The moment all the particles become a work of art – Dani Karavan

 

Dance Today edited by Ruth Eshel, issue no.22, August 2012, pp: 75

 

Dedicated to my friend Giora Manor)

I was privileged to work in the presence of Martha Graham and take part in the creation of four dances she composed. My relation with Graham began following one of her many visits to the country when I had the opportunity to see the premiere of Megilat Ruth (1961) to the choreography of Sarah Levi Tanai, to the music of Ovadia Tuvia and my own set design. This was the first set design I created for dance, and there is no doubt that the work was influenced by the spirit of Graham's creations and by the way Noguchi's sets were integrated into them. The creation process together with Levy-Tanai, Tuvia and the dancers was really exciting. In those years Inbal Dance Theatre, directed by Sarah Levi-Tanai, occupied a special and respected place in the international world of dance. Many choreographers came to see the wonder of the unique Yemenite dance. One of them was the great choreographer Jerome Robins.

 

The premiere was held at the Ohel Shem Hall in Tel Aviv. The performance ended, the curtain came down, the stage back-door opened and Martha Graham, accompanied by the Baroness Batsheva de Rothschild, stood in front of me and said: "You have created a great theatre, and I want to dance in your theatre". Apparently I responded to her words with skepticism and therefore she repeated her words, "I am telling you that you have created a great theatre". The next day I was invited to meet her at Rothschild's home. Graham explained to me that the Union's regulations in the United States required transferring my set to the hands of one of the union members' set designers there. In all the publication his name would appear in big letters and next to it my name in small letters. She instantly added that this situation was unacceptable to her and that she would find a way to prevent this injustice.

 

After about a year we received – Mordechai Seter, who was asked by Graham to compose music for her new creation and I, who was chosen to design the set – a kind of synopsis of the new dance she was about to create. The dance, a medieval story taking place in a monastery, did not touch Seter's heart. Graham did not give up and chose the story of Judith (Yehudit) of the Jewish tradition. She had no given instructions or requirements, leaving everything open. It is not easy to work this way. Only in the meeting in Rome, to which I was invited, she motioned me to the direction via small gifts she presented to me. These were objects from the Luristan Culture, findings from some two thousand years ago. The hint was slight and charming. Correspondence between us began. I sent her many dozens of sketches I had prepared for her and when the time came to build a model I sent her some photographs.

 

It was determined that the premiere of Judith would be in Tel Aviv, on Graham's dance group tour in Israel and Europe. The performance took place at the Habima Theatre, where I had experienced already in the 50s the group's first performances. Graham enjoyed hearing the stories of how we sneaked into her performances, which stunned us. Right upon landing at Lod airport she asked Baroness Rothschild to take her to the workshop, where the parts of the set I had built, at the small carpenter's workshop of the set designer Zeev-Shemen Halperin, were located. Graham took off her shoes, walked around in the cramped carpenter's workshop between the saws, drills and boards and began dancing and jumping on the set. We were afraid she might fall or a rusty nail might get stuck into here foot, but fortunately all went well and I understood that she loved the set.

 

The next day I placed the set at Inbal's rehearsal basement. The group's first meeting with the set evoked some apprehensions in me; however, the encounter was a wonderful moment – a total integration between the shapes I had created and the dancers' movements. My set integrated into Graham and her dancers' unique style.

 

In the rehearsals on the Habima stage we saw – Seter and I – a great artist debating with herself, uncertain, examining and testing, changing the movement, the directions and the positions over and over again. She continued walking back and forth on the stage over and over again. We asked ourselves, what will be? How is it going to end? Is it ever going to end? The situation was really frightening. Gary Bertini, who conducted the orchestra, repeated sections of the music again and again at her request. Graham continued debating, consulted with the dancers and made countless attempts. Suddenly came the formative moment of the birth of a creation: it was a one-time moment I had never experienced before, or after. It was amazing. All the creation parts – the movement, the costumes (which Graham created herself), the music and the set – became one essence, all it parts inseparable.

 

The premiere of Judith was a great success. When the curtain went down the audience erupted in applause. Only one person, looking respectable, who was sitting in front of me, stood up and shouted, BOO! BOO! It turned out that there were still people who regarded her work injury to the inner sanctum of dance. Many years earlier Graham suffered a traumatic experience which she told me about more than once. On her first trip to Europe after World War II she appeared in the Spring Festival of Florence ("Maggio Musicale"). When the curtain came down, most of the crowd hooted and shouted Boo. She came out to the front of the stage, arm in arm with the group members, holding her fist out to the audience. This is the fate of those advancing their contemporaries. She claimed repeatedly that there were no advancers, only "those who are behind". I was not surprised that after the premiere my friends told me, "What have you actually done? It appears as if the set has been planned by the choreographer herself and you just carried out her ideas". This has been my dream ever since I began drawing sets (today it is called set designing): I always wanted to be part of a total piece of art. I was drawn to the theatre and dance out of the need to be part of a creation which contains all the arts giving all of them together a new quality. Working with Graham gave me the feeling that I was being filled. The work process was saturated with talks, notes, insights and inspiring stories. After such an experience it is very hard to work with someone else. For a long period of time I continued standing on one stage with her, unable to understand how I became so fortunate to work with one of the great and revolutionary figures of the twentieth century culture.

 

Graham held a premiere for Judith on Broadway, and shortly afterwards she ordered from Seter and me music and a set for a new creation called Dream and Reality. The process repeated itself. Once again, the same debating and misunderstanding. "Do whatever comes to your mind" she told me. I felt as if she was asking me to "go on air, on nothing, make a dream come true". After she approved the model photographs I had sent her I began building the set in Israel, at Shemen's carpenter' shop. The set was sent to New York and I went to supervise staging it. I was worried, but I had no problems with the union of the set builders on Broadway.

 

I will never forget that Sunday morning, a day after arriving in New York at the house of my friends the dancer Leah Levine and the dancer and choreographer Donald McKayle. On that same morning I received from McKayle the keys to Graham's studio and I went out for the first time to New York. I walked alone in the empty streets, the skyscrapers mounting up until they touched the blue skies – and I with them. I reached 62nd Street, a little east of Second Avenue. I put the studio key into the lock, turned it and the door opened. On the wooden floor my set was standing, installed, my set for reality and dream.

 

Later on, On Broadway, the Olympus of the theatre: The curtain rises on my set for Judith and Dream and Reality and the audience applauds. Graham added in my honor Judith to the two new dances she had created Reality and Dream to Seter's music and my set, and the Witch of Endor to the music of Robert Schumann and the setting of Ming-Chu-Li, an impressive set designer.

 

Graham was no longer in shape and her movements were limited. It was difficult for her to watch her dancers, young people with supreme body skills, dancing next to her. She caused some provocations, continued moving on the stage and consumed their time in the intervals between one dance and the other, which was oppressively long. It turned out that her amazing seamstress had to make her a new dress and therefore the interval lasted endlessly.

 

After several years she addressed me again and ordered from me the set for a new dance she created: The Holy Jungle. On my last premiere with her on Broadway I painfully saw Graham, who had to pass on her roles to other dances, younger than her, sitting wrapped in a fur coat in the corner of the dark and cold hall, watching the dancer Ethel Winter dancing beautifully the dance Appalachian Spring. Right after the rehearsal Graham vanished into her make-up room. Coming out she incidentally ran into Winter, who was coming down the stairs. "How was I?" asked Winter and Graham answered: "You were great! And it hurt me." I met Rudolf Nureyev behind stage, at the premiere of the Holy Jungle. It was after Graham decided to invite Nureyev to join her group in her new creation. Thus she reached a hand to Classical Ballet, after years of criticizing and objecting it.

 

My last cooperation with her was in Jacob's Ladder, a choreography she created especially for the Batsheva Dance Ensemble. This is the only creation she composed for a dance group that was not her own. The choreography was ordered by Leah Porat, director of the Council of Art and Culture, after the Baroness Rothschild abandoned the group carrying her name. Graham accepted the invitation thus expressing her sharp criticism of her great friend, who transferred her support to the dancer and choreographer Jeanette Ordman and the Bat-Dor dance group.

 

Towards the end I am returning to the beginning, to the establishment of the Batsheva Dance Ensemble. On the dress rehearsal, at a poor and cold cinema hall in Herzliya, Graham was watching. Also then she found it difficult to watch other dancers perform her dances and her role. She walked back and forth and sipped from the "chicken soup" cup smelling of alcohol. Often she used to wash down her pains and doubts with alcohol. Later on she was pleased about the accomplishment of the group's work and accompanied the group she had established for years.  The successful performance proved that Graham's works of art could be performed by another group, full of youthful strength and power. Graham disappeared and Baroness Rothschild approached me and said: "Everything is just wonderful, but before whom shall we perform? After all, there are no dance fans in the country ". Nevertheless, the group became the star of the famous Holland Dance Festival of the 60s and conquered its place in Israel and worldwide.

 

The dress-rehearsal in Herzliya was probably the beginning of the road towards turning Israel into an international dance world-power. Seeing today the large audiences filling out the halls, the abundance of dance groups, the Israeli dancers and choreographers, it is worth remembering that it all began in a small cinema hall in Herzliya, where the Batsheva Dance group was established.

 

The step the Baroness had taken undermined the trust Graham had in her: how was it possible to support at the same time Graham and her group as well as Ordman and Bat-Dor? She did everything she could to stop the move that seemed a hard blow to the group she had established for her friend De Rothschild, and which she regarded as her own group.

 

Much more can be written about this affair, with documents enclosed (letters Graham sent me and others so we may help her prevent what seemed to her as a disaster). Graham experienced the Baroness' desertion as victory for mediocrity on genius. Therefore she accepted the invitation of Linda Hodes, who danced in her group and was Batsheva's art director, to create the dance Jacob's Ladder for Batsheva. The initiative received the approval of Leah Porat, CEO of the Art and Culture Council, who agreed to finance the dance. The work was very interesting (Seter wrote the music and I designed the set). In the course of her work on the new creation Graham realized how much her work was injuring her friend, who had saved her and her group, and returned to New York with a very heavy feeling. In Jacob's Dream the connection between Graham and Ohad Naharin was established. Ohad, who performed in an outstanding way the role she had given him requested to join Graham's group in New York and she gladly accepted him.

 

The circle closed when Naharin took upon himself the role of Art Direction of Batsheva and became the group's choreographer (in 2014 the group will celebrate its 50th anniversary). He created for Batsheva numerous exciting dances and placed it back where it was at the beginning of its road – an important Israeli and international dance group.

 

Dani Karavan. In the years 1960-1975 designed sets for the Cameri theatre, Inbal and Batsheva dance groups, for Martha Graham in New York, for the Opera of Jan Carlo Minuti in Festivals in Israel, Florence and Spolto. In 1976 he represented Israel at the Biennale di Venezia (The Venice Biennale) and created in the Israeli pavilion the Environment for Peace. A year later he was invited to participate in Documente 6 in Kassel. Since then Karavan created numerous site-specific artworks throughout the world among the Negev Memorial Monument, Kikar Levana, Morro in Japan, Cergy in France and Port-Bou in Spain. He was awarded many prestigious international prizes among them: Israel Prize for Sculpture (1977), Peace Artist for UNESCO (1996), The Kaiser Ring Award for Visual Arts in Germany (1996), Japan Emperor's Award – the Nobel Prize for arts (1998), Berlin Award for Sculpture (2004). Karavan has been active for the promotion of peace since the early 50s and was among the initiators of the Bauhaus conservation in Tel Aviv.

 

Aviva Ori – Interviewing Gila Toledano

Dance Today- the Dance Magazine of Israel

Editors:  Dr. Ruth Eshel & Dr. Henia Rottenberg

Issue no. 17, May 2010, pp 61-67

Published with the assistance of the Ministry of  Science, Culture and Sports

Publisher: Tmuna Theatre

 

Gila Toledano, who passed away at the age of 82 in October 2009, is knows to the dance community due to her contribution and special relationship with Sarah Levy Tanai and the Inbal Dance theatre and with the Dance Library in Beit Ariela. Following are translated from Hebrew parts of the interview Aviva Ori held with her in July 1999, by courtesy of the Dance Library at Beit Ariela.

How did you come to engage as a folk-dancing instructor?

I started with folk dancing in 1943. I was an active member of the youth movement "Gordonya" (after the reunion with a branch of "Machanot Haolim" [the newcomers camps], the new movement was called "Hatnu'a Hame'uchedet" [the United Movement]. We were getting ready for the Movement's Day, which was due to take place in the presence of the Yishuv leaders at that time. With the 'chutzpah' [impudence] of youth and the lack of knowledge of those days, I took upon myself to organize the event performances. Among them I wanted to include a performance of a medley of folkdances. Here I encountered a problem – in fact, there are no Israeli folkdances, excluding two or three dances – Yemina Yemina, Cherkesiya, and Cherkesiya  kfulla.   Along with those, we danced the dances the first pioneers brought to the country and turned them into our folkdances – Polka, Krakoviak and the Horah. It was hard to imagine a festive performance composed of these dances. I turned to Gurit Kadman (then Gert Kaufmann), my former teacher, and asked for her advice.  Her answer was: "This is the problem".  She told me that she had brought together folkdance creators from various parts of the country to create dances for various holidays and events. Each one of them was confined to the place where he work and operated – like Rivka Shturman, Lea Bergstein, Shalom Hermon,  Ze'ev Havatzelet as well as youngsters who operated in this field in various settlements. The goal was to get out of this confinement – to learn from each other and disseminate the dances, thus fertilizing the folk creation that was beginning to form in the country. This was the beginning of the folkdance movement.

Gurit invited me to participate. This is how I started my activity as an instructor in the folkdance movement set up by Gurit Kadman, an activity that lasted about 16 years. The circumstance in the country at that time (the Palmach and the War of Independence) did not always enable me on-going activity, though I tried not to miss any meeting and/or course. Upon the end of the War of Independence Gurit Kadman offered me to leave any other work and devote myself to instructing folk dances, since there was readiness in the Ministry of Education to try and introduce folkdance lessons into the extra-curricular framework (after the formal school hours). This was an appealing and tempting offer. Here a new and interesting chapter started for me.

Haim Dagan was a supervisor at the Ministry of Education, who favored the idea and started setting it in motion. Walking down the corridors of the Ministry of Education (then located in Tel-Aviv, on Rothschild Ave.) we were greeted with the words:"Here are the two madmen". The words were said in good spirit, yet doubtlessly it looked like a dream in an illusive brain. And like any dream, only people with a passionate interest make the way for its materialization. The dream came true and the experience succeeded way beyond our expectations. After several years, Shalom Hermon revived it in the framework of the "Dancing School Project". I taught in elementary schools in a network deployed from Rehovot to Pardes Hannah, and that in addition to groups and dancing troupes in various settlements. In fact, I became the first "professional" amongst the folkdance instructors, and in those days the only one. I devoted myself to working only in this field, and not as an additional job or a hobby.

I preferred working at newcomers' settlements and in the suburbs rather than with "spoiled and sated" youth from well-established homes, because there I felt I was needed and contributing. At that time the newcomers' settlements were located mainly near the border, and their living conditions were hard, generally without electricity. In these places we held our activities in the light of field lanterns. Most of the instructors' work was done without any music and we generally accompanied ourselves with singing, where it was possible. The musical accompaniment was by means of small records, issued by Gurit Kadman for a few of the dance songs which were popular then (Ma'im Ma'im, Harmonica, Horah Agadati ect.).

I'll tell you one incident from that period. I was teaching in one of the newcomers' settlements located not far from Petch Tikva, but was considered a border settlement since it was located near the border at that time, a border that was not quiet. It was one of the single cases in which I had an accordionist to accompany me. My gain was doubled – I had an accompanist and in addition, he owned a motorcycle with an extra side seat so he could drive me and my accordion. One day, my accompanist informed me in the last moment that he was unable to come. I knew that the group members were waiting for me, and since I had no communication means with the settlements (there were no phones) to let them know that the lesson was cancelled, I went by bus up to Petch Tikva and from there hitchhiked up to the path leading to the Moshav (small holders' cooperative settlement) that was several kilometers long. Only due to my sense of responsibility did I walk this distance alone, although it was already dark. Obviously, by the time I arrived I found a dark sleeping Moshav. Fortunately, I met several boys from the dancing group on their way home. They were astounded to see me. I apologized for the big delay and explained to them what had happened and how I came despite everything. Their reaction was: "Everybody has already gone to sleep. Do you want to tell us that you have walked alone in the dark to the main road?" They accompanied me and waited till a car that would take me to Petach Tikva arrived. There was no lesson, but I surely had "an experience" in the spirit of the period.

