Music on a high

Once a year Bat Yam takes on a very different appearance and persona, as the annual International Street Theater & Art Festival kicks off.

‘Les Girafes’ by the Compagnie Off street arts gang incorporates red, eight-meter versions of the towering beast, augmented by the vocals of an opera singer. (photo credit: YACHATZ)
‘Les Girafes’ by the Compagnie Off street arts gang incorporates red, eight-meter versions of the towering beast, augmented by the vocals of an opera singer.
(photo credit: YACHATZ)
When you think of Bat Yam – if you do at all – you might see images of a typical Tel Avivesque suburban sprawl, or even the fetching boardwalk.
Once a year the city takes on a very different appearance and persona, as the annual Bat Yam Street International Street Theater & Art Festival kicks off.
This year’s fun extravaganza will take place on August 26-29 at the aforementioned seafront location, when bigger, more colorful and more eye-catching are the aesthetic order of the day. The 18th edition of the country’s leading street theater bash will offer the public a feast of color, rhythms, a view of all manner of objects, of all shapes and sizes, humorous creations and the odd madcap artistic creation.
All told, the festival program features over 30 productions, both local and from abroad. The disciplinary lineup takes in dance, theater, circus acts, acrobatics and musical parades, to name but a few of the genres that will be on offer to one and all over the four days of the free festival.
If you make your way over to Bat Yam next week, and are in need of a belly laugh or two, you could do worse than to be around for The Horsemen, an act by French trio Les Goulus. The French threesome is something of a throwback to slapstick visual comedy of yore and, in an age when stand-up comedy increasingly relies on shocking its audience, Les Goulus offers good clean fun which is more than a little on the ridiculous side.
Francophiles should be happy with the foreign contingent at the festival, with three of the imports hailing from France.
Les Goulus’ compatriot acts include Les Tambours by the Transe Express troupe.
The name of the act – “drums” in French – gives the essence of the show away, as the seven members of the group reel off tightly coordinated drum rolls and beats dressed in colorful retro soldiers’ uniforms.
Meanwhile, if physical volume is anything to go by, Les Girafes by the Compagnie Off street arts gang should claim the day. The show incorporates red, eight-meter versions of the titular towering beast with the visual spectacular augmented by the equally voluminous vocals of an opera singer.
There is more in the way of unconventionally presented musical entertainment lined up when David Moreno from Spain takes the streets of Bat Yam – or perhaps that should be the sky.
Moreno is a pianist with well-rounded training in classical music, jazz, blues and various other genres. But he realized some years ago that it is not always enough to have talent and a good education; you have to bring the crowds in. To do that, it can help to offer something a little left field in the way of entertainment, and Moreno does that with aplomb, even if it means playing the ivories from a strange angle, and doing it a full 6 meters above street level.
“I thought up the idea in 2008,” explains Moreno. “I felt I needed to do something different. I felt I needed to do something with a lot of visibility.”
Moreno has been in show business for around 20 years, although he didn’t start out with such grandiose plans.
“In 1995 I started to work with theater companies, composing music for them.
So to begin with, I was out in front of an audience,” he says.
Playing the piano can, as many a physiotherapist will attest, be a taxing business for most physiques. So, surely, tickling the ivories sitting at right angles to the ground, suspended high in the air, presents its own challenges.
Moreno says he does not have to adapt his keyboard technique to the angle of musical attack, but Mother Earth has her own prerequisites which entail some special physical exertions.
“I have to deal with gravity,” he notes.
“I play against gravity. Normally, when you play the piano you have gravity on your side. But when I play, up in the air, I especially have to use my arms and neck against the force of gravity. So I use the energy of my upper body, close to the piano, in a completely different position. I have to keep myself fit, especially in my upper body area.”
While Moreno’s artistic endeavor can be easily heard at ground level, with the benefit of amplification, it is a little hard to catch a glimpse of his finger-work from so far away. But there is plenty in the way of visual goodies to take in while Moreno reels off works from a mixture of various genres, as the closed lid of the grand piano provides the backdrop for some intriguing video artwork, and there are some dramatic pyrotechnics to go along with the musical fare.
Presumably, Moreno has never suffered from a fear of heights. It appears that the Spaniard didn’t cover that logistical base in his pre-premiere planning.
“I started working on the first show and then, suddenly, I started wondering how I was going to feel sitting up there, so far up in the sky,” he recalls.
“Then the show was about to start and I thought, Well I’d better get on with it.”
Luckily, no dizzy spells were encountered and Moreno has been performing his suspended musical act to wildly enthusiastic audiences all over the world for eight years and counting.
While he dangles high above the Bat Yam seafront, his midair finger-work will be complemented by some entertainment on good old terra firma, with a female choir and a bunch of drummers to hand.
There is plenty of quality entertainment available from the local sector, too, which takes in over 20 shows and art installations.
Adva Yirmiyahu will take a leaf out of Moreno’s domestic cultural book with her Camino show, which is based on flamenco dance and which feeds off all manner of outdoor elements.
In contrast with Moreno, Ofir Yudilevich and his colleague from the Jerusalem- based Hazira Performance Art Arena, Asher Ratt, will give in to the pull of the Earth in their Gravitas show, which shows what can happen when acrobats go with the gravity flow.
And if you’re looking to get into rhythmic grooves, Yogev Haruvi’s Tirivo show should do it for you. Haruvi has assembled a monster-sized solo system of percussion instruments and didgeridoos on which he creates a textured decibel-rich sound that straddles the sonic boundary between acoustic and electronic sound, with a tribal feel.
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