Tel Aviv Dance Festival goes digital

The annual festival will present nine world premiers of local choreographers.

Orly Portal 'Fakarouni' (photo credit: RAFFI DELOYA)
Orly Portal 'Fakarouni'
(photo credit: RAFFI DELOYA)
At the Suzanne Dellal Center, the summer months are high season. For the past many years, the center has produced festivals that draw audiences out of the intense heat and into dance performances of a variety of styles and genres.
What was once called the Hot Dance Festival evolved into the Tel Aviv Dance Festival and marked a major event on the annual calendar. The plans for this year’s festival were put into motion more than a year ago, before anyone had an inkling that our lives would be profoundly altered. And while live performances in theaters are not yet a possibility, directors of Suzanne Dellal, Naomi Perlov and Anat Fischer-Leventon, decided to go ahead with as much of the program as possible online.
During the second week of September, the Tel Aviv Dance Festival will present nine new works by Israeli choreographers over the center’s streaming platform. Tickets will go for NIS 20 a pop and will allow audience members to watch the work for a 24-hour period.
Among the artists to premiere new works are duo Avi Kaiser and Sergio Antonino, Rina Schenfeld, Roy Assaf, Shlomit Fundaminsky and Annabelle Dvir. Over the past year, the center put a new developmental program into place. Titled “The Ladder,” the program was three-tiered, offering support and enrichment for new, mid-career and established artists. Two artists, Ella Rothschild and Orly Portal, received residencies to complete a new production as part of said program. Both will reveal their works in the coming month.
Rothschild’s Pigulim employs the largest cast of any work being presented this year. Twenty-six dancers gather round a long dining table. Three of them play the main roles in the work while the rest, dancers from the Maslool professional training program, play supporting parts. The work speaks of extreme loneliness, which is only exacerbated by the group setting. For this work, Rothschild teamed up with musician Gershon Waiserfirer, whom she has collaborated with in the past.
Portal’s Fakarouni brings three veteran dancers to the stage. In Portal’s first work for male dancers, she challenges gender stereotypes while establishing a new ritual that is connected to eternal love. Set to the music of Egyptian legend Umm Kulthum, Fakarouni channels passion, longing, resistance and connection through the male form. “This dance is a love song for love, for all my loved ones and lovers. A song of praise for the ability to be a loving woman who is not dependent on love,” writes Portal of the work.
Also presenting a new work is choreographer Adi Boutrous. In One More Thing, Boutrous, joined on stage by three additional male dancers, explores masculinity and male identity. By establishing a practice based on listening and empathy, Boutrous subverts the inevitable power dynamics of alphas and pack mentality.
Another intriguing premiere is that of choreographer Shaden Abu Elasal. In Trilogy, the four female dancers of Shaden Dance Company are seen in three locations; the courtyard of the Suzanne Dellal Center, a dance film shot in the market in Nazareth’s Old City and on the stage. Each location influences the body and the viewer’s perception of its movement.
It is hard to say if the center lucked out with this program or not. On one hand, this year’s Tel Aviv Dance promises to be one of the most intriguing to date. The participating artists are not only among the more interesting voices around, they will each show the results of fascinating and diverse journeys. If anyone is capable of adapting to a digital platform, it is this group. However, had this festival been held in live form, it would have certainly been one to remember.
Tel Aviv Dance will take place from September 8 to September 16. For more information, visit