 

Did you dance in the "Hapoel" Dance Group?

I danced in the "Hapoel" dance group that existed at the time, with Gurit Kadman as the instructor.  From that group the generation of instructors emerged. This is the first group in which we performed the Sherale and the Sher [Hassidic music and dances-DB]. These were the dances that we rehearsed and performed. We trained at the Nahmani Hall in Tel-Aviv, which served in those days as Hapoel's Gym hall. The courses for folkdance instructors took place in various locations in Tel-Aviv – Bet Hinuch (The house of Education) in Tchernichovsky St., Bet Pe'ilei Hahistadrut and more, as well as outside Tel-Aviv. There were Friday-Saturday gatherings and there were courses that lasted a week and even more in camp-boarding-school conditions. It did not matter where we met the main thing was that we danced. We had, on various occasions, performances that I would call – small ones, not "bombastic" performances. At that time the madness of travelling abroad, which was accelerated later, did not exist yet. The first dancing group that went abroad on a tour, as a professional group, was Inbal in 1957. It is true that about three times, if I am not mistaken about the number, also an amateur Israeli dance group of Israeli folkdances took part in festivals of the Social Democratic Youth organized by Zeev Havatzelet, on behalf of my movement – Hashomer Hatza'ir.  For this purpose he established a group ad-hoc. I did not belong to this trend of the Working Israel and took no part in it.

 

How was your relationship established with Sara Levi Tanai and Inbal?

Sara was teaching the first Folkdance instructors' courses when I first met her. I met her husband, Yisrael, through a close friend of mine, who worked with him at the Israel Teachers' Union (Yisrael was the office manager of the Teachers' Union). One evening in 1950 the three couples met – Yisrael and Sara, my friend and her husband and I and my husband – at a theatre play at Habima. On this occasion Sarah asked to meet with me. In our meeting she told me that she was offered by Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael (Jewish National Fund) and Keren Hayeson (United Israel Appeal) to prepare the Water Festival that was going to take place on Shavuot (Pentecost), marking the laying of the water pipe to the eleven 'hunger road' settlements, which had settled in the Negev. She could not accept this job unless I agreed to work with her. Sara would prepare the performance program; I would receive the material from her and teach the settlements' members who would participate in the event (Sara had two little children and was unable to go out to the settlements and prepare them for the event). Should I accept her offer she would accept their offer, subject to its being a package deal – Sara and Gila. Of course I agreed.

In the course of my work with Sara on the Feast of Shavuot and the Water she told me that she had assembled youth of Yemenite origin, and that she was working with them. She was not sure yet where she was heading, however, she felt a deep need to work with them and absorb their authenticity. Sara asked me to help her with this work of hers. In terms of that time I was already considered "a professional"' since I had studied and worked in this field for several years. From the large group of about 30 youngsters she worked with remained a small and assiduous group of seven, who are the founders of the future Inbal. I started working with them in 1951, after the performance in the Negev. I used to sit when Sarah was teaching, and then I gave the rehearsals and "cleaned" the material they had studied from Sara.

By the way, Gurit was very angry with me for supposedly having "betrayed" her and followed Sara. For several years she continued bearing a grudge against me. But in fact, at the same time as I was working with Sarah and her group I continued teaching folkdances throughout the country – dance study circles, groups, performances, giving courses for young instructors. I went on doing it for several years longer, up to Inbal's first trip abroad in 1957 which lasted 8 months. Upon my return from the tour I continued teaching here and there, but this was already the end of my work as a folkdance instructor. There were two reasons, one following the other: I experienced great disappointment concerning the line our folkdances developed. A change occurred in the concept of the approach towards performances – emphasis on external impression and various gimmicks that affected the approach towards folkdances in general. In my opinion, this change was at the expense of the work of creation that should have still been seeking its roots and its way. I said – sorry, I am not willing to give a hand to this. We should remember that we are talking about the beginning of the 1950's. We are still at the beginning of the road. We still do not know what the Israeli folkdances will be like; we are still searching and seeking our new identity and the contents of its expressions, as Rivka Shturman is doing. Turning to the external will harm and might even destroy the slow and in-depth construction, which will eventually produce the Israeli Folk Dance. A mixture was generated – the stage "got into" the folk dance, the social dance. It was forgotten that there is a difference between a folkdance for the stage, and the simple folkdance danced in society; the power of folkdance lies in its simplicity, which can be danced by anyone at any age. The mixture of these domains, the wrong direction caused certain contempt. In the performances, less attention was given to the dancing steps and more emphasis was given to gimmicks and to drawing applauds. I did not like it, but unfortunately, we were only a small group who thought so, among them was Tamar Elyagon. We rebelled and we did not want to accept the change in the folkdances. We maintained that we were still at the initial period of our folkdances. We were still searching the uniqueness which characterizes and fits in and any diversion from this way at such an early stage would divert our doing to undesirable directions. The [dance] creators are still with us and they are not anonymous. We have learnt from the original and it was our duty to pass on the dances accurately, as we have studied from the creators themselves. This small group did not have the power to stop the drift (unfortunately I was not wrong. The facts in the field – the shallowness and the inflation of the folkdances prove it). The establishment was stronger. They wanted to send folkdance group to perform abroad and then of course it was important how they look.  The merrymaking and revelry started around this.

How would you really define folkdances in general and an Israeli folkdance in particular?

Our folkdances did not grow slowly and organically in a homogeneous society and a closed environment.  We create our own folkdances. A motley population has gathered in the country when the only element linking us together is our being Jewish, having the same ancient traditional roots and with one aspiration – to renew our homeland in our ancient country. Our culture, the Israeli one, will emerge from this heterogeneous crowd, and it is that which will generate the glue uniting us into one people. At this stage we are still in the formation process. It is impossible to define what the Israeli folkdance is. It was created in an artificial way – a non-sifted and unclear mix and sometime even shallow. However, one prominent element can be pointed out: there is certain energy and a certain color characterizing our folkdance. Even when a "non-Israeli" dance is danced – it is performed differently, with a different color. We can see it also in the artistic dance.

Do you have any criticism regarding what is being done in the field of Israeli folkdances?

The doing has turned into the "industry" of folkdances – as a business of making money; an inflation of new dances without any creative thinking or search for roots and means. A complete blur has occurred between folkdances and their significance and fashionable universal social dances. The entire work of search for the Israeli folkdance has stopped in its early stages, prior to their consolidation. This is also expressed in the melodies and songs accompanying the dances. A folkdance is built up from several basic steps characterizing its people and several melodies and songs accompany it. With us, each song and melody has several dances. Even foreign songs, which are universally fashionable, such as Eurovision songs are not abhorred. One gets the impression that there is a competition – who will compose more dances regardless of their movement or musical quality.

Despite my criticism about what is happening in the field of our folkdances, I would like to end this section in an optimistic note. Dancing is a social need and people want to dance and sing. Nowadays, folk dancing is not shared only by few, but encompasses the entire nation on its various ages. Therefore, maybe excessive doing, although uncontrolled, is better than a "drought". I believe in doing. From much doing – sifting is possible; if there is no doing there is nothing to sift. I am realistic and I know that in our era, when there are no boundaries and barriers against immediate world-wide influences, it is very difficult, or even impossible, to withdraw into a closed shell. Therefore, I put my hope on the sifting that time will perform. We do not know what will remain and what the Israeli folk dance will be. Only the future will tell.

And something about your biography

I was born in 1927 in Tel-Aviv. […] I wanted to study dancing, but my mother used to say, "How come dancing? Only Gypsies dance. Music – yes, to study music? That is all right; but to dance? No!" My attraction to dancing was stronger than any barrier, and I attained it through folk dancing. On this my mother reacted, "I didn't let you enter the dancing world through the door, so you entered through the window". But this was an unsmooth entrance. My true desire to dance has never been satisfied. All along the years I operated in the field of dancing, but not as I wanted – I was not a dancer. […] I want to tell you something that might clarify what dancing meant to me. When I started working with Inbal I was present in the rehearsals, and more than once I had to leave because I felt I was going to burst into tears. I wanted so badly to dance. I truly experienced it as a physical pain, but it was already too late. I was already married and a mother of small children. I could not afford such a drastic change that would doubtlessly harm my family. After all, it was not at all clear to me whether I was cut out to be a dancer, and if so – which level I could reach. In order to find out I would have to try myself in field work, which would undoubtedly harm my family. Only a great talent can justify such an extreme step. I believed that I had no moral right to make the experience on my family's back, therefore it was too late. I gave up and decided: "If that is the case, do whatever you can so that others will dance". I completely plunged into the Inbal project. Inbal was not a place of work for me. Inbal became part of me, my second home that sometimes even affected my first home. My family remained with a "trauma" called Inbal. No matter how hard I tried that the work in Inbal would not affect my home, everything I did for my home and in the difficult conditions that existed at that time – it did not help. They understood how important Inbal was for me – and they were jealous. They regarded Inbal as robbing the full-job mother from them. More than once I lodged some of Inbal's dancers at home.  My daughter used to say that when she came home she would never know who of the Inbal members she would find in her room.

I wanted to dance so badly. Thanks to Anna Sokolov I attended the technique lessons the dance group received. I asked her if I could participate in the lessons and her answer was, "What kind of a question is that? What does it mean 'may I participate?' You must participate". I stood at the end of the group, on the last row, and for that I was scolded: "What are you hiding from in the back? Come forward, I want to see you". This is how I took technique lessons each morning. The dancers practiced technique for an hour and a half and I only one hour, and from there I went to my work regarding the group's affairs. This happened each morning for quite a while. What a pleasure!

Let's talk about the Dance Library

I retired from Inbal in 1977. My retirement is a story in itself and I will not get into it. In 1984 I started my work at the Dance Library. In the years in between I did various things, all in the field of art. I had a small episode with Bat-Sheva dance group where I serves as vice CEO, designated to the role of CEO. This was a momentary and definitely wrong decision – to exchange being the CEO of a group I took part in establishing, and to which I belongs for so many years with the role of CEO of another, already existing group, designed in its own way, and where, with all due respect, I did not feel I belonged to. Very quickly I came to my senses. I understood that it was not the place for me and not what I wanted to do. One of the things that gave me this feeling of strangeness was the fact that life in the group, in all its strata, was conducted in English.

After this episode I carried out some projects, among them – I organized, for 4 years, performance in the "Youth Town" in Tel-Aviv, and I organized the establishment of "The Tel-Aviv Youngsters' Group" on behalf of the municipality. And then, one day my friend Giora Manor, the dance critic addressed me and said that the dance library, which was till then part of the Tel-Aviv music library, registered as a fellowship named "The Dance Library of Israel". A public director was appointed, headed by Bari Svirsky, who was at the time the general manager of Bat-Dor Dance Company, and Giora was appointed the artistic advisor of the library. He said to me – "take the library into your hands. Come and see what can be done". So I came. What was revealed to me was rather poor. The library was allocated a rather small room on the top floor of the music library on Bialik Street in Tel-Aviv, which was called then – "The Music and Dance Library". The dance books and the cassettes were in the music library, on the first floor. This library is a lending library, and also the dance books and the cassettes were lent out (to date some dozens of books from that period are missing and some cassettes were totally ruined). There were not many dance books and some of them were not even catalogued. There were about 130 video cassettes. In the room serving the dance library there was one video device; some scattered and unorganized files; papers; various programs and press cuttings mainly of dance companies abroad.

The dance library was established in 1975, initiated by women in the United States – Ann Wilson (former dancer), Estelle Sommers (the owner of "Capezio"), Yami Strum (who was active in America-Israel Cultural Foundation). They established the Friends Association of the Library that continues working also today. With the consent of Shlomo Chich, the Mayor of Tel-Aviv at the time, the dance library was attached to the music library. The Friends Association worried about the books and the video cassettes and took care of financing a person in charge of the library. The library did not function as an organized orderly library and its main activity was foreign-activity – cooperation with institutions for screening dance films. A year and a half prior to my arrival, there was no one in charge of the library.

Giora and I exchanges thoughts about what to do.  Upon my entering the job, I started first to put things in order to see what existed. I am not trained, nor was I trained then as a librarian. I have never studies librarianship or archivism.  As someone coming from the world of dance, I asked myself what I would look for in such a library.  First, I reached the conclusion that it was not possible to have an Israeli dance library almost without anything about Israel.  As my first step I decided to make amends. It was clear to me that meeting with old dancers and collecting material was the first step to take. I met with Rivka Shturman and Yehudit Orenstein. I interviewed them and received from them much material about them and their work. In those very days Nili Cohen, the dance referent at the Ministry of Education addressed me and told me about an idea that had been revolving around for about two years: documentation of the dance in Israel. The most suitable place to carry out this project is the Dance Library. Now, as we were beginning to revive the library it was time to start this project. Was I ready to take upon myself the subject when the Ministry of Education and Culture would finance the project? This fitted well in my thinking about the library, and thus, the project of dance documentation in Israel commenced  [Zvi Friedhaber and Ruth Eshel interviewed and brought  materials to the archive].  It has grown and developed along the years and turned into the central field in the Dance Library in Israel and the unique one in the world

Throughout the years, the Culture and Art Department in the Ministry of Education and Culture continues financing this project.

The archives is only one field in the library's work. It is interesting how additional fields have developed, consolidating the dance library's character and way of action. One day a dancing teacher asked to bring her students to the library in order to show them video dancing films. I asked her what she wanted to show her students and I realized that there was no logical connection between the works of art she desired. I asked her why she had selected those works of art in particular and her answer was – because this is what she liked. I told her that in my opinion that was an incorrect approach. The students should be given first some background and explanation regarding what they were about to see, but furthermore, I believed that it was preferable to concentrate on one piece of work,  to analyze and explain it; or, on a certain dance school of thought , and as demonstrations to the explanations – to show some parts of dances. Her students were very young and had no theoretical background. I explained to her that they would find it very difficult to watch complete, unfamiliar and uncomprehended works. They would get tired, loose interest and would become impatient. My words convinced her and she asked me if I would be willing to give her students a lecture. I did not know then that this opened an important library activity. Things developed quickly. More and more teachers started requesting lectures accompanies by video films.

And one more story. One day someone, who has a private conservatoire came to the library. He asked to bring his students to the library in order to teach them the connection between music and dance. Together we devised a program and we decided that he would prepare them in advance regarding the composers of the dance works they would see. Children at the age of 7-10 arrived. The exciting thing was that after a while this person came again and brought the library a present: an album with drawing, songs and stories the children prepared following the course in the library and the lecture they had attended.  A new important domain of the library work has been devised, which has developed and encompassed not only students, but lecture are given to the open public in various frameworks.

An additional area that has developed in the library – counseling in preparing theoretical dance papers. This area too has commenced by chance without early planning. Nowadays this is obviously part of the library's work.

The library's activity was gradually clarified and with time its ways of action were consolidated. We saw great importance in dance education, and as such it is unique among the dance library in the world. Lending books and cassettes has stopped. The library has turned into a place of study and research and not a lending library. The library and its collections have grown and the place was too small. With the agreement of the Association of the Dance Library in Israel and the Municipality of Tel-Aviv, the library was relocated, in 1968, to its new dwelling in Bet Ariela. The relocation gave a big boost to its development […].

I did not establish the library, yet I turned it to what it is today, obviously, in cooperation with Giora Manor, the management, which backed me up along all the years, and the library staff. I believe in team work. In 1977 I retired. However, I continue doing for the library the best I can.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eshkol, Cunningham, Kleist / John G Harries / In English

today, 20, July 2011, pp. 64

Editor: Ruth Eshel

 

Noa Eshkol did not herself dance in public after the performances in the 1950s of the first Chamber Dance Group (the name she gave to her experimental group).  Anyone who saw Eshkol dancing will recall the grace and strength of her movements, light but strong, lending them an appearance of full engagement with the actions and complete detachment from any possible distractions of the environment. Attempts to describe qualities of movement inevitably lead to this kind of near self-contradiction.  What do they really mean?

