aviv, refining, revising and polishing their stop-and-start creations. 
“The fact that they came on and off made it possible for them to really dig into their creations, to really evaluate the ideas and let them mature over time,” Karmi adds. 
This month, Fresco Dance Company will premiere the long-anticipated new evening “O.K-19,” which is comprised of On by Salant and Kapow by Dadon. For Karmi, the tumultuous year provided some time to rethink the status quo. Whereas he would usually hold a premiere at the Suzanne Dellal Center’s main stage, this time Karmi will present on the smaller and more modest stage of Inbal Dance Theater, just a few steps away but largely different in atmosphere and capacity. 
“It’s the first time we’re performing in Inbal,” explains Karmi. “Usually, it is too small for us. But Adi and Eyal made pieces for seven and eight dancers so we could squeeze the evening into Inbal. After a year of not performing, I thought that what my dancers need most is to be on stage as much as possible. So, instead of doing two shows for 600 people, we will do four shows for the same amount.”
Providing a platform for independent choreographers has become an elemental part of Karmi’s vision for his company. 
“Six or seven years ago, I decided that every year to two years, I would invite an Israeli choreographer to work with the company. If you’re not an entrepreneur in Israel, you won’t have a professional framework within which to present choreographies. I want to change that.” 
About the choice of these two artists, Karmi explains, “Eyal and I have been friends for a while. He caught my interest as an artist long ago. He usually works with small groups. We had talked about this collaboration many times and finally our schedules lined up. I knew Adi as a dancer in Batsheva Dance Company. She was a co-director with Ohad Naharin for eight years and I believe she’s a fully realized person. She hasn’t choreographed in Israel and so this seemed like a great opportunity for us both. Both Adi and Eyal are artists who are all about the body. It’s choreography, composition and physique with both of them, which is what I am drawn to.”
The evening, “O.K-19,” which Karmi optimistically offers as a replacement for COVID-19, is not an easy watch, he admits. “It’s intelligent and I think these pieces truly complement one another,” he says. 
For Salant, the extended creative process tapped straight into the theme for On. In this work, Salant observed her own opposing desires, to be still and in motion, to rest and work, to win the rat race and also quit it. “It’s more about the thing that connects all of us – the insanity, the rat race, the railroad apartment that we all live in. No matter where you live, how old you are, we all have this nonstop race going on, even in the quiet moments or the moments of enjoyment, there is that noise that doesn’t allow you to switch off. And also, you don’t really want to switch off. We have that desire to rest but even then we can’t really detach,” says Salant. 
Salant, 45, began dancing at a young age. She trained at the Bat Dor Dance School and graduated from Alon High School before joining Batsheva Ensemble. Two years later, she was offered a contract in the main company, where she remained for five seasons. After leaving Batsheva, she continued to work closely with Naharin, setting his works in companies around the world. 
FROM KAPOW by Eyal Dadon. (Efrat Mazor)FROM KAPOW by Eyal Dadon. (Efrat Mazor)
DURING THAT time, Salant made work for several companies abroad including Ballet BC in Vancouver. For six years, Salant lived abroad with her partner Jesper Thirup Hansen, who she met while dancing in Batsheva. 
“He came to dance in Batsheva,” she remembers. “We went abroad which is where I had my first daughter. We came to Israel and were met with the whole process of having to prove our connection, our love. I had my second daughter and they refused to put Jesper down as the father because he didn’t have in Israeli ID. It was very challenging for us as a family.”
Today, Salant, Hansen and their three children live in Kfar Daniel. As we speak, Salant is babysitting her sister’s three children while her own children are at school. Between sentences, she attends to their needs, offering breakfast and games. 
“In this last year, we have this quiet, and then this voice comes in saying, ‘Why am I not doing more? Why am I not moving my body?’ To stand in place is really difficult. We want to move forward but also to stop. We have this want to move forward.”
In the spurts in which the company was permitted to work, Salant and the dancers wasted no time. 
“I started in December of 2019. At that point, I was in a very intense period. I knew that I wanted that energy, that’s what I was looking for, that running sensation. And then corona came, which kind of stopped everything. We met between lockdowns. We were always wondering when we would stop. The dancers were wonderful. Each time we met, we got right to it. We wouldn’t meet for weeks and then in the first meeting, they didn’t dip their feet in the water, they jumped headfirst. It really added to the feeling in the piece, that commitment, that intensity. You are moving, you’re alive but not sure when the cut will come. We were living this moment, this point of no return,” she explains. 
Another factor that played into the process was the untimely death of a friend. “I started the piece from within this cloud of tragedy. I didn’t really talk about it with the dancers but the rehearsal director knew and it was very much an influence on the movements I chose.”
Halfway through the process, the summer came, which signaled the end of the season and thus, the changing of casts. Four of the 11 dancers parted ways with the company and three new individuals joined. Despite their not having been present for the start of the process, the new members found a way to assimilate seamlessly. 
“They jumped right into the energy. They learned it right away. They were different people that I didn’t know but as soon as we started they felt like family, like we were in the same pool.”
In Karmi’s words, the yin to Salant’s yang is Dadon’s Kapow. Whereas Salant drew from reality, Dadon delved into escapism. Of the piece, Dadon writes that the inspiration came directly from comic books, specifically those of Stan Lee.
“Like in every comic book, there is a superhero/ine, with superpowers who go through processes of coping and discovering their powers, facing society, which usually doesn’t accept them, their own feelings of loneliness, the major responsibility they have due to their expectations of themselves and their fight to mitigate the critical decisions they must make and the endless conflicts they face,” writes Dadon. 
Dadon, 32, is one of the most celebrated young choreographers in Israel today. He began dancing in Beersheba and was quickly snatched up by Kamea Dance Company. From there, he joined the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company, first as a dancer and later as a rehearsal director. In 2011, Dadon began creating his own work, which gained both local and international acclaim.
His works include SALE, DU-K, ALGO and George 2.2. Dadon’s choreographies are characterized by fluid physicality together with biting humor and spot-on musicality. An artist with a taste for virtuosic movement, it is no surprise that Dadon recognizes the superpowers in dancers. 
“The piece deals with and looks at the subject of our inner strength and weakness as humans and looks for a way to empower ourselves. Nissim Gutman said, ‘If we listen, we can find that we can use our inner power as our greatest weapon, sometimes even against ourselves.’”
With the voices of these two choreographers, “O.K-19” promises to be, if nothing else, a leap forward for Fresco Dance Company. 
Fresco Dance Company will present O.K-19 at Inbal Dance Theater on May 11, 12, 25 and 26, June 7, 8, 29 and 30. For tickets, visit inbal.smarticket.co.il/