Israel Museum’s Dance: Dancing in the dark

On Tuesday nights in November and December, a new, moving catalyst will be thrown into the museum mix.

ORLY PORTAL’s ‘The Rite of Spring of Farid El-Atrache.’  (photo credit: NATASHA SHAKNES)
ORLY PORTAL’s ‘The Rite of Spring of Farid El-Atrache.’
(photo credit: NATASHA SHAKNES)
Dance has been entering and exiting the museum space for decades. During certain periods, it seems that every dance performance takes place in a gallery of some kind, and during others, none at all. This relationship, which is built on shared interest, on overlapping audiences and on aesthetics, enhances the experience of all involved; museums, dance artists and viewers.
The Israel Museum’s Dance in the Exhibition series, which is now in its fourth year, is a perfect example of the complimentary benefits of blending between visual and performance art. Curated by Neta Cohen, the series spans two months, presenting eight performances by Israeli artists in various galleries of the museum. Each work has been carefully selected to highlight or contrast the art in the space it will be performed in.
On Tuesday nights in November and December, a new, moving catalyst will be thrown into the museum mix. The moving bodies in these dance pieces mix the air around, force the audience to focus their eyes on a specific point and perhaps draw attention to nooks and crannies of the space that are otherwise unnoticed.
The performances, which until now have mostly been presented in theater spaces, receive the added plus of glorious backdrops. The artwork infuses the space with information, color and textures, and these elements affect the dance.
The series kicked off earlier this month with Yossi Berg and Oded Graf’s “Rite of Spring” performed in the Modern Art Gallery. The quartet, in which Berg and Graf are joined by dancers Avshalom Latucha and Tal Adler Arieli, approaches Igor Stravinsky’s well-known opus in a unique way. Playing on themes of masculinity, militarism and cult psychology, the four men weave together a tapestry that is rife with criticism, subtlety and tension.
The second performance, “Forms of Culture” by Renana Raz, was also presented in the Modern Art Gallery. In this work, Raz, a veteran voyager into the museum space, experiments with shape and form, and questions the ways in which shapes inform our everyday lives, the messages they send us and the limitations they place upon us.
The third evening, which will take place on Tuesday night, is a double bill. The evening will consist of two duets performed in the Israeli Art Gallery, both of which premiered in the Curtain Up Festival. Dafi Eltabeb’s “Never the Less” is a tender work about an intimate relationship between a man and a woman. Mira Rubinstein and Ishai Karasenti’s “Dance As Much As You Can” is quite different, posing social criticism about Israeli life through movement.
The final meeting in November will bring Niv Shenfeld and Oren Laor’s “Ship of Fools” to the entrance hall of the museum. This trio, which premiered in the Israel Festival in 2011, looks at the ongoing conflict between individual needs and the greater good. Using text, dance and song, Shenfeld and Laor string together a series of interactions that evoke closeness, alienation and longing among their cast.
In December, the series will take a journey into the archaeology wing with a two-part program featuring Tomer Navot and Maya Reshef’s “Junction” and Iris Erez’s “Rite of Self.”
The second Tuesday of the month will venture into the world of Israeli fashion. Shamel Pitts will present “Black Hole” in the exhibition “Fashion Statements: Decoding Israeli Dress.”
During his time in Israel as a member of the Batsheva Dance Company, Pitts became a fashion icon, participating in several commercial campaigns, most notably with Bar Refaeli for Carolina Lemke. Pitts returned to Israel last year to present “Black Velvet” at the Jerusalem International Dance Week and has since toured extensively with the work. “Black Hole” is the next progression in the same creative journey, in which Pitts explores blackness and identity.
Orly Portal’s “The Rite of Spring” of Farid El-Atrache, which will be performed in the Modern Art Gallery, is a ceremony of love and respect for the female form. Portal brought the much-investigated concept of the “Rite of Spring” to the Middle East. In doing so, she infused the ritual with new content, which she contends with gracefully and with great power alongside three formidable female dancers.
The final meeting of the series will boast Stefan Ferry’s “Nuee.” This work, which will be performed in the Archaeology Wing, originated during the Present Continuous event at the Israel Museum in 2017. The work, like Portal’s, considers the female form, this time from a male gaze.
The series will be accompanied for the first time by a writing program hosted by Creative Writing. Reviews and responses to the performances will be published on the Creative Writing website.
For more information about the Dance in the Exhibition series, visit