A hint of the image Eshkol might herself have had in mind can perhaps be found in the forms of movement that captured her admiration. Her teacher Tehilla Roessler told Eshkol that she should direct her attention to puppets. Was she perhaps thinking of Heinrich von Kleist’s essay On the Marionette Theatre – in which the narrator reports a conversation with a friend: ‘…the mute gestures of these puppets gave him much satisfaction and [he] told me bluntly that any dancer who wished to perfect his art could learn a lot from them’. Eshkol herself alluded occasionally to that essay, and whether deliberately or not she surely put into practice a conception of movement suggested in it. The kinds of movement that attracted her provide a clue. In 1950, her friend Dr Moshe Feldenkrais drew her attention to Judo, of which he was himself an accomplished exponent, and they attended a demonstration of the underlying principles, given at the Royal Albert Hall in London by G Koizumi. Later, she was equally fascinated by the movements of Tai Chi Chuan. This was certainly not an attraction to fashionable activities: it was before these martial arts acquired the popularity they later gained in the West. It is more plausibly linked to the ideas raised in von Kleist’s essay, of movement akin to the seemingly effortless swing of a pendulum.

Eshkol saw in music the prime example of an art that was pure and self-sufficient, and always strived for an equally pure art of movement, one that would at the same time allow maximum utilization of the body’s possibilities. Not many choreographers sought after such purity of movement and freedom of invention, but outstanding among those who did was Merce Cunningham. However, their developments followed very different paths, and it is instructive to compare them: two choreographers pursuing pure movement, greatly influenced by music but avoiding dependence on it, rejecting story-telling and added meaning, striving always for precision, looking for the untried, not tied to a theatrical setting. Yet – all this led them to such startlingly different courses and conclusions that one might even ask if they actually had anything in common. Let us look more closely at the way their thoughts were expressed in their deeds.

Cunningham did not reject musical and sound accompaniment. He worked together with musical composers, especially John Cage, but they worked as separate identities, not fitting movement to composed music, nor music to the choreographed movements. He and Cage would agree on a ‘rhythmic structure’ of durations, and then compose completely separately, without reference to each other, bringing the two components together only when both had been completed. The resulting combination was unpredictable. Cunningham later described the effect of this approach as conferring a sense of freedom, while at the same time always enabling him to know with complete confidence what point he had reached in relation to the agreed rhythmic structure.

Cunningham’s dancers had to be accustomed to performing their movements as the music was played, without being confused by it, as people might hold a conversation without being bothered by sounds of traffic passing nearby. The idea was to generate in this way new combinations of sound and movement which they might never have thought of through deliberate planning in direct cooperation. Cunningham’s long association with John Cage involved the employment of chance procedures in both movement and music as well as in their combination. This led Cunningham to adopt the technique of ‘chance operations’ for the composition of combinations he would not otherwise have invented. He employed the Chinese classic I Ching (an ancient text of divination involving permutation and combination) and the application of random numbers, in establishing the order of phrases of movement, the placing of the dancers and other elements forming the basis of many of his compositions.

After her student days, Eshkol virtually never composed dances with musical accompaniments, which she saw as a distraction from the movement. For this reason, she removed the use of music from the equation. However, her interest in and love of music was great, and she derived inspiration from the serial music which was still considered avant-garde in the mid-twentieth century. Furthermore, the model of music as a pure art, representing nothing but itself, and embodied in an objective notation, was the model for her endeavours. She aspired to a completely autonomic art of movement.

 The parallel with music led Eshkol to the conclusion that dance would never be a fully fledged art until the composition of movement could be supported by a writing system that allowed the choreographer to think in objective terms about his/her material in the way a musical composer had been able to do for hundreds of years, and to record the results in a symbolic representation readable by others. Roessler told her that such a system existed, and advised her to go to England and study with Laban. But the approach to movement she encountered there was not to her taste, and she did not find in Labanotation a system suited to use as a compositional tool. Eventually she developed together with Avraham Wachman a quantified symbolic notation based on physically verifiable basic elements – Eshkol-Wachman Movement Notation (EWMN).

 Like Eshkol, Cunningham always avoided the conventional, habitual and outworn, and looked for the new. When he was made aware of the computer software originally called LifeForms (and later renamed DanceForms), he adopted it as a tool for exploration and composition, again using chance operations to create and order phrases, now with the computer, with the purpose of discovering new and untried passages of movement. He would design positions, and allow the program to join them in a sequence, revealing things that he had been unaware of previously. This increased the complexity of his work, but fulfilled his aim of free exploration and innovation together with as much precision as possible. He did not demonstrate the results to his dancers by means of the computer display with its moving figures, but learned the new phrases he had generated with the help of the software and conveyed them ‘live’ to the dancers in the studio. This approach was a way of pushing the possibilities of the body; there would always be something else it could do. The problem was how to reach it. He did not think the possibilities could be codified, except according to the body itself. He did not, however, undertake a radical analysis of those possibilities as did Noa Eshkol. She regarded the use of chance as an abdication of the artist’s ability to choose, and adopted a thoroughgoing reductive method. The analysis embedded in EWMN was based on a reduction to fundamental quantified components of human movement that could be integrated in endless ways. It enabled her to employ methods such as serialism in the systematic exploration and composition of the movement material.

Cunningham did not use a fully fledged notation system, although he made stick-figure ‘notations’ of sequences, sometimes with emotive cues – but only for his own eyes. He did not reject symbolic notations out of hand, but favoured a more directly visual approach. He considered that both together would be ‘enlivening’. He evidently did not experiment with composition using a symbolic notation. An attempt to document some of his work in Labanotation was defeated by the difficulty of rendering the complexity and sudden changes, although according to Cunningham these drawbacks in Labanotation were later addressed.

Eshkol’s interest was less in semantic associations and much more in movement ‘for its own sake’, devoid of theatrical effects of any kind. ‘Chamber Dance does not portray a literary plot, or interpret music, and does not rely upon additional evocative media such as scenery and costume, and in this it differs from theatrical dance. This renunciation of theatrical elements… is undertaken with the intention of confronting ourselves with the material , and obliging us to deal with its organization… to compose dances in ways which emerge from the nature of the material itself .’ (From the programme notes for performances at universities in the U.S.A. and at The Place in London, 1969.)

 When asked if any of his pieces had a story or a meaning, Cunningham replied with an unequivocal ‘No!’ As he explained, movement alone has such life, that while it can be combined with other elements, it does not need anything else.

 Semantics: stories, meaning – were seen by Cunningham to be unnecessary, and by Eshkol  – an actual distraction, although she did give titles to her dances that often indicated literary or musical references. While Cunningham used music and sound (albeit in an unconventional way), as well as designed costumes and .sets including projected decor, Eshkol ruled out the use of any of these elements

Neither he nor Eshkol confined their performances to the stages of theatres. It so happened that Eshkol’s first public performance with her Chamber Dance Group in the early 1950s was on a temporary stage in a dining hall under construction in kibbutz Deganya B, and Cunningham’s first performance in the late 1950s, together with John Cage, Robert Rauschenberg and others, was an event that also took place in a dining hall – that of Black Mountain College in North Carolina.

 Cunningham’s use of technology, and of the random juxtaposition of artistic components, made possible the exploration of sometimes unexpected combinations of phrases. This he referred to as ‘a form of anarchy’. But it did not lead to a systematic radical analysis of human movement. This is probably the crux of the matter: both Cunningham and Eshkol were looking for the new and untried in movement, but their methods of searching for it were completely different. Cunningham employed chance methods not arising directly or necessarily from movement, procedures which would lead to hopefully new combinations.

Eshkol regarded improvisation as the abdication of the choreographer’s power  to choose, and having arrived at a reductive view of human movement, was able to employ modes of composition such as serialism borrowed from music, in order to explore the possibilities through the manipulation of different structures and ordering, the searches always being monitored, as an explorer would use a map, and notated.

Cunningham always maintained a welcoming attitude to the new and the open-ended, the perception that there must always be something else. Eshkol sought knowledge so that the intuitive grace of harmonious movement could be deliberately achieved through a complete knowledge of the objectively recognized components of bodily movement. Kleist maintained that the only hope for humans was to go forward to total knowledge. Eshkol’s work continued always to be free of the false emotion condemned by Kleist, and anything that contaminated pure movement, always seeking new understanding of its nature and possibilities. This tireless adherence to intricately thought out structures built up from precise elements led to the creation of unique innovative blossomings of movement in which – to quote the companion of Kleist’s narrator – ‘Grace itself returns when knowledge has as it were gone through an infinity.’

  

Notes

References to Merce Cunningham’s views on  dance composition are based on interviews and conversations recorded at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis in 1981 and 2009.

References to Noa Eshkol’s views are based on comments in her published books and on many personal conversations with her.

The 1810 essay by Heinrich von Kleist, On the Marionette Theatre, translated by Idris Parry, can be found on www. http://southerncrossreview.org/9/kleist.htm

 

John Harries met Noa Eshkol in 1948 and became a partner for discussion, her earliest student, and colleague, collaborating on the first book on Eshkol-Wachman Movement Notation, and on the texts and graphics of most publications on the subject. He was a member of Eshkol’s first Chamber Dance Group. In the 1960s he began to apply EW notation in visual art including video. He continues with this work, about which he has written books and articles.

 

Blending the Orient and the West within me – Creation processes, reminiscences and effects / Orly Portal

 

 

Dance today, 19, January, 2011, pp: 61-67

Editor: Ruth Eshel

 

Since childhood I have been exposed to the Arabic culture. I lived and breathed its music, voices, reminiscences and dances. Since then, I have walked away and returned, responded and retreated, moving back and forth into this culture and away from it to the point where I learnt how to blend within me the Orient and the West and how to combine into the body and the soul what I learnt with what I had already known. The amalgamation has generated an entire dance show, comprised of three works of art. The performance was created for a dance troupe established particularly for this project: “Portal Company: Between the Worlds of Dance”. In this article I chose to relate and to recall, together with you, the path I went through and the major stations I visited on the way to creating the show and establishing the dance company.

Sounds of Childhood

I grew up in a neighborhood whose entire residents were of North-African origin. I experienced the place as if it were a Moroccan village where time had stopped, surrounded by simple people, family people living according to the customs and culture they had brought with them from the remote Atlas Mountains.

My love for dance and music I absorbed there, at my parents’ home. I remember the Haflas (traditional Moroccan festive meals) my father held at home. He was a music- lover and though he led a simple and modest life he never relinquished qualitative music. MY childhood memories are accompanied by the sounds of musician bands my father invited to the festivities he held. They played traditional Moroccan music and classical Egyptian music, obviously with special emphasis on the songs of Umm Kulthum. Sometimes, I would join my father and sing duets in Arabic, in a question-answer form, or watch the women dance. This is how I grew up, in an environment abounding in contradictions between life laden with daily hardships and rising of the soul when listening to the sounds of the Arabic Music.

In my youth I decided to leave this cultural world behind me. I left "the village" and moved alone to the big city to study at the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance. While I was being trained as a classical ballet and modern dancer, the Arabic music was replaced by classical Western music.

Internal gushing out of intuitive movement. A frameless framework

Having completed my high school studies at the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance I joined the

 Kol Demama (Voice Silence) Company (1997-1990), directed by the choreographer Moshe Efrati. Efrati, a creator of Sepharadi  origin (Jew of Spanish origin), created works combined of classical ballet and modern dancing, using Spanish music in some of his works. Already at that time I felt a strong connection to the oriental musical motifs and I connected well to the intensity and sensuality in the special movement of his works. At the end of three years I joined the Bat Sheva Ensemble, directed by Ohad Naharin (1990-1992).

My connection to the world of improvisation and contact began when the choreographer Aryeh Burshtein came to work with the Bat Sheva Ensemble and selected me for the solo work he created. Following the work with Burshtein I decided to take a courageous step; I left the Bat Sheva Ensemble and stopped practicing classical and modern technique in favor of investigating natural movement and intuitive flow stemming from being attentive to what occurs to the body from within. I was unable to take apart what I was dancing or fully understand the movements, but I could sense the internal gushing out of intensive and satisfying intuitive movement, in levels I could not feel before. My soul went free, sometime in a beastly wildness and sometimes with tenderness and pleasure as even with an accuracy experience similar to the one characterizing war arts and ancient movement.

The shift was very challenging. From a very demanding daily work at a troupe – The Bat Sheva Ensemble and KolDemama – following five consecutive years of performances, enhancing the physical fitness and strengthening the muscles, I moved to a frameless framework. I was afraid to lose the technique I had built along the years, I feared to give up the classical physical knowledge I had acquired, I feared the unknown. Thus I had to create for myself a different working framework of daily practice and I built a set of exercises to support the dance and maintain the body. My body began changing, its muscles softened and its shape modified. For three intriguing years I moved along Arie, learning from him and together with him. Once a month we staged, together, contact-improvisation performances at Suzanne Dellal Center. This is how I studied the art of improvisation on the sate at its full intensity.

 

Upon the end of the third year of our common mutual work we went together to an improvisation get-together in Toscana, Italy. With additional twenty other movement-lovers we explored improvisation in movement at the studio and the city alleys. Of all places it was there, at Roccatederighi Village, that my strong passion emerged within me to dance and investigate belly-dancing. While everybody was improvising in the streets I found myself secluded in the studio, putting on classical Arabic music and dancing lying down, shaking the water in my body and particularly the water in my pelvis. Thus I understood I had a great passion in me to explore belly-dancing. I felt that I returned home.

On the way back home I told Arie that I had a vision of combining between the two worlds of dance: contemporary western dance and oriental dance. His reply was most significant for me, "Orly, if there is anyone who can combine between these worlds – it is you".

Like water permeating a rock

This is what Aryeh said and I went off equipped with knowledge and many experiences of intuitive movement. As of that moment I have stopped any other movement activity and devoted myself to the world of belly-dancing. My days were filled with self-practice, ceaseless study and exploration. I investigated the movement options at the pelvis joints, the connection between movement and breathing and the body weight and the pelvis. It turned out that materializing the option of putting the entire body weight on the floor is not that simple at all. Each organ has its story. At first I lay down on the floor for hour, allowing the weight of the hands, shoulders, head and pelvis rest on it. Then I began searching the quality of endless relaxation during movement. Gradually a series of exercises and positions was formed and developed, implemented on the floor, while sitting or lying on the back. A series of repetitive movements, of a cyclic nature, was created, increasingly becoming smaller and more accurate with practice.

I began investigating and discovering the body water quality. In the course of practice, the body began being experienced as a large water container. Water is considered an emotional element: it is flowing, permeating, sweeping away, deep, adaptable, flooding and changing. Relaxation, the water's deep permeation into the floor and the ground, as well as the water's fluctuation during movement led me to deep physical and emotional experiences which evoked repressed memories and ancient emotions. The emotional dismantling and the flooding I experienced during this period led to my coming to terms with myself and my body and ultimately to a great joy – to big moments of happiness from experiencing movement and full presence in the body.

A vivid and varying Treasure. The creative potential of the pelvis

After two years of introversion and a delightful exploration I met the father of my son; I became pregnant and continued that same movement exploration in a new and daily varying condition. Practice in the course of the pregnancy was a fascinating, deep and meditative process. I realized that the womb contains in it a vivid and varying treasure and I experienced the creative potential laying within our, the women's, pelvis.

My movement practice was affected and varied following the physical changes I had experienced and the insights I had acquired. I understood that the movement had to support and protect the abdomen and lower back area. These insights accompany me to date in and outside dancing: the ability to connect to creativity and fullness via the pelvis; the feeling that the belly is round and multi-dimensional (and not flat) and the need to keep it soft and protected.

 

I also learnt to be mother to my son and to contain his feelings. I had to learn how to combine my practice in my new life – all that forced me to be more concentrated during practice and the lessons I took. Motherhood has been, and still is a significant stage in my life. The internal change I underwent affected significantly the manner of my work and the way I related to my body.

From the internal to the external

The experience that commenced on the most intimate lever, on the carpet in my living room, sought to emerge. I began performing and exposing what I had discovered about myself and belly-dancing. I performed solo parts "From the Belly" I created for the Gevanim Bemakhol Festival, (1997), and  Acco Festival (1996), together with some senior musicians in Israel. I also performed in Israel Festival with the distinguished musician Omar Faruk and "Bustan Avraham" band. These experiences, the encounter with talented musicians, creating choreographies and improvisation on live shows were a big and exciting achievement. The entire culture I had absorbed and the movement experiences I investigated received a different, accurate expression. The work with these rare musicians allowed me to demonstrate virtuosity on the stage and feel as if my body were a musical instrument.

