Stompin' at the Savyon

The spanking-new Savyon center will improve cultural life for residents all over the Center, and beyond.

Savyon center (photo credit: AMIT HAAS)
Savyon center
(photo credit: AMIT HAAS)
If you happen to live in the environs of Savyon (or, more precisely, the greater Ono Valley area, which takes in a large residential hinterland from Givat Shmuel to the north, through Kiryat Ono and Ganei Yehuda, and on to Yehud and Or Yehuda to the south), there is every chance that your cultural life will improve appreciably in the very near future.
The spanking-new Savyon Cultural Center officially opened for business last Saturday night, with local Mayor Moti Landau providing ribbon-cutting services.
When I visited the venue last week staff and contractors were still applying the finishing touches to the place – even with the plastic covers on the comfy-looking red seats in the 300-seater auditorium, the odd loose wire dangling from the ceiling and planks of wood scattered hither and thither – it was clear that local culture consumers were in for a welcome boon.
Local council spokeswoman Tamar Willefort says the facility started out as an altogether more modest affair.
“It was a small community center which offered all the regular community center services,” she explains. “It was built in the 1970s, I think, and it showed movies on Friday evenings. There were lectures and that sort of thing. All that began to change around 12 years ago, when the Braude Family [that owned the building] decided to donate the place so that it could be turned into something bigger.”
I didn’t catch the building in its previous incarnation, but the new center is undeniably a state-of-the-art venture designed to provide as broad a cultural offering as possible, equipped with high-level gear and compatible physical infrastructure.
The interior design, for starters, conveys a sense of welcoming and space.
“The idea was to have all this as openplan as possible so that when people walk around between the workshop rooms and the auditorium and other places, they get a sense of a roominess,” notes Dr. Avishai Yaar, who describes his role at the center as “artistic director and general dogsbody.”
“People can see each other and, I think, that creates communication and interaction, and good energy,” he says.
Yaar adds that the same goes for the auditorium.
“We designed the hall as a sort of mini-Italian-opera house, which conveys a sense of intimacy and allows people to see each other.”
We converse outside one of the workshop/ activity rooms and have a good view of the bridge walkways on the first floor that connect the upper section of the auditorium to the corridors. The corridors, in turn, lead to the aforesaid rooms and offices.
There is a generously proportioned dance room complete with floor-to-ceiling mirror on two walls, which, says Yaar, will not only provide local dance enthusiasts with a comfortable facility for going through their paces, but also generate new works.
“We hope to have a house dance company that will create here, and then perform the new shows,” he says.
It looks like the side rooms are going to earn their keep, with a wide range of earnest pursuits of an educational and cultural/artistic nature lined up. The 2015-16 program booklet lists a very broad swath of activities for all ages, tastes and interests – in sports, music, drama, dance, hands-on creativity, philosophy and wholesome, family-oriented sessions.
Willefort is unashamedly delighted with the new venture.
“It is a joy to work from here,” she exclaims. “In the afternoons, you get all these school kids coming here for all sorts of activities, and the place comes alive. You feel a breath of fresh air blow through here every time.”
That refreshing shift in energy level, in fact, comes from all quarters and all age groups. The sports lineup, for example, includes soccer, handball, karate, gymnastics and acrobatics. There is also a fitness room, which helps teenagers get their muscles in tune ahead of army service, and a basketball court. The young people who participate range from preschoolers to teenage members of youth groups, and include both genders. Add to all this a wellness program for adults, including senior citizens, and you have a pretty comprehensive spread of health-related offerings.
Music, naturally, is a major player at the Savyon Cultural Center arena. Again, the program accounts for as wide a range of tastes and age groups as possible.
The tiny tots activity will introduce little ones to the mysteries of the sounds made by various instruments in an experiential and development-tailored way, while older kids can see where their natural acting and movement gifts take them in the musicals activity sessions, the idea being to achieve an entertaining end-product that can eventually be performed for the delight of the general public.
In addition, there is the Uriah Savyon Choir, a choral slot for women that focuses and classical and Israeli fare, and the Piano and Young Chamber Music Center, which conveys the rudiments of classical musicianship based on an innovative method of piano playing, the development of a musical ear and musical score-reading. Plastic and virtual arts also feature prominently in the center’s repertoire and take in a hi-art-tech group, animation, ceramics, sculpture, photography and painting.
The aforementioned auditorium is the centerpiece of the new NIS 60 million facility, and Yaar has lined up an impressive program of world music concerts from here and abroad. The initial batch of five shows includes folk and traditional music from Sicily; dark, bluesy Fado numbers from Portugal; the feted Barrocade Ensemble in tandem with internationally renowned counter tenor Yaniv D’or, and an ethnic dance and music festival that will showcase a cross section of the styles we have to offer from our domestic melting pot.
Residents from the nearby cultural consumer belt can also save themselves the time, fuel and aggravation of driving to Tel Aviv or Jerusalem if they want to catch some of the movies normally available only to Tel Aviv Cinematheque patrons, as well as theatrical works produced by Jerusalem’s Khan Theater, as they will now be on offer on a regular basis in Savyon.
And if cerebral and eye-opening information is your thing, you will be well catered to by the center’s lecture series, which features talks on the history of Islam, classical Greek culture, Mediterranean music, romantic music and a tasty slot titled “Cuba, Between Communism and the Salsa Clubs.” Classical music is also high up on the entertainment agenda, with an intriguing series of concerts courtesy of the Israel Camerata Orchestra Jerusalem, opening on November 28 with Symphony No. 14 by Shostakovich and Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings.
“We don’t compromise on quality here,” states Yaar.
Yet the center will not just be about the locals coming in to get some quality entertainment or informational enlightenment. Yaar, Willefort and their colleagues also want people from the Savyon catchment area to feel part and parcel of the place. The numerous paintings and other works of art, produced by enthusiastic amateur artists and placed in the center corridors, are testimony to that healthy bonding mindset.