‘Til dance do us part

Husband and wife choreographers Ayala Frenkel and Ofir Yudilevich each premiere a new work at the Dance Scene Festival in Jerusalem

AYALA FRENKEL’S ‘Gazzele.’ (photo credit: TAMAR LAM)
(photo credit: TAMAR LAM)
Ayala Frenkel and Ofir Yudilevich have a lot in common. They are both accomplished contemporary dancers, emerging choreographers and students of philosophy and art at the Open University. They both came to modern dance from other physical pursuits. Each will premiere a new work during the Dance Scene Festival hosted by HaZira Performance Art Arena this month. They also happen to be married.
“Our house is filled with these two pieces right now,” smiles Yudilevich over sandwiches and salads in Tel Aviv’s London Ministore.
“There isn’t a lot of space for anything else right now,” adds Frenkel.
The two sit easily beside one another, most at home when sharing a meter or two of space. As they talk, Frenkel and Yudilevich take bites off one another’s plates.
Frenkel, 29, and Yudilevich, 31, met nearly a decade ago as students of Hasadna Dance Workshop in Haifa. Frenkel hailed from the world of ballroom dance, specifically Latin dance, while Yudilevich arrived via the rhythmic cyphers of Capoeira.
Upon moving to Tel Aviv, the two were quickly snatched up by prominent choreographers.
Frenkel found herself in Sweden in the dead of winter performing Ohad Naharin’s Kamuyot. Yudilevich became part of Arkadi Zaides’ Silent. As they became more entrenched in the local dance community, opportunities to perform together arose. Yossi Berg and Oded Graf’s Animal Lost saw Frenkel and Yudilevich on one stage. Then, last year, Iris Erez invited the two to create I’ll Be Right Back, a duet about the life of a couple.
“That duet has a lot of layers but our life was definitely part of the process,” says Frenkel. “We had to learn how to work together through a creative process, how to leave the work in the studio and not to continue it on the train or at home.”
Frenkel and Ayala currently reside in Even Yehuda, taking trains on a daily basis in and out of Tel Aviv.
Six months ago, they received word that they had both been accepted to participate in HaZira. The festival, which showcases new works by emerging choreographers, is a beacon for artists looking to take chances that other platforms cannot afford. Artistic director Sahar Azimi has mentored each choreographer throughout the process, individually and through group meetings.
While each artist is responsible for his or her own creation, HaZira strives to embody a communal mentality, fostering a supportive creative group. Other choreographers to take part in this year’s program include Uri Shafir, Ilana Bellahsen, Ariel Cohen, Noa Shiloh, Omer Uziel, Noa Zuk and Ohad Fishof.
“Sahar organizes monthly panels, where we come and show whatever we have up to that point. He invites guests to join us as well, people who gave feedback. Everyone responds and discusses the progress of the pieces together,” says Frenkel. “At one point we spent three days in the desert with Lior Avizoor, which was a very powerful experience.”
“It’s a very strong group. We knew from the first meeting that it was going to be special and it really has been,” adds Yudilevich.
For both artists, HaZira represents a major leap forward. Though they have presented work in several smaller festivals, HaZira offered Frenkel and Yudilevich the time and space to immerse themselves in their individual creative processes.
“It’s an unusual process because it’s a quite long,” says Frenkel. “The first five months I spent alone in the studio, with the exception of our meetings. It was quite intense.”
Frenkel’s creation Gazzele is a solo, which she will perform.
“When I was younger I was the Israeli champion in Latin dance. I spent years doing ballroom dance. On one hand, I was a very good girl from a strong family. I was sheltered and loved and protected. At the same time, I was being taught to use my sexuality in this very specific way in ballroom dance, to be a kind of sex symbol.
Then, when I was 18, I realized that I didn’t want to do that kind of dance any more but that I had to continue to dance. That’s how I came to contemporary dance. It took me many years to understand the effect that making that cut had on me. I went from a place of exhibitionism to something far more internal. This solo is about being a woman who is born and raised in Israel and what it means to be a woman in a very male country.”
Yudilevich’s Gravitas is a duet, performed together with Asher Rat. To make his vision complete, Yudilevich will stage his work on special flooring.
“I ordered the floor from China,” he laughs. (Yudilevich was assisted financially by the Bat Yam Festival, which signed on as a co-producer of his work.) “It’s a very expensive surface called an ‘air floor.’ I saw a video on YouTube where someone was using one and I knew that I had to try it.”
In Gravitas Yudilevich confronts his beginnings as a dancer.
“In this piece I feel I’m going back to my roots. Asher and I have similar paths. He has also studied Capoeira, however he’s more of a circus performer. I wanted to use acrobatics as a language,” he says. “So I was looking for someone who could move in a specific way. This piece is thoughts from the dance world applied to acrobatics.”
And while their energies are focused on the events of the coming weeks, both Yudilevich and Frenkel have jam-packed performance schedules awaiting them once HaZira is finished.
“I see myself continuing to dance for others as well as to create. I feel that I need both elements in my life,” says Frenkel. “The freelance field allow for something so wonderful in that you can do many things at the same time. I feel very grateful for that.”
“I would like to continue to find different situations in which I can create. I want to make something that can be applied in a variety of ways,” adds Yudilevich.
Dance Scene will take place on July 14, 15 and 16 at Beit Masie in Jerusalem. For more information, visit www.hazira.org.il.