Along with these empowering experiences, I had some confusing and uncomfortable experiences at a few private events performances. These experiences evoked in me repulsion and resistance to belly-dance and there were times I felt despicable and impure after a performance. At that time I felt that the viewers were demanding and they expected me as a belly-dancer to grant them satisfaction and entertainment. I did not always connect to the message conveyed by a belly-dancer, who dances in order to please the audience, both men and women, who desires to be the best, sexier than all her friends and desired by all men. These performances, which have been held on a non-professional stage where there is no clear line between the dancer and the audience, were harsh experiences. I felt as if I were confined in sweet sticky honey in front of the viewers' desiring eyes.

These experiences evoked many questions regarding the essence of my being a belly dancer. I asked myself whether I was in the right field. Coping was not simple since I was attracted to the dance itself and the vibration in my body. However, I did not connect to what came along with the performance before an audience. I did not connect to the provoking costumes and the physical exposure common in this area. I felt a big gap between the empowering experience I had through the intimate movement of belly-dance and the sense of humiliation I felt after performances of this sort. I wanted to bring to the audience the physical and emotional depth I experience while dancing, however I felt that I did not always know how to protect myself against the exigent audience.  The concept according to which a belly-dancer should please the audience observing her confronted me with a painful situation rooted in our society on a much wider level – women are required to please men and satiate their caprices.

Confused and puzzled in view of the conflict that evoked within me I continued learning and exploring, deepening the movement and understanding its physical and emotional, feminine and sensual source. I hardly performed as a belly-dancer, and when I gave a performance on a stage, far away from the audience's desiring eyes. The more I deepened my investigation and understanding of what was occurring within my body, the confusion and embarrassment blurred till they disappeared. Furthermore, the moment I could see myself as part of these women to whom social conditions caused pain and I began feeling compassion towards them and identifying with them, I was able to break the frameworks and become a free, sensual and rooted person related to culture and depths that are not dependant on social commands. Thus I could embark on my way in the area of Oriental Dance, with deep understanding of the women's oppression roots in society. Then the true celebration began. I set out on my way in the belly-dance world and found wonderful women dancing like Goddesses, who became my voyage companions. I gave lessons in big festivals in the country that exposed me as a dancer raising the consciousness to my work as a teacher and I became an important and welcomed part of this world.

Between the Worlds of Dance

Along with my increasing deepening in the field of belly-dance, I returned to improvisation. I made contact with a group of friends and together we explored improvisation in movement, live music on stage and in the studio. Returning to the world of contemporary dance and improvisation was filled with a wider recognition of my body and my internal self together with an ability to take apart large movement into small movement and the understanding of more delicate components in movement. The worlds of belly-dance and contemporary dance, of the natural movement and improvisation began connecting within me and permeating into each other. I discovered that the floor exercises were suitable also for improvisation whereas the belly-dance lessons received an additional volume of movement exploration stemming from the world of contemporary dance and improvisation. The dance has become full of complex details and relationships between the various body parts. The more I delved in what was happening in the body movement in its various components, I felt satisfaction with a simple organic movement and I had no need for demonstrating extroverted physical technique.

During my common work with the Improvisation Ensemble I met Shay Dayan, a gifted researcher and musician. Together we gave mutual courses of movement and music. In the seminars, which we named "On the Way Home", we investigated the complexity and difficulty of being at the same moment present and alert. With his encouragement my voice opened-up and I began singing. I sang from the same places I dance: from being attentive to the movement of the voice within the body.  The vocal channel was opened to me, connecting me to the deep worlds of the sub-consciousness.

The studying continued and the attention to breathing, to the internal space, the search for effortless movement received a particular reverberation and deepening in the Vipassana course I attended. Following it I was captured by the charms of Vipassana Meditation which I practice each morning and night to date. Following this course I felt that I was able to implement the physical insights relating to flow and effortless movement also in my private life. The dance and movement insights permeated also to my everyday life, to my relationship with myself and my surroundings. I deepened also the study about the body movement and its intelligent in the framework of the Feldenkreis Instruction course, where I found my movement mentor and where I received a scientific confirmation to the many physical experiences I have been exposed to along the years.

Crammed full with the knowledge I had acquired in my studies and the many hours of self-practice and a sense of inner peace I felt I was ready to create a work reflecting and combining the various world I had visited. The moment has come when I felt that the youth mission I had embarked with Arie Burshteins's blessing has reached its peak. The various world of dance I had been exposed to blended within me in a deep and complete manner. I felt ready to create the first dance creation reflecting it.

Three creations (2010) – The Portal Company Premiere

The Portal Company was established from experienced loyal dancers who had accompanied me in my work for years. They were joined by additional dancers of various dance-field backgrounds. Thus began our mutual journey to the world of choreography and creation, which was good and significant as far as I was concerned. I created what was natural for me, the simple movements connected to ancient, rooted and tribal experiences that had dwelled within my body for years. I transferred them to the dancers by means of many rehearsals, as customary in the world of folklore, where movement internalization is via repetition. Repetition enables creating the magic through simplicity of movement, efficiency and accuracy.

The work with the dancers lasted a year, in which they underwent together a deep process of casting old habits and acquiring new ones. The learnt how to work as a group, as a tribe, when the dance serves not only the individual but also the entire group and what exists beyond it – that big movement that passes on to the viewer and feeds it with joy, vitality and significance. The show was first staged at the "Maholohet Festival" (Summer Dance) at Suzanne Dellal Center.

The company is currently working on staging a new creation, in the forthcoming summer, in which we will continue investigating the connection between the worlds of dance, the dance performance from a place of thanking and not pleasing, the possibility of dancing sensual belly-dancing from a place of internal freedom and joy, the effortless movement from a place of simplicity and accuracy and the extent of folklore relevance to our contemporary life.

Orly Portal – choreographer, creator and dancer with 20 years of experience. Danced in Efrati's Kol Demama, in the Bat Sheva Ensemble and in Improvisation Ensemble, of which she is a member, that investigates the art of improvisation. Nowadays she is investigating Dr. Moshe Feldenkreis' theory, creates and dances between the worlds of dance.

 

Three letters to Tehila Rössler /Yonat Rotman

  Dance Today no 21, December 2011, pp. 71-72

Editors: Ruth Eshel and Henia Rottenberg

 

Tehila Rössler (1907-1959) was one of the important and intriguing women who established Artistic Dance in Israel in the 1930s. She emigrated from Berlin to the country in 1933 where she became famous mainly as a teacher of expressive dance (Ausdruckstanz) (Eshel, 1991, page 34). Rössler did not raise a family, she dedicated her life to dancing; the career she preferred to raising a family.1 Rössler never attained extensive fame, since she died of an illness at a young age (51) in 1959. Only few admiring students and a few relatives attended her last journey. According to her relatives and students, she was an amazing woman, intellectual and sensitive, who knew how to instill the love of dancing to her students' hearts. I will present her figure in an unusual manner, via three letters written to her by tree well-known people: The author Franz Kafka, whom she met at The Jewish Home in Mϋritz in 1923; Gret Palucca, her admired teacher in Germany, and Noa Eshkol, her student at the first class of the teachers' seminar she established. Explanations and historical background are introduced along with the letters, indicating Rössler's relationships with the writers.

I am dedicating this article to my beloved father, Arie Rothman of blessed memory, and to my uncle Eli Rothman, may he live long, who has translated the letters from German into Hebrew. I thank Ya'acov Zack, Rössler's cousin and Yalta Bone her niece and student, who threw light on her figure and gave their consent to publishing the letters. And also to Doris Etzioni who has translated for me several texts from German.

Kafka's letter to Tehila Rossler2

"My dear Tile3, the post office has mixed up your letters! The second one arrived at noon, while the first arrived later in the evening. I received the evening letter while standing at the sea shore. Dora was present, and I was precisely after a short reading in Hebrew. After a long time, the sun was shining again in the afternoon; let's hope it will last long. The children were noisy. I could not return to my beach shelter because my brother-in-law was treating a football player's injured leg. Therefore I read your letter standing up, while Felix was trying to shoot the ball above me, around me and through me in order to hit the pole standing behind me, nevertheless, I felt relaxed when reading your letter. I was glad that you missed us, but I was also pleased, because according to my present feeling, by travelling away from here you did not miss as much as you thought…"

This is how Kafka begins his letter to Rössler, whom he met in the summer of 1923 at the Berlin Jewish people homes' vacation camp at Mϋritz on the Baltic Sea. Rössler, who was 16, fell in love with Kafka. From the letter it appears that Kafka was probably aware of Rössler's love, and on his part offered her his friendship. The bond between Kafka and Rössler had more significance in Rössler's eyes and less in Kafka's, who met at that same summer camp his last mistress, Dora Diamant (Diamant was Kafka's spouse, with whom he lived the last year of his life until 3.6.1924).

Rössler arrived at the Jewish children's home at Mϋritz as a volunteer just like Dora. She met Kafka, who was staying at the time at his sister's house in Mϋritz near the shore where the home was located, even before Dora. In Martha Hoffman's book the poet and the girl – based on conversations she held with Rössler about her relationship with Kafka – the author describes the many profound and intimate conversations Rössler and Kafka held in the summer camp near the sea shore (Hoffman 1943). To Rössler's regret she had to leave the home earlier than anticipated and return to her home in Berlin, where she received the letter from Kafka. The day she left, which was a cold wet day, she came to meet Kafka who was staying at the time at the Hotel's lobby. She gave him a vase as a token of thanks for the red jar he had bought her a few days earlier (Murry 2011, page 298). At the end of the letter that he sent her he mentioned that moment and also wrote how he was guarding the vase. He also wrote her about his desire to relocate to Berlin, and the rapprochement in his relationships with Dora.4 Rössler, who was, as mentioned, in love with Kafka felt hurt and broke down after reading the letter (Diamant 2003, p. 41).

"5…I no longer enjoy myself here as before, I am not quite sure whether it is due to my personal fatigue, lack of sleep or headaches. But why, have they been fewer than now? Maybe I should not stay too long in one place; there are people who can internalize the sense of home only when they are travelling.

"After all, everything remained as it was, all the people at the hostel are closer to my heart than I can admit to them, particularly Dora, whom I spent most of the time with; what a terrific person. However, regarding the hostel, as such it is no longer as impressive as before. A simple matter, visible to everyone, has affected it a little, and other petty but undisclosed matters continued affecting it. As a guest and a foreigner, particularly a tired guest, I am unable to express or clarify things to myself, and therefore I am going away. So far I have been there each evening, but today, although it is Friday night, I am afraid I won't be going there!

"I am not entirely displeased that my sister has decided (her husband came to fetch her from here) to leave not on the 10th but a few days earlier, and I decided, despite it being more comfortable and cheaper here –I do not want to stay here alone – to join them and to travel with them to Berlin. If I am not too tired, I will stay a day or two and then for sure I will see you. However even if I did not stay, but continued travelling immediately to my parents at Marienbad (and later continued travelling for a day to Carlsbad, and instead of meeting Tile I would unfortunately meet only my manager), we would meet soon, because I hope to come to Berlin again.

"I had a visit here lately; a friend of mine, the Palestinian whom I told you about. She arrived at the same time Frida arrived, they have known each other before, and she resided at the hostel. The visit was short, barely a day, but she left behind her a sense of encouragement, thanks to her self-confidence and her joyous spirit. You should introduce her once to Berlin.

"It is nice that you write 'Schaale' (a bowl, the translator's note – A.R.), exactly as I believe one means by the word 'question'. Well, the Schale6 would like to address a question to you, which is as follows: you, Tile, when will you finally break me?  Because I must sometimes struggle over the vase you have given me with Cristal, our bartender's daughter, who is three years old, one of those red-cheeked flowers with white skin growing here in all the houses. Each time she comes to me she wants to take it. She claims that she wants to watch the bird's nest located in our balcony, she pushes herself in and immediately after standing next to the table she reaches for the vase and without much frills she declares, without interpretations and always very severely: The vase! The vase! She does it relying on her ancient right, that the world belongs to her, so why not the vase as well? And the vase probably fears the cruel child's hands, though it must not be afraid, I will always protect it and I will never give it away.

"Please give my regards to all my friends from the hostel, particularly to Biyova. I would have written to her a long time ago if it had not been for my insistence to reply thankfully for her beautiful Hebrew in Hebrew as well, though less beautiful than hers, if I were able to pull myself together from the tension I presently feel for the effort of writing in Hebrew.

"All my relatives as well send you their regards, and particularly the children. When your letter arrived at noon Felix and Gerti argued about who had the right to be the first to read your letter. It was hard to decide. In favor of Felix stood his senior age and the fact that he was the one to bring the letter from the postman. Gerti, on the other hand, claimed that her friendship with you was tighter than Felix's. Too bad, at the end the decision was made as result of using force and Gerti twisted her mouth…

"Have you already heard Grieg? This is actually the last clear memory I have of you; when the piano is being played and you are standing there, taking a bow, a little wet from the rain, humble before the music. I wish that you would always be capable of such posture! All the best! Yours, K'".

About a month and a half after Rössler received the letter Kafka moved to Berlin to live with his sweetheart Dora. During this period he continued meeting with Rössler from time to time under Dora's supervision. Rössler, who came to terms with his choice, continued admiring him and went on inquiring how he was, writing him letters also when his condition deteriorated and he moved to a sanatorium near Vienna for treatment. During that year when she accompanied Kafka from afar until his death in June 1924, her desire to study dancing became more acute, and she began taking dancing lessons seriously.

The book "The poet and the Girl", in which the relationship between Rössler and Kafka is described, ends one day after Kafka's death. On that day, out of the sense of grief the girl was feeling, her body awakens to dance. This awakening process described in a mythic manner, occurs under the inspiration of Kafka's commands to Rössler to continue dancing as it appears in the last sentence he wrote to her in the letter (Hoffman 1943, pp. 92-93).

After a year, in 1925 Rössler began studying dance professionally, and at the end of the 1920s she was admitted to Palucca's famous school.

 

Palucca's letter to Tehila Rössler

"I'm very happy after having received the message. Oh, Tile, this is indeed too beautiful… on 10.8 I'm going for one day to Dresden (the knee is in a worse condition)…I would willingly speak more with you. Take a day of rest…. Yours Palucca".7

This is how, in a short letter from the early 30s (not all of which could be translated, due to unclear handwriting) Palucca wrote to Rössler. The letter and the testimonies of her relatives indicate the warm and close relationships between the two8. Palucca was a choreographer, a dancer and an important teacher in Germany, belonging to the Impressive Dance stream. Palucca had special relationships with Rössler, she appointed her as a senior teacher and the director of her school in 1930. Rössler had served in this role for three years until 1933 (the year of the Nazi rise in Germany) and then was fired by Palucca with the rest of the Jews working with Palucca. In this part of the article I will introduce the "non-innocent" history underlying the innocent letter, in which Palucca reveals fondness and love towards her Jewish school director.

This history is being revealed in current studies and primarily in Lilian Karina & Marion Kant's study (Lilian Karina & Marion Kant, 2003). Their research presents the collaboration prominent creators in the field of dance had, among them Palucca, Rudolf Laban and Mary Wigman, with the Nazi party. The collaboration began already in 1933. These creators, although banned by the Nazis in the late 30s, collaborated with them massively for three to six years.

According to Karina and Kant, of all the fields of art, the leading dance creators were the most prominent ones to collaborate with the Nazi party, (excluding very few, such as Kurt Jooss), some had done it for several years, others continued doing so throughout the Nazi regime. In these years they were granted artistic and financial support and refrained from expressing any moral sense towards their "non Aryan" colleagues. In their study Karina and Kant emphasize that these creators received the orders for the deportation of all non-Aryan citizens without protest and any attempt to lend a hand. In cooperating with the Nazi party they agreed to accept the Nazi ideology, which distinguished between pure Aryan Art and degenerating art. Furthermore they adopted the racial theory which found expression in their school curriculum.  According to the researchers, they "had taken Nazism upon themselves long before the authorities decided what it meant" (Karina & Kant, 2003, p. 110).

Among the many examples that prove their arguments, they bring Palucca's case in which Rössler is also involved and it is also introduced in the book about Palucca (Erdmann-Rajski, 2000). According to Erdmann-Rajski, author of the book about Palucca, during the years 1930-1933 (the years Rössler was appointed as her school director) Palucca was at the peak of her fame. Palucca received many work and performance offers, and her school's activity volume increased immensely; she even opened a school branch in Stuttgart (Erdmann-Rajski, 2000, p. 241). It was very important to Palucca to maintain her senior status as one of the leading creators and teachers in Germany. In order to maintain her status she joined in 1933, together with Wigman and other artists the school union – NS – Kulturgemeinde, as well as the Kampfbund. Upon joining these associations they had to sign that they would maintain the "Aryan standards" at their school. One of the meanings of maintaining the "Aryan standards" was the deportation of all the non-Aryan employees working at their school and their dance troupes. The researchers claim that the deportation of Jews (including Rössler) by Palucca and Wigman, instantaneously, was not absolutely necessary. That is because Goebbels racial rules had not yet been put into effect at that very period (Karina & Kant, 2003, p.130).

Erdmann-Rajski claims that the "caution" characterizing Palucca's behavior in her attempt to maintain her status, made her repudiate the people closest to her, and deport them instantaneously when she was not obligated to do so. In the book Erdmann-Rajski wrote about Palucca she throws light on an additional affair, and it contains a specific reference to Rössler's incident. The researcher brings as an example the exchange of letters between Arthur Bernstein, who was Palucca's agent (of Jewish origin) and was fired by her at the same time Rössler was. Contrary to Rössler, who immigrated to Israel immediately, Bernstein, who was older, remained in Germany and consequently lost his main livelihood. In the correspondence he wished to find out whether there was an option of continuing his work under different conditions. Palucca, who was "imbued with a mission" regarding the new racial "ideals" refused to accept these conditions. In their letter exchange she pointed out that she refused to work with him secretly, saying that he had to understand that times had changed and that she could not go on having any business relationships with him. Palucca specifies in a letter dated 3.5.1933, as an example of the newly created situation, that she had to fire her school director – Rössler, and as an education woman it was not easy for her to carry it out (Erdmann-Rajski, 2000, p.400).

It is possible that Palucca found it hard to deport Rössler, Bernstein and other, but the fact is that she did it without batting an eyelid. Palucca continued cooperating with the Nazis until 1939, and was well-liked by Goebbels and other senior S.S. members. Ultimately she was banned by the Nazis in 1939, and that was because Hitler disagreed with their opinion and called her art "Intellectual expressions" (Kant, 2003, pp.120-121). In 1939 she was dispossessed of all her roles in her school but continued to perform before the public in various occasions.

Surprising in this relationship is the fact that Rössler – who immigrated to Israel in 1933 immediately after the deportation – continued admiring Palucca and held no grudge against her. In Israel she turned over a new leaf. In mid 30s she established a school of dancing and gave solo and group dance performances with her various students. Rössler was famous primarily as a teacher. Her lessons were influenced by Palucca and following her footsteps she developed an abstract approach9 to Dance Studies. In her lessons she created an integration between improvisation exercises and technique and built a methodology for technique and composition studies.

 

Noa Eshkol writes to Tehila Rössler

In 1943 Rössler established a teachers' seminar in her school, with Noa Eshkol attending its first class. The text introduced here was written by Eshkol in the seminar's first-year final exam. Of all the teachers who taught theory in the seminar, Eshkol designated the text, written in German, exclusively to Rössler. In the text Eshkol formulates in a very 'virginal' and exciting manner her desire to dance. She also describes for the first time the important element characterizing her artistic work – the fact that movement is an idea in itself, not expressing a separate subject from the body.

"My goal10

"I want to dance, dance, dance forever and continue dancing.

"How to dance?

"I want to dance amazingly beautiful.  I want nothing to block my body and to be able to create any subtle expression of mood, color or idea. I want my body to be a refined and perfect instrument.

"Where to dance?

"Once I thought that I would be able to create big things, i.e. that I could concentrate the most essential in things to the point that they would unite into one element in a way that it could exist only that way and no other, for example: soil, winds, sun. However, I realized that I could not do it, that I was not such a genius. Therefore I would like to dance with a big ballet ensemble directed by a genius.

"In art it is very difficult to draw the line between the idea and the material. The movement within the dance – which is its material – is generated by the idea. But there is something else here: the recognition of the external world which turns into a movement (but this can only be done by a genius, and in order to be that way one needs to be born a genius). I would call it the World of Idea. The world of movement is performed with ultimate love and understanding. I would like to penetrate into the world of movement. I aspired to be a dancer!!!

"Why do I desire to be a dancer!?

"a. I myself do not know.

"b. Something within me urges, pressures, brews and pounds giving me no rest, but when I dance I become calm, or better said, then I have the feeling that I could attain calmness.

"c. Because I want to become famous. Not only because of the desire to boast, but also because I do not want to settle for only few people, but in order to get acquainted with more and more human being, in order to live their lives, and to be involved in them. I would like to expand to all expanses – the entire world – and to taste from everything. However, if this is impossible, I want at least others to experience me. Fame enables that.

 "How will I achieve it?

"I would like to practice technique for 8 hours.

"Good God – if only all that were possible!!!"

 

Against the development of modern dance in Israel, which was influenced by Expressive Dance, it is this text, written by Eshkol in 1944, that stands out as the first text that appeared in the country expressing abstract thinking about dance. Nevertheless, it is no coincidence that Eshkol, of all people, who was Rössler's student, writes this way. Rössler, who was very much affected by Palucca, and being inspired by her, developed an abstract approach to dancing and implemented this approach mainly in her methodology, but not in her dances. Eshkol, Rössler's gifted student, took the abstract thinking of dance one step forward. Contrary to Rössler she implemented it also in her dances.

Summary

The letters of Kafka, Palucca and Eshkol illuminate from various angles Rössler's unique figure. Each projector shows part of her figure leaving a part thereof in the shade. Rössler, whose character and personality are being revealed, leaves some question marks about the relationships she had with these people. The only thing that becomes clear after reading them is that Rössler was a special figure, who experienced an impossible love, was a gifted teacher and knew how to forgive anyone who had hurt her.

 

Bibliography

Diamant, Kathi. Kafka's Last Love the Mystery of Dora Diamant. New York: Basic Book, 2003.

Erdmann-Rajski, Katja. Gret Palucca. Zurich: Georg Olms Verlag, 2000.

Eshel, Ruth. To dance with a dream. The beginning of artistic dance in Israel 1920-1964. Tel-Aviv: Sifriyat Ha'poalim and the Dance Library in Israel, 1991 [Hebrew]

Hoffman, Martha. Dina and the Poet. Translation: Joseph Liechtenbaum. Tel Aviv: Masada, 1942. [Hebrew]

Kafka, Franz. Letters to Friends, Family and Editors. New York: Schocken, 1978.

Karina, Lilian & Marion, Kant. Hitler's Dancers: German Modern Dance and the Third Reich. New York: Bergham Books, 2004.

Murry, Nicholas. Franz Kafka Biography. Translation: Dafna Rozenblit. Tel-Aviv: Resling, 2011. [Hebrew]

Toepfer, Karl. Empire of Ecstasy, Nudity and Movement in German Body Culture, 1910-1935. Berkeley: U of California P, 1998.

 

Yonat Rotman, graduate of Mateh Asher Dance School, graduated with distinction her M.A degree in Theatre at the University of Tel-Aviv where she is currently writing her Doctorate Dissertation engaging in Dance in Israel. Rotman is coordinating the dance stream at the Amakim-Tabor school, teaches theory at the dancers' training workshop at Ga'aton and serves as the dance instruction coordinator at the Settlement Education Administration.

 

Notes

__________________

  1. Rössler was married for a short period of time to Hans Wiener whom she met on board of the ship when she immigrated to the country. However, since Rössler did not want any children they separated. An interview with Yalta Bone (Tehila Rössler file, Dance archive, Beit Ariela).
  2. The current letter is a translation a copy of the original letter written in German, which exists at the Beit Ariela archive in Rössler's file. An additional Hebrew translation exists in the book, The girl and the Poet (Hoffman 1942). Another translation into English appears in, Frank Kafka: Letters to Friends, Family and Editors (1978) translated by Robert and Karla Winston.
  3. Tehila Rössler's pet name
  4. According to Katty Diamant, Rössler is the first person Kafka told about his relationships with Dora.
  5. Continuation of the letter from the previous passage.
  6. In this passage Kafka is making a pun between the word Schaale with double A, which means in Yiddish "Question", and the word Schale (with one A) which means in German a peel, a bowl or a jar. Later on he uses the word Vase.
  7. The letter Palucca wrote to Rössler was translated by Eli Rotman. Besides it there are 2 additional letters from that same period (Tehila Rössler's file, the dance archive at Beit Ariela).
  8. See interviews of Zack' Bonneh and Gwili (in Tehila Rössler's file, the dance archive at Beit Ariela.
  9. According to the researcher Karl Toepfer, Palucca was the most abstract artist among the expressive dance artists. To elaborate on this subject see (Toepfer, p. 188).
  10. The first year final test is written in German, translated by Eli Rotman (Tehila Rössler's file, the dance archive, Beit Ariela).

 

 

The Flourishing of Contemporary Dance in Israel Today / Ruth Eshel

Dance Today – The Dance Magazine of Israel

Editors: Dr. Ruth Eshel & Dr. Henia Rottenberg

Issue no. 14, October 2008, pp.59 – 63 (translated to English by Daphne Brill)

Publisher: Tmuna Theatre

Published with the assistance of The Ministry of Science, Culture and Sports

It is recommended to open the full issue 

The Flourishing of Contemporary Dance in Israel Today

Ruth Eshel

The flourishing of dance in Israel for the last two decades is not self-evident, and is a sequel of a long and convoluted path for a nation with a rather short history of concert dance. For over  forty years (1920 – 1964) Ausdruckstanz was created in pioneer conditions in the Yishuv[1] , when creativity was not supported by technical skill; after fifteen years  (1964-1977) of influence of modern American dance when professional companies were established, raising technical levels but privileging choreographers from abroad that brought an end to local creativity; after almost a decade  of  fringe development, bringing about an abundance of local creators—finally, in the 1990s,  dance  in Israel  has reached maturity. A balance has been gained between dance in the leading large companies and in the rich fringe, and local creativity and technique.

Independent  Choreographers

The development of modern dance at the beginning of the 90`s flourished, thanks to the successful timing of the establishment of a number of frameworks, that absorbed, channeled and encouraged the increasing waves of achievement of independent fringe choreographers. The most important, was the establishment of the Suzanne Dellal Center in 1990, under the artistic direction of Yair Vardi. For the first time, dance had

A home that provided a forum for achievement, which also encouraged and initiated frameworks for projects, under professional conditions, with exposure to national and international media. The "curtain up" ("Haramat Masach") project, an important framework, supporting productions of independent experienced choreographers, was established in 1989.

The permanent frameworks for Israeli independent creators and the support of the Ministry of Science, Culture and Sports yielded fruit. Following "Curtain Up" (1994) the critic Giora Manor wrote: "Something good is happening in the young Israeli choreography field. There are always some works which are over affected by known examples, there is no escape from that. However, in fact, that same spirit  of self-creation, of personal expression which characterized the Israeli dance in the 1930's and 1940's has returned, when each dancer is required to create by himself/herself, and not only be a skilled performer and a brilliant technician (Manor, Israel Dance, no. 3  1994,  pp.32).

The distinguished list, though partial, of independent choreographers, who started creating and performing in the 1990's includes Noa Dar, Anat Daniely, Inbal Pinto& Avshalom Polak, Tamar Borer, Ido Tadmor, Shlomit Fundaminsky, Yossi Yungman, Amit Goldberg & Anat Dolev (Da Da Dance), Yasmeen Godder, Yoram Carmi (Fresco Group), Michal Hermann & Emmanuel Gat. This list is joined by senior choreographers/dancers among them Rina Schenfeld, Nimrod Freed, Mimi Ratz, Amir Kolban (Kolban Dance), Yossi Tamim, Tamir Gintz (kame'a Dance Company) Anat Shamgar with improvisation programs and Sally Ann Friedland (Dance Drama Sally Friedland). The soloist dancer Talia Paz put on programs constructed especially for her thus opening a new route for dance performances centered by the performing dancer. If in the late 1990's there was a question whether this was a temporary blossom related to one creator or another, this concern has vanished. In the 2000's a new generation of creators emerged, thickening and enriching the activity, and includes creators/dancers such as Shlomi Bitton, Renana Raz, Niv Sheinfeld, Odelya Kuperberg, Ronit Ziv, Anat Grigorio, Michal Mualem, Arkadi Zaides,  Idan Cohen, Sa'ar Magal, Inbal Ya'akobi, Yossi Berg and Hillel Kogan, and that is only a partial list.

The Leading   Dance Companies

In the 1990's the Batsheva Dance Company and the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company turned from repertoire dance companies into dance companies headed by a choreographer with a voice of his own. In 1991, the choreographer Ohad Naharin became the director of the Batsheva Dance Company. He reestablished the company's presence as an internationally important dance group, and his style was a source of inspiration for many Israeli choreographers. Choreographer Rami Be'er has led the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company, which for years has had the image of semi-professional, to the center of the dance map in Israel. Be'er lifted a social and political flag in the 1980's. In the last decade, his interest in the architectural aspect of dance has increased.

Classical ballet in Israel moves along a different path, detached from modern dance. In the period of the Yishuv, it even encountered ideological objection.  Nevertheless, with vision and adherence Berta Yampolski and Hillel Markman succeeded in establishing The Israeli  Ballet raising dozens of good dancers.  Yampolski has been the sole Israeli choreographer in the Company for decades and the company does not provide the answer for the need to raise a generation of creators in this genre.

Research

In 1984, director Gila Toledano of  the Israeli Dance Library, initiated the documentation enterprise of the dance in Israel,  and two years later the Dance  Library was transferred to a specious and respectable hall in Beit Ariela.  In addition, some of the universities in the country opened courses for higher education studies in dancing, and recently the number of Israelis studying for their Ph.D  in this field has increased.

Reflections on locality

The pioneers who came to the land of Israel dreamed about creating Israeli dance or "Mahol Ivri" (Hebrew dance).  Contrary to the past, when the people engaging in dancing came to Israel from all over the world and desired to prove their connection to the land, its history, and that they are Israelis, nowadays the choreographers and the dancers are people who have been born in Israel and live in it.

The Israelis are part of a people with an ancient and outstanding history, which has known within one generation the holocaust and the miracle of the fulfillment of the dream of establishing its own State.  Yet, reality bites into the dream, criticizes it and tries to strip it and present it as an innocent and empty tool. Therefore, in Israel, maybe more than elsewhere, there is tension between reality and the dream. The choreographers and dancers are influenced and affected by their surroundings, which finds expression in the text written with the body.

What does characterize the Israeli dancers? In comparison to dancers in the world, the Israeli dancers are generally older. Most of them have completed their military service and are exposed to the daily political pressures shared by all Israelis, to the competition of a country blessed with creative talented and ambitions people gathered in a small piece of land. The relative maturity of the Israeli dancers equips them with "Life history" – a reservoir of experiences, thoughts and memories. Their body text is rich, blunt and impertinent.  When they dance, it seems that there are no partitions between them and the viewers. The viewers see first people, and then dancers.  Frankness and straightforwardness characterize their dance which is not polished to the end, does not shine as extra fine European porcelain.

The intensiveness of life, the need to put on defense masks in view of the new existential social and political news repeatedly flooding us, to go on livings "as if normally" require and generate super-energy. They grant the Israeli dance inner vitality, which stores within it energies on the verge of explosion, blocked with ties of restrain, and eventually explode. Therefore, in contrast to the long and round lines of the classical Ballet which projects security and calmness of a genre, the place of which is secure in history, the Israeli dance prefers energies which model the body outline from within and create sentences in different lengths, without a fixed rhythm. These seem like little pieces of thoughts in a feverish mind, springing up and declining and alternatively being cut short in a sudden fall.

Dance in Israel is mostly expressive and content permeates through it, undergoes abstraction and is presented with restrain. In its lyrical and poetic moments, the dance here is in a state of some glumness of sadness and restrain.   In the body there is no room for dolling up or embellishment. It is neither a dance which expresses joy nor a dance which spreads its wings to open spaces. It shuts itself in rooms, halls or clubs, maybe as self defense from suicide bombs or maybe in order to keep its strength, knowing that it shall be needed, and it cannot disperse it in vain.

Fashionable topics in the global dance, engaging a lot in apocalypse, fear and aggressiveness, find their way into the Israeli dance as well. However, while engaging  them overseas appears to be an expression of general concern about the world's condition, in Israel these issues receive a close and genuine significance. The Israeli is sated with and tired of violence. He/she is targeted ruthlessly and does not get excited by direct and naturalistic violence on stage. In the last decade  there are more dances dealing with  local political topics, for example, Yoman Miluim (Reserve logbook) (1989) of Rami Be'er or Virus (2001) of Ohad Naharin.

There are some works that turn to fantasy, aspiring to reach a different place, exotic, which reflects the Israeli well-know tendency of "clearing one's head", to gather forces and tackle with reality. Such pieces of works are, for example, Let's Escape by Anat Daniely (2002), Clouds and Soup (2007) by Noa Dar and When she Reached the Sun (2005) by Rami Be'er. And such are also the works of Inbal Pinto and Avshalom Polak.

Life in the Middle-East and the constant friction with it has not only changed the body contour of the Israeli, who is tall, strong and more sun tanned than its ancestors, but has also led to a natural acceptance of the Orient.  The integration of Israeli dance into the Orient is not an artificial attempt to deal with eastern figures as was the situation during the beginning of the Yishuv period, but a slow and permeating flow of a cultural encounter between the Oriental music, European and American modern and postmodern dance.

The integration of oriental belly dance as a legitimate component in the modern world of dance, in the mid nineties, was introduced by the couple Liat Dror and Nir Ben-Gal. The two, who are not of oriental (mizrachi) origin[2], started engaging in this domain, which till that time was put into a procrustean bed of entertainment, weddings and dubious clubs. In Dror's belly dance there is no shred of Orientalism, as was the case in the dance of the early Yishuv settlement.

Within the flourishing of dance on it various shades, it is surprising how little is reflected of the multi-cultures of the different communities of Israelis and minorities with their ethnic traditions. This is particularly prominent in light of the fact that the immigration to Israel from around the world has never ceased. In this context the works of Sarah Levi Tana'I in Inbal Dance Theatre with Israelis of Yemenite origin should be noted, the dances created by Moshe Efrati inspired by the Ladino[3], as well as works, surprising in their freshness by Barak Marshal, who connected between the Hassidic, the pop, the Gipsy and the Yemenite. Lately choreographer Renanna Raz created, Kazuarot (2007), which draws inspiration from movement materials of the Druze minority in Israel. The author of these lines has been trying for years to create a wide movement lexicon for artistic expression, inspired by the dance tradition of the Ethiopian community.

The flourishing in Israel embraces various aspects of dance which grant it depth, yet it could be said that a large part of the processes described above exist also in other dance domains in the world.  The art theoretician Gideon Ofrat (1984) wrote: "The other locality does not presume to rely on a definition of artistic locality. This definition will always be artificial, forced and its products unsuccessful. In other words, it is not important to us if something of our other locality will resemble something of any other locality […] to meet the place means – to meet the nature of the place, its history and/or the art of a place […]  other locality of physical qualities, of life symbols and real myths of the present society. ("Other locality" in: Ofrat, 1988, p. 53).

The art of dance  plays on an instrument whose architectonic anatomic structure exists in all continents and expresses the emotional, the mental and the creative range which is shared by all human beings. Nevertheless, each person is a whole world of nuances, and each society is not a duplication of the next society. Within the narrow framework of nuances, of subtleties which cannot be measured scientifically, and belong to the subjective world of art, there exists that unique voice.

Life is a journey of a creative process, dynamic and changing which is reflected in the dance. History shows that in a people's life there are ups and downs, and we do not know whether we are in the middle of climbing toward additional peaks, or that descending the slope is already in the doorway. Therefore, all that was written here is within the limits of examining the present, which is the edge of the past.

 

Bibliography

Aldor, Gaby. "The Other is not yet Born".  Israel  Dance no. 12, 1998, pp. 1-12

—————.  "Invisible Unless in final Pain:  About Ohad Naharin", Dance Today                          (Mahol Achshav) – The Dance Magazine of Israel, no. 4, 2001, pp. 6-12.

Eshel, Ruth.  Dancing with the Dream – The Development of Artistic Dance in Israel, 1920- 1964, Sifriat Hapolim, 1991.

—————–. "To Dance with the Times–The Arab-Israeli Conflict in Israeli Dance",

                         Israel Dance,  no. 10, 1977.

————–   "Classical Ballet – Israeli Dance` s Stepson", Dance Today,   no.2, July 2000.-

——————.  "Institutionalization and Centralization: Dance In Israel 1964-1977", Dance

                          Today, no. 6,  September 2001.

——————. "Movement-Theatre in Israel, 1976-1991", Ph.D,  Tel Aviv University,

Theater    Studies Department, 2001.

—————. " The Great Revolt and the Return to the Roots: the influence of

                        Ausdruckstanz on Movement Theater in Israel", Dance Today, no.10,

                          January 2003.

Hurschfeld, Ariel. "The Woman [Liat Dror], the song and the pelvis", Ha`aretz,

                                30.8.1996.

Manor, Giora. "No Shortage of Young Israeli Choreographers",  Israel Dance  no.3, 1994,

                        pp.34-36.

——————. "New Hues in Dance 95`", Israel Dance, no. 6, 1995, pp22-26.

`—————-.  "Curtain Up 97`", Israel Dance,  no. 13, 1993, pp.97

Ofrat, Gideon. KanOther Locality in Israel Art, Jerusalem: Art in Israel, 1988.

Rotman, Yonat. "The Arab-Hebrew Conflict in the Dances of Amir Kolben, Rami

                               Be`er, and Ohad Naharin – From a Presentation of the Narrative to

                               its Deconstruction",  Dance Today, no. 11,  2004,  pp. 39-46.

Rottenberg, Henia. "The Present Body and the Body`s Presence: Three by Ohad

                                       Naharin", Dance Today,  no. 13, 2005, pp.35-40.

————————–. "All the Options within One Totality", Dance Today, no. 9,

2002, pp.25-28

Dr. Ruth Eshel – Dance researcher, choreographer and dancer. Performed dance recitals (1977-1986), author of the book Dancing with the dream – the development of artistic dance in  Israel  1920-1964.   Co-editor of the magazine Israel Dance with Giora Manor (1998-1991), editor of Dance Today (Machol Ahshav) (1993-2006) and from 2008 co-editor with Dr. Henya Rottenberg. Dance critic in Ha'aretz daily as of 1991 . Artistic director and choreographer of the Ethiopian dance groups Eskesta and Beta.

 

[1].  Yishuv  refers  to the  pioneer period  before the  statehood ofIsrael.

[2],  Mizrachi Jews literally means "Eastern" and refers to Jews living inNorth Africa and theMiddle East.

[3].  Refers to the culture of  Sephardic Jews who were expelled fromSpain in 1942. Many of whom settled in Middle Eastern countries as well asNorth Africa, theLevant, and various European centers.

Connection and Detachment Junctions between Concert Dance and the Ethnic Dance in Israel / Ruth Eshel

Dance Today, Isue no. 15, January 2009, pp.67 -62

Editors: Dr. Ruth Eshel & Dr. Henia Rottenberg

Publisher: Tmuna Theatre

Published with the assistance of The Ministry of Science, Culture and Sports

It is recommended to open the full issue

 

Connection and Detachment Junctions between Concert Dance and the Ethnic Dance in Israel

Ruth Eshel

The relationship between Concert Dance (Artistic dance) and Ethnic Dance in Israel has undergone many changes. During the Period of the early Yishuv[1](1) there was cross fertilization between these two dance genres, however, after the State was established, concert dance and the ethnic dance started to move apart.  This article aims at following the key-points of connection, detachment and the option of rapprochement between the two aforementioned genres from the view point of a person who was raised on concert dance.

Several clarification sentences are required regarding the central characterizations of the terms the article will refer to. The term "ethnic dance" serves as an umbrella assembling all dance expressions responding to the needs of a society, whose members have common genetic, linguistic and cultural relations, with a special emphasis on cultural tradition (Kealiinohomoku, 1983). According to Bahat (2004, pp.28-32), this relates to the widest dance basis from which several dancing types split up: ritual dance, folklore dance, social dance and concert dance.  Concert dance is located at the upper edge of the pyramid, artistically speaking.

Linking up during the Yishuv Period

The source of the close ties between concert dance and ethnic dance in the Yishuv period lies in the artistic concept the creators brought with them from Europe upon immigrating to Israel. Artists of ausdruckstanz (dance of expression) rejected classical ballet in all its components, arguing that this type of dance represented conventions of the old word. On the other hand, they treated with appreciation performances of ethnic soloists who performed in Europe between the two World Wars. These represented in their eyes the genuine tradition of a nation reinforced in the 19th century following the national struggles for independence in Europe, known as the "Spring of Nations".

The technical level of the ausdruckstanz dancers was not high and relied considerably on talent, musicality and natural ability. Therefore, the ethnic dancers' ability and the rich movement language of this genre were appreciated, being conspicuous on the poor movement language of the ausdruckstanz at the beginning of its route. Although ausdruckstanz was considered avant-guard, the artists integrated ethnic dances in their repertoire.

The dancer and choreographer Ruth Saint-Denis created her repertoire with the inspiration of exotic ethnical cultures. Rudolf Von Laban claimed that part of the ausdruckstanz artists' role was to create "movement choirs" instead of traditional folk dances. He created amateur mass performances on topics related to trade unions, and all in the "spirit of the period" (Manor, 1978, p. 33). The classical ballet also integrated ethnic dances into ballets created by Marius Petipa at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century.

Dance artists who immigrated to Israel during the period of the Yishuv brought along the approach of encouraging ties between concert and ethnic dance. The practical expression of this approach was in the aspiration to create a Hebrew dance with its various components – concert dance and folk dances. The choreographers searched for inspiration sources and turned to the small Yemenite community and the local Arabs. Their way of life, which seemed to have remained still and unchanged with time, ignited their imagination. The Jews of Yemenite origin were identified as continuing the Jewish history, interrupted by Exile 2000 years earlier, whereas the admiration for the "noble" Orientals was affected by the European Orientalism.

The repertoire of the concert and classical ballet artists included ethnic dances. A well-known dance, for instance, was Vodka (estimated date, the beginning of the 30's) by Gertrud Kraus. The ballet dancer Mia Arbatova performed Russian, Spanish and Oriental dances. A prominent example of integration between concert dance and folk dance was Rina Nikova's biblical ballet group where young dances of Yemenite origin performed. Despite the dominant Yemenite ethnic component, the group was considered part of the modern dance activity in the Yishuv, and participated in the dance contest in 1937.[2](2) At the same time, the dance artists in the Yishuv, Leah Bergstein and Yardena Cohen, being the most prominent among them, contributed to creating new holiday pageants related to the land. Part of the pageant dances were adopted by the people and turned into folk dances.

Detachment

The cross fertilization between concert and ethnic dance ended after the establishment of the State. The detachment between the two genres was related to demographic changes occurring in the first years of the State and the turnabout the concert dance has undergone. During the Yishuv period most of the Jewish population came from Central and Eastern Europe. However, following the War of Independence and the establishment of the State a massive immigration of Mizrahi (Eastern) Jews, driven away from the Arab countries arrived, changing the demographic balance between Ashkenazi and Mizrahi Jews.  This massive immigration was compounded by the immigration of remnant refugees from Europe and the immigration from the United States and other English speaking countries. Thus, the assembly of Jews from all over the world in Israel aggravated the problem of Jewish cultural mixture in the country. Attempting to tackle this problem the policy of the "melting pot" was consolidated, holding the view that the heritage of each community was not to be fostered in order to enable the forming of a common core for all the communities. Out of this core, so it was hoped, the Israeli culture would be formed.[3](3) With the background of this policy, seeking to weaken the uniqueness of each community and strengthen the common core, the enthusiasm for ethnic and oriental dance faded away as representing in appearance and culture the Jews of ancient Israel. The phenomenon of pushing tradition away, up to feeling ashamed of it, characterized a considerable part of the immigrant population, desiring to expedite the process of their becoming Israelis. On the other hand, there were immigrants who wanted to preserve the tradition they were raised on and felt at home with.

The second significant change which occurred in Israel is the style transformation of concert dance. Ausdruckstanz was rejected and instead, the American dance in the Martha Graham style was gradually adopted, granting the dancers a stylized movement lexicon and a training methodology.  The ambition to professionalize on a universal level was top priority of the "new" concert dance, whereas the aspiration to create Makhol Ivri (Hebrew Dance) was postponed.[4](4) Furthermore, associating with the ethnic was perceived as a disadvantage, which might color the dance work with localism and provinciality, while the dance artists were striving for the peak of international artistic level.

Inbal Dance Theatre

With the background of the demographic and artistic revolution and the "Melting Pot" policy during Israel’s first years, Inbal Dance Theatre was established by Sara Levi Tanai. This was an example of creating a modern dance theatre nourished on ethnic materials. The timing of establishing the company created opportunity for new avenues for it yet closed others.  The young country's relations with the United States, for instance, led to the establishment of the American Fund for Institutions in Israel (later called the America-Israel Cultural Foundation), which initiated the choreographer Jerome Robbins' visit to the country (1951). With his recommendation, the Fund began supporting Inbal, the first group that was able to work as a professional group in the years when there was no government support for concert dance. On the one hand, establishing a group on an ethnic basis was contrary to the concept of the "melting pot". Therefore, it is possible to understand why during the Yishuv period the Biblical ballet of Nikova, and dances produced by her colleagues with ethnic inspiration were welcomed by all society strata and the national institutions. On the other hand, after the State was established, a group identified with an ethnic community, even a dance group engaging in concert dance (there were many arguments regarding the question whether Inbal was a folklore group or not, and what were its objectives),[5](5) was a deviation from the declared policy of the "melting pot". Moreover, it was precisely Inbal's great success during its tours abroad, as the first representative of the dance inIsrael, which intensified the ambivalent attitude towards it. The pride its success evoked was accompanied by discontent that an ethnic group, identified with a small specific community was representingIsrael's dance abroad, precisely during the years the young state desired to project unity and not split and multi-cultures.

The detachment between Inbal Dance Theatre and the modern dance community in Israel was a two-way estrangement. The troupe was composed of dancers and a choreographer of Yemenite origin. Tanai was nourished on the creativity of her Yemenite dancers, their body language, the movement materials and its quality, and succeeded in expressing their special ethnic aspect. The choreographic simplicity of the works Inbal put on stemmed not only from artistic considerations of essence and clarity, which Levy-Tanai was blessed with, but it also matched the dancers' technical qualifications. On the one hand, Inbal withdrew into itself and even maintained that there was ethnic discrimination (Toledano, 2005, pp. 21-32). On the other hand, many of the dancers who were not members of the community could not find a supported professional framework (until the establishment of Bat-Sheva Company in 1964, and this too with private and not governmental support), regarded Inbal as the only troupe with a support enabling it to act in a professional format.  Inbal benefited from conditions that were not available to other modern dance companies, which were in deep financial crisis. Many articles were published in the newspapers under titles such as, "Artistic dance in Israel – No-man's-land" (Eshel, 2001, p.103).

In this context I would like to mention a small personal story. In the middle of the 50's, when I was a 14 year old ballet student I saw a performance of Inbal Dance Theatre at the amphitheatre located in the beautiful big garden of Rothschild Center at central Carmel. The theatre was full. As introduction to the performance Levi-Tanai gave some explanations regarding the costumes and the movement materials of her company. There was festive excitement in the air. The dancers, looking wonderful, and the very special choreography received thunderous applause. Yet to me, who dreamed of becoming a dancer, it was clear that this wonderful group is designed for the physical and mental qualities of the Yemenite community. As a young girl who was not a member of that community, and who grew up on classical ballet and later on modern dance, I knew I could not become part of it. I dare assume that this is how generations of dancers felt, that despite the great appreciation of Levi-Tania's work, they understood that her choreography was not designated for them.

With the years, the reservoir of dancers of Yemenite origin was depleted; the better ones left in order to find their own voice and expand their horizons. Only a small number of the old dancers remained in the group, and the lines were filled with non Yemenite dancers. The new dancers had enhanced technical qualifications compared with the old ones, however, the choreography and the movement language, which a priori were based on the body and the spirituality of the dancer of a Yemenite origin, and not on the ability of a professional dancer regardless of any specific ethnic origin, have lost their magic and seemed foreign and artificial.

As years went by a unique Inbal language was formed, and would be tested by its ability to be accepted as a net movement lexicon capable of enriching the artistic dance and preserve its vitality and the movement interest also when it is performed by professional dancers without any communal belonging.

Israeli Dance for the Stage

As the professional modern dance in Israel was loosing interest in ethnic dance it was also getting further away from the Israeli folk dances. In the 50's there was acceleration in creating folk dances, out of which Jonathan Carmon created what is called in the slang of the creators of folk dances "Israeli dance for the stage". Carmon developed a folk dance style designated for the stage in which he integrated basic elements of the Israeli folk dances typical of that period (step, bouncing, skipping, running etc.) and movement elements from ethnic dances ofIsrael's communities.  In addition, he combined in his works jumps like grand jeté, turns like chainé, grand battement, attitude and balancé. Carmon had also a great influence in the perception of using direction and space. Along the years, generations of choreographers emerged, most of whom were his students, developing this dance direction in their own way, however not all of them were blessed with Carmon's talent.

The question may be asked why movements, identified with classical ballet were interwoven into the "Israeli dance for the stage". Apparently, ausdruckstanz was a more natural partner for cooperation and enrichment.  I believe that the reason lies in the fact that ausdruckstanz was the source from which the said basic materials were retrieved.  Ausdruckstanz was unable to provide the new and significant movement lexicon, beyond what it had already provided. The additional potential partner for enrichment was Graham's modern dance, which in fact was rich in movement materials but its style bore the creator's personal imprint. Thus, elements of the classical ballet movement lexicon found their way into the "Israeli dance for the stage".

Furthermore, it should be noted that Carmon studied dancing with Gertrud Kraus and Mia Arbatova and his artistic career began in concert dance, turned to folk dances and from there reached the "Israeli dance for the stage". An additional aspect of the combination between folk dance and ballet was the habit, already popular in the 50's, of sending young girls to ballet lessons as part of their cultural enrichment. Most of them had no aspirations of becoming professional dancers, but many were attracted to the stage. Folk dance groups provided a framework for these ambitions, and gained public appreciation. Representative Folk Dance groups were established in the framework of a municipal or a regional authority granting the dancers the joy of dancing and the pleasure of being exposed to stage lights. It was also a way of seeing the world, by participating in the many tours taken by the groups, representing Israel.

Frequently, the professional kernel of these groups was built around those dancers who had acquired basic knowledge of classical ballet and dancers who had studied Jazz. In the 70's Jazz became very popular in Israel, following the success of the Shimon Brown "Jazz Plus" dance group (1969-1972), and the international prestige of Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre. The young dancers, who acquired elementary technique in artistic dance, became teachers giving lessons to their dance groups and created their own teaching methods. Out of these youngsters emerged a considerable number of choreographers who created "folk dances" for the masses and also "Israeli dance for the stage" for the representative groups. In both cases they specialized in working with amateurs. Some of the members of these groups reached the professional modern dance companies which were always in need for male dancers. On the other hand, choreographers of the folk dance representative groups, who desired to work with professional dancers and companies, encountered difficulties, stemming from lack of appreciation to their artistic qualifications.

Where did this lack of appreciation, stem from? It appears that the more the choreographers of the "Israeli dance for the stage" integrated movement elements identified with modern and classical dance, as well as trendy folk dances of various nations, the more the tendency of a stage "show" increased, the more disrespect for the works was felt. While the borrowed movement materials from modern dance and classical ballet seemed exciting to the dancers and the choreographers operating in the field of "Israeli dance for the stage", who regarded it as "professionalism", the professional concert dance artists saw things in a different light. The borrowed movement elements, performed by amateurs, left no impression on them. Furthermore, professional choreographers, particularly in the postmodern dance genre, wanted to keep away from familiar movement materials, each trying to express a personal voice and imprint a specific movement mark.

Recently, the choreography of the "Israeli dance for the stage" has become more complex and the standard of dancers has risen, however the movement language, which is the core of the matter, seems like an "odd customer" of modern dance, eclectic movement materials. Sometimes it is expressive or entertaining, and it has some bearing, generally superficial, on folklore. Many of the creators in the field also lack good taste. Choosing a topic or a title for a dance, related toIsrael, or relying on a melody written by an Israeli composer to a song in Hebrew cannot replace an original movement lexicon.

Nevertheless, the achievement of these choreographers or the activity of these groups should not be underestimated. A phenomenon, which might be unique to Israel, was created of thousands of amateur youngsters dancing in folk dance events and in the representative folk dance groups with passion and love of dance, to the sounds of Israeli songs, and that in an era when the Internet and other temptations are at our threshold. This is a wonderful phenomenon that must be preserved and fostered while encouraging good taste. Nevertheless, this is, most probably, not the artistic product the pioneers of folk dance and the "Israeli dance for the stage" dreamt of. One should distinguish between the educational phenomenon of thousands of youngsters dancing and being ostentatious about creating "Israeli dance for the stage".

Where have we lost our way?

The first folk dances were created out of the desire to create a unique Israeli style, aiming to get as far as possible from the characteristics of the other genres. Thus, these dances are built on basic universal movement materials such as bouncing, skipping, running and so on.  These materials are not unique to the Israeli folk dances and most ethnic dance uses the same elements. The difference between one ethnic style and another lies in the different choreographic use of those basic movement elements. The more emphasized the dosage of characteristics, such as focus on various parts of the body, the rhythm or the use of space, the more specifically the ethnic identity becomes.  According to Bahat (2008), when the ethnic identity looses it importance, other channels are sought to express the need in movement and dance.

I maintain that the "ethnic uniqueness" of the first Israeli folk dances lies precisely in "neutralizing the ethnic", by leaving the basic movement materials in their most natural way; in one word, in their simplicity. Any emphasis of one dosage or another in dimensions of time, space, form and strength, might draw it closer to the known combination identified with the ethnic dance of a certain people or a specific community. Nevertheless, to that "natural simplicity" of the first Israeli folk dances was added the element of the dancers' bursting energy. The combination between natural simplicity and energy created freshness, which came off well with the message of national renewal. In other words, and with the appropriate caution, the uniqueness of the first Israeli folk dances is not in the formal movement characteristics (for instance, a uniquely stylized foot lifting, or a variety of stamping with knee lifting in variations), but precisely in the lack of prominent traits. This is how the simplicity and the modesty of the movement were preserved in its natural origin. The characterization "the young energy" of the dancers could have been translated into the rich use of rapid hopping, running, jumping and deployment within the general space.

That is the core of the problem, because if simplicity is the main characterization of the dance, any complexity and enrichment might destroy it.  Since simplicity and energy are the basis of the Israeli folk dances, the development for the stage must be entrusted in the hands of a wise choreographer, who will act with sensitivity,  respect, knowledge and creativity. Borrowing materials of other nations is an easy solution but a destructive one.

The more popular the folk dance events became and turned into a livelihood source, the greater became the pressure on the dance instructors to create more and more new folk dances, as if it were about a combination of movements, as customary in Jazz lessons, ending with a small dance combination. The most popular instructors have also turned into the choreographers of the representative folk dance groups.

Beginning of Rapprochement between the professional dance and the ethnic dance

While the disinterest of professional dance in the folk dances and the "Israeli dance for the stage" has not changed in the course of time, one may occasionally locate exceptional cases of interest in ethnic dance. It seems this trend is increasing, though very slowly. Moshe Efrati adapted, in an extraordinary manner, movement elements out of the Sepharadi Jewry culture in some of the dances he has created. A prominent example is Camina A-Tourna (1990), a dance engaging in the Expulsion from Spain and the endless wandering of Jews along the generations. Liat Dror and Nir Ben Gal were pioneers when they started combining belly dances in their programs, for instance in Donkeys (1989), Inta Omri (1994) and Dance of Nothing (1999). They did not do it as part of an international trend of relating to belly dances, which accelerated in the world, but as part of a genuine integration effort into the East.  Dror and Ben Gal regarded belly dancing a movement material belonging to the place we live in, and this approach was reinforced by the couple's relocating to the desert and dissociating themselves from the entire show accompanying belly dancing, such as the female dancer's garments. Dror and Ben Gal's international prestige contributed to the concert dance artists' attitude change towards ethnic dance. Barak Marshal combined in his works motifs of Hassidic Dance, Yemenite dance and Pop and Ilana Cohen of Inbal continued creating dances in the company's movement lexicon. Renanna Raz has recently created Kazuarot inspired by the Druz Debka and the author of this article is working with members of the Ethiopian community with Eskesta and Beta dance troupes. Inbal Dance Theatre, with a new management headed by Razi Amitai, has entered a new path: talented choreographers, identified with concert dance will be invited to created dances inspired by ethnic dance.

There were great hopes that the Karmiel Festival, which brings together various communities, will also succeed in creating an encounter between the genres. The various genres share the same location in Karmiel Festival, whilst each one maintains its independence. The festival does not initiate nor provide a place for dialogue between concert dance, currently flourishing in Israel and revealing much greater curiosity and awareness than in the past to the treasure of ethnic materials of the communities, and the enterprise of folk dance and the Israeli dance for the stage, which despite its success in drawing thousands of people to the dancing circles has reached a dead end from the artistic point of view.

Apparently there is no escape from a clear definition of objectives: a creation of a folk dance, designated for the masses, or development of concert dance for selected professional dancers, inspired by Ethnic dance. There is no contradiction in being open to influences, no matter how diversified they may be, provided the objectives are clear, the professional knowledge exists and primarily good taste is preserved.

Ninety years after Baruch Agadati, the pioneer of concert dance in Israel, turned to the Jewish ethnic traditions, Ashkenazi and Mizrachi, as a source for a new movement lexicon. As known, Agadati's name is associated also with the first Israeli folk dance.[6] Since then, concert dance, ethnic dance of the various communities and the folk dance have gone a long way, and awareness of the strengths and weaknesses of each genre has increased. Now, with new tools of an updated world, with technical and budgetary ability not existing in the past, the time has come for a renewed connection.

Bibloiography

Bahat-Ratzon, Naomi. People Dancing: Dance – Society- Culture in the World and in Israel, Carmel, Jerusalem, 2004.

Eshel, Ruth. Dancing with the Dream – the development of artistic dance in Israel 1920-1964,  Sifriat Hapoalim, 1991.

————-. "Hips Swirl like a Mobile in Kibbutz Ein- Hashofet: Celebrating pageants in the valley and in the mountains[English]", Dance Today no.1,2000, pp. 77-78.

Toledano, Gila. "Eskesta Dance Theater: Artistic Dance inspired by Ethiopian Folklore", Dance Today no.3, 2000, pp.30-35.

————————-. A Story of A Company: Sara Levi-Tanai and Inbal Dance-Theatre, Resling, 2005.

Goren, Ayala-Kadman. "Debka and its Metamorphoses: Affinities Between Arab Debka Dancing and Jewish Debka Dancing in Israel", Dance Today, no.3. 2000, pp.10-16.

Manor, Giora. The Life and Dance of Gertrud Kraus, Hakibbutz Hameuchad, 1978.

Kealiinohomoku, Joann. "An Antropologist  Looks at Ballet as a Form of Ethnic Dance", What is Dance – Reading in Theory and Criticism, Roger Copeland and Marshal Cohen, eds., Oxford University press, 1983, pp.533-548.

Roginsky, Dina. Folk and Ethnic Dancing in Israel, Dance Today no. 3 2000, pp. 18-24.

——————-.  Sixty years to the First Dalia conference, 1994-2004: Changes in Israeli Folk Dance [English]", Dance Today no. 11, 2004, pp. 87-99.

Ronen, Dan. "Dance for Everyone: On Multi- Culturalism in Israel and its Influence on the Development of Dance", Dance Today no.3, 2000, pp. 4-10.

—————. "Yearning for Israeli Attributes `Carmon` in Dance", Dance Today no. 5, pp.44-49.

—————. "Folk  Dances as an Inspiration to Artistic Dance, Dance Today no.11, 2004, pp.75-81.

Dr. Ruth Eshel – Dance researcher, choreographer and dancer. Performed dance recitals (1977-1986), author of the book Dancing with the dream – the development of artistic dance in  Israel  1920-1964.   Co-editor of the magazine Israel Dance with Giora Manor (1998-1991), editor of Dance Today (Machol Ahshav) (1993-2006) and from 2008 co-editor with Dr. Henya Rottenberg. Dance critic in Ha'aretz daily as of 1991 . Artistic director and choreographer of the Ethiopian dance groups Eskesta and Beta.

Notes



[1] The Yishov period – the early Jewish settlements in Israel before the establishment of the state of Israel

[2]    Establishing the dance group its being run by Nikova, who immigrated from Russia and was not a member of the Yemenite community, must have facilitated its integration in the 30's and the 40's as part of the dance for the stage making. On the other hand, in the 50's and henceforth, the fact that a Yemenite group was headed by a non-member of that community strengthened its image as an Oriental group.

[3]  The perception of the "melting pot" did, in fact, threaten the conservation, the revival and the spreading of the Eastern communities' ethnic dances. Already at the end of the 40's Gurit Kadman, the musician Ester Gerzon-Kivi and the literature researcher Yehuda Ratzabi acted for their preservation and documentation. Thereby Kadman preceded her generation and contributed to the growth of a multi-cultural society. According to Ronen (2008), affected by Kadman's activity the community dances contributed to the Israeli folk dances, so that each one of them could feel they were "his own".

[4] In 1951 the American choreographer Jerome Robbins came to Israel. With regard to the aspiration to create Makhol Yisraeli (Israeli dance), he wrote in the report to an American Fund and to institution in Israel (later on the Israel-America Culture Fund) that the Israeli dancer must assimilate the techniques of classical ballet and modern dance, master these techniques and other, "Till they no longer seem strange and hostile. Only then will you reach the stage where you may make your own experiments, grow and develop".

[5] Regarding the many arguments about Inbal's mission, see a discussion on the group's way, held in 1975. Toledano, pp. 161-162.

[6] The folk dance called Horah Agadati was created by Gurit Kadman based on Baruch Agadati's solo dance. Kadman asked the composer Uria Boskovitch to set the song to music.

Fringes at the Center: Tetris by Noah Dar / Henia Rottenberg

 Dance Today – The Dance Magazine of Israel

Editors: Dr. Ruth Eshel & Dr. Henia Rottenberg

Issue no. 14, October 2008, pp.55 -59 (translated to English by Daphne Brill)

Publisher: Tmuna Theatre

Published with the assistance of The Ministry of Science, Culture and Sports

It is recommended to open the full issue 

Fringes at the Center: Tetris by Noah Dar

By Henia Rottenberg

In the dance Tetris (2006), the choreographer Noah Dar and the plastic artist Nati Shamia-Ofer collaborate in a dialogue generating a unique performance space in which the viewers observe the occurrence from the place where the dancers’ feet meet the dancing floor. Shamia-Ofer created a special structure – a raised wooden floor, in which openings were made. The viewers stand under the surface, insert their heads through the openings and watch the dancers' movement. In Tetris the viewers do not hide in the darkness of the auditorium, but penetrate the performance by sticking their heads through the holes ruptured in the surface. On the one hand, the dancers move above the viewer's heads, being exposed and naked to their penetrating looks, yet on the other hand they can use the great vicinity to seduce or threaten the audience. This extraordinary relationship created in the dance is not necessarily friendly; it is deterring and may even be menacing, and as such it undermines the traditional and common balance between the viewer and the performer. This extraordinary space removes the audience from the secure theatre auditorium, allowing it to participate in a different and challenging occurrence, constituting an integral part of the dance design.

Tetris, the dance I wish to examine here, deals with "a renewed examination of the viewer/performance/space relationship" (quoted from the programme and translated by the author). In these relationships movement, material and space are involved. The manipulation of the holed stage enables Dar to break the safe and familiar distance between the performer and the viewer and its accompanying conventions. The location in an unfamiliar territory enables the Tetris viewers a fresh dance observation experience. They can see from very close the skin surface and the sweat, but they can also focus on observing the dancers' various body parts without seeing the body move as a whole. This article will examine how the holed stage and the intimacy imposed on the viewers challenge the viewer-performer relationship thus affecting the tension created between closeness and distance, between fixation and movement, between alienation and involvement in the common experience.

In the context of Tetris, the term "Fringes at the center" outlines the dance boundaries between two distinct domains: between the avant-garde fringes and the repertoire center. This dance was in fact ordered by a framework aspiring to belong to the fringes, the Acco Festival of Alternative Israeli Theatre 2006 – and was even awarded for its innovation – however this discussion does not engage in the artist's position in the avant-garde fringes, nor in the repertoire centre or in the space between them. This article also does not engage in geographical fringes and center, despite Dar's position as an artist in the "center" and despite the tension accompanying the need to reach a certain space in which she chooses to present the work (the studio), in order to watch Tetris. The article also does not engage in the question of social fringes and center and the relationships between them and does not relate to the artist's political involvement or to the social assertion that might emerge from this work. This article will engage in the esthetic expression of fringes and center in Tetris. It will present the innovative conceptions, in which the dance artists of the avant-garde, thriving in the second half of the 20th century inNew York, engaged in. In relation to that I will discuss the manner in which Dar chose to handle the issues that were presented as part of the fringes and the way she transfers them to the heart of the institutional theatric dance.

The stage shape and the viewing experience

The affinity between the stage shape and its affect on the viewing experience developed with the first theatrical dance performances in the West, which started thriving in the 16th and the 17th century. These performances, which preceded the invention of the proscenium stage1, were put on in extensive halls in which most of the audience was seated in raised balconies surrounding the dance floor from three sides. Since most of the viewers saw the performance from above, their attention focused mainly on the configurations and formations created on the floor by the dancers, amateurs of the aristocratic class.2 The invention of the proscenium stage in Italy (1580), by Andrea Palladio, has quickly spread in the western world and its imprint on the development of theatrical dance is marked to date.3 The auditorium shaped hall emphasized the strengthening of the professional dancer's status, the frame and the picturesque illusion on the stage, but most of all it brought about the separation between the viewer and the performer. In performances taking place on a proscenium stage the viewers sit in a darkened hall, a situation allowing distance and non-involvement in the occurrence on the stage. As a result of this separation social alienation has developed between the viewer and the performer.

Ever since it was invented, the proscenium stage has been considered the centre of the theatrical essence in the west. In most traditional theatres the auditorium was firmly determined as a theatrical form, in which the artists are on the stage and the audience sits and watches them from the hall. Criticism on institutional dance in the 20th century – the ballet and the modern dance – has led to the change in the way the performance space is perceived by the artists. In 1952 the composer and theoretician John Cage (1912-1992) together with the dancer and choreographer Merce Cunningham (1919-2009) organized a multimedia event at the Black Mountain College.4 In this event the viewers were seated in a square arena demarcated by diagonal passages into four triangles. Cunningham was improvising a dance in the aisles, on the ceiling a movie was being screened sliding down onto the walls, Cage was reading a text on music and Zen Buddhism, and David Tudor was playing a tuned piano (Goldberg, 1996). InBlackMountainCollege a new paradigm was generated.

A significant contribution to the discourse regarding the space concept in relation to the perspective, which found expression in this event, was related to the pioneering work taking place even earlier at the Bauhaus School in Europe(1913-1933). It was introduced to the BlackMountainCollegein the fall of 1933 by the artist Josef Albers, a former teacher in the Bauhaus, who invited Xanti Schawinsky (1936) to extend the stage experiments, relying on the initiatives of Laszlo Moholy-Nagy in the Bauhaus.5 These engaged in creative relationships stemming from the separation between the stage and the viewer. Moholy-Nagy claimed that in order to create stage activities in which the viewer would not be a silent partner, but would participate in the action, new mechanical means were required, which would replace the act of voyeurism towards the stage (Moholy-Nagy, 1961). Later on Walter Gropius, the Bauhaus director, designed the Total Theater, a building composed of stages in three different shapes. Each could be used with a simple mechanism, and on each diversified performances could be put on (drama, opera, cinema and dancing), according to the director's requirements (Gropius, 1961, p. 12).

The multimedia event in BlackMountainCollegeand the ideas of the type performed in it had a distinct affect on the Judson Dance Theatre artists' group, operating in New Yorkin the 1960's. The experiments and inquiries of this group of artists – Yvonne Rainer, Trisha Brown, Steve Paxton, Simone Forti and others – challenged the way dance was comprehended till then, the conventional training methods in the field and the institutes in which it was being taught (Connor, 1997). Space was one of the radical issues to which the artists related to in the Judson Dance Theatre, in the sense of its use within the dance and everything regarding the terms such as the location and the viewing experience.6

Among the performances created by artists in unconventional sites we may note Simone Forti's first works, See-Saw and Rollers (both in 1960), presented in an art gallery. The use Forti made in a different space broke the conventional concepts in modern dance but also diverted the dance activity from the dance world to the world of art. By this mere action she placed the choreographer next to the visual artist, whose status was considered more serious. Meredith Monk, another choreographer, demanded from the audience that came to watch her work Vessel (1971) to move from one place to another during the performance: from the Guggenheim Museum to proscenium theatre, and from there to her own attic. Trisha Brown, on the other hand, created Roof Piece (1971), in which dancers, located on twelve building roofs in Manhattan, tried to repeat with maximum accuracy the movements of their colleagues. These works, performed in unconventional sites, had real effects on the choreography concept and the viewers' observation experience. Yvonne Rainer deserted the viewer's voyeuristic gaze in her work Trio A (1962), in which she focused the viewers' attention on movements based on carrying out an assignment. Another creator, who undermined the position of the narcissist performer, was Trisha Brown. In the dance Insider (1966) she challenged the viewers, looking straight at them while she was moving to and fro on the edge of the stage.

Judson Dance Theatre had in fact a faithful audience – artists, intellectuals and people neighboring on the church – but in the first years of the group's activity the critique inclined to ignore it (Banes, 1987, p.13). Similar to other avant-garde movements, the affect of the Judson Dance Theatre on the dance world was marginal at the time. The group gained its appropriate esteem only post factum. The movement experiments of Judson group, which were excluded from the main stream due to their being part of a marginal avant-garde movement, relented with the years and permeated into the dance main stream. They did much more than that. These experiences changed the way the art of dancing was perceived and opened a window for the choreographers enabling them a free choice in the choreographic, styling, space and other performance aspects, as is seen in Tetris.

The boundaries of intimacy

The viewer in Tetris, a game-performance7, faces the viewing experience upon entering the studio. As in a secular ceremony, each one of the viewers – all together 69 – passes through a narrow gate where he/she are required to take off their shoes, their height is measured and respectively they receive stools in various sizes. The viewers, led by the dancers, are seated on the stools in front of the raised stage. This way, already upon entering the dance site Dar breaks the solidarity of the way of looking by actually drawing the viewers' attention to the extraordinary stage and focusing their attention on the notion of the physical-mental distance between the viewer and the performer.

After all the viewers have gathered, a voice asks them to get under the raised stage and place the stools in the marked places. The voice continues instructing them to cautiously mount the stools and push their heads through the open holes in the raised dance floor. The scenery revealed to the viewers is a field of "decapitated" heads, without a body, with pairs of eyes looking with embarrassment and mouths laughing with uneasiness. The embarrassment intensifies when the seven dancers8 start moving between the heads, to the original music of Uri Frost. They crawl and move among the heads, which are protected by a metal lattice around them, or stretch themselves over them. The movement, taking place at the viewers' eye level and in close proximity, is an extraordinary perspective for a dance. It enables the dancers to see the reaction of the viewers who are riveted to their places, and create a direct, but also a manipulative contact with them.

On the other hand, the viewers, who are confined to their places, see the dances from very close and experience the proximity sharply. They notice their effort, their sweat and even the bruises on their body. Moreover, the penetration into the dancers' intimate space – the physical and the mental – exposes the viewers to the manipulation of twisting bodies touching each other with passion, the sensual wiggling movement of thighs or dancers trying to undress each other. The movement of erotic ingredients builds up till it reaches its peak and falls apart with the sounds of foot stamping threatening the wooden floor, when bodies jump up in the air and almost touch the ceiling, or when the dancers jump and skip between the heads which feel unprotected. The viewers can indeed choose whether to watch a female dancer taking off her outfit, pouring water on herself and crying, or to look away; but the great proximity and the blurring of the safe distance boundaries between the dancers and the viewers raise questions engaging in the encroachment of the personal space, and the tension generated from the excitement and the temptation evoking due to the physical proximity.

Dar and Shamia-Ofer trap the viewers in a unique space, but also enable them to decide whether they want to get away or when to return to the occurrence. The viewers, who decide to slide down beneath the stage surface for a short rest from the intensity of the performance, face a no less surprising surrealistic scenery – a world bustling with a passive movement of "decapitated" bodies. If previously the viewers and the dancers tackled with heads separated from the bodies, now they tackle with headless bodies. The separation between the “thinking” head and the “feeling” body exhibited as a peel intensifies due to the passivity of the viewers' hanging bodies separated from their heads as opposed to the active and moving dancers.

A video, filmed during the performance without the viewers' knowledge and screened on a huge screen empowers the head detachment experience from the body. Eshel (2007) describes it by saying, "The passive bodies which remained under the ceiling/stage recalled meat suspended on hangers at the butcher's or a cemetery of torsos and limbs". After the viewers watch with embarrassment the video film exhibiting their facial expressions, where exactly they are looking or how they feel, also become aware of their body movement and the movements of the other performance viewers beneath the stage. A lifted leg or a scratching hand is part of the flabby and passive body movement captured by a candid camera. Beyond the stripping exposure, watching the video film raises also a complex network of looks: of the viewers looking at themselves watching the dancers and the other viewers, and of the dancers looking at the viewers and the other dancers. Dar conducts them all by operating the camera and directing the lens. Furthermore, observing the performance through the video film emphasizes the common experience to both the viewers and the dances, but at the same time also enables them to observe the occurrence from a distance.

The last part of the dance is apparently of a traditional nature. The viewers leave their places under the stage and move to watch the dance, seated on stools facing the stage. But then, when the viewers are back to the safe and secure space, they watch the dancers squeeze through the openings, through which the viewers' heads have emerged, and move between the two spaces – above and underneath the stage floor, and particularly on the bottom part of the stage. Like bats hanging on the tree's branches they dance in an upside-down world, their legs in the sky and their heads close to the floor.

To sum up, in Tetris, by means of the dialogue with the visual art, Dar engages in extending the dance boundaries when she investigates the issue of the performance space and its viewing experience. She says, "What we have here is the breaking of boundaries and testing at every given moment how far this boundary can be taken (Yudilevitz, 2006). If in avant-garde the criticism drawn by the art is directed towards the functional definitions of the art establishment in a bourgeois society, in Tetris Dar tones down the avant-garde ideas and presents them as part of the mainstream dance. Like in the avant-garde, Dar rejects the voyeurism act as part of the viewing experience in a dance performance and demands total involvement of all the action participants. She also turns the space between the performance and the audience into the central occurrence arena. By means of this inquiry, Tetris extends the boundaries of the world of dance as a theatrical art.

Notes

 1 Proscenium stage is a rectangular shaped elevated stage, extending at the end of the hall from wall to wall. The proscenium arch is a quadrilateral opening in the wall separating the hall from the stage –the imaginary "fourth wall" – through which the audience watches the occurrence on the stage.

2 For elaboration on the Ballet de cour see Rottenberg, 2008.

3 Teatro Olimpico was first built in the city ofVicenza in the years 1580-1585.

4 Cage was inspired by the theatrical ideas of Antonin Artaud, by the use Marcel Duchamp made of chance procedures and the Zen philosophical doctrine of the non-development.

5 Moholy–Nagy was an abstract painter, who started engaging in artistic design in the Bauhaus.

6 Banes (1987) claims that the other important subjects the avant-garde group related to were: history, new usages of time, space and body; and problems of defining dancing.

7 Tetris is a name of a computer game, in which the player has to direct shapes falling slowly from the screen's upper part and arrange them at the bottom of the screen without any spaces. The name of the game is derived from the Greek name "Tetra"' meaning "four", because the shapes in the game consist of four squares.

8 Creating dancers: Lilly Ladin, Oren Tishler, Irad Matzliach, Adaya Fershkovsky, Nahshon Stein, Coralli Ladam, Shira Rinot.

Bibliography

Banes, Sally. Terpsichore in Sneakers: Post-Modern Dance.U.S.A.:WesleyanUniversity Press, (1977) 1987.

Connor, Steven. Postmodern Culture: An Introduction to Theories of the Contemporary.Oxford: Blackwell, 1997.

Eshel, Ruth. At the mercy of the gigantic reptiles. Ha'aretz, 26.4.2007. [Hebrew]

Goldberg, RoseLee. Performance Art.London: Thames andHudson, (1988) 1996.

Gropius, Walter. Introduction in Gropius Walter & Wensinger, S. Arthur (Eds.). The Theater of the Bauhaus.Baltimore andLondon: TheJohnsHopkinsUniversity Press, 1961, pp. 7-17.

Moholy-Nagy, Laszlo. Theater, Circus, Variety in Gropius Walter & Wensinger, S. Arthur (Eds.). The Theater of the Bauhaus.Baltimore andLondon: TheJohnsHopkinsUniversity Press, 1961, pp. 49-72.

Rottenberg, Henia. The Revolution of the Theatrical Dance: The Renaissance Period. Voices of Dance: Israeli dance forum. [Hebrew] http://www.dancevoices.com/he/dance-discourses/40-2008-10-22-18-50-02, 22 October, 2008. Retrieved on July 20, 2009.

Yodilevitch, Merav. To detach the head from the body. Yediot Aharonot, 16.11.2006. [Hebrew]

אובייקטים כוריאוגרפיים פסטיבל אביב באוטרכט, הולנד, 26-16 באפריל 2009 / גבי אלדור

כתב עת מחול עכשיו

גיליון16, דצמבר 2009, עמ'   40

עורכות: ד"ר רות אשל וד"ר הניה רוטנברג

מו"ל: תיאטרון תמונע

הגיליון יצא לאור בתמיכת משרד המדע, התרבות והספורט – המחלקה למחול

מומלץ לפתוח את הגיליון  המלא

 

אובייקטים כוריאוגרפיים

פסטיבל אביב באוטרכט, הולנד, 26-16 באפריל 2009

גבי אלדור

תהליך מעניין מתרחש היום במחול העולמי. אחרי שקרעו את הבמה, נעזרו באורות רבי עוצמה, החרישו אוזניים, התפשטו, העליבו את הקהל או התחנפו אליו, סיפרו סיפורים או קראו טקסטים עלומים, עבודותיהם האחרונות של הכוריאוגרפים המובילים מתאפיינות במעין דממה והתכנסות. אובייקטים כוריאוגרפיים מאת ויליאם פורסיית (Forsythe), מיצג שהועלה בגלריה סנטראל בפתיחת פסטיבל האביב באוטרכט, מוגדר התנסות בהפרדת הכוריאוגרפיה מן המחול המבוצע. בעצם, הפרדתה מן הגוף. פורסיית, יוצר ענק ופילוסוף ששינה את תפישת החלל והזמן על במת המחול, מחפש היום "ידע", תשתית מוצקה, אולי גריד מחולי, שבאמצעותו אפשר יהיה להתבונן בכוריאוגרפיה כבאובייקט כמו מדעי, הניתן לשחזור ובדיקה.

באי הגלריה התכבדו ביין וראו מקרוב את פורסיית, שעמד נשען על הקיר, נרגש, כל ישותו אומרת חיות ועניין. הוא שוחח עם כולם והיה קשוב וישיר. על מתלה בגדים ארוך נתלו סווטשירטים ועליהם כתובת שנכתבה במהופך או בכתב ראי. זה זמן רב שפורסיית עוסק בתעתועי תפישה. למשל, את פני הקהל שבא לצפות בעבודתו אובדנו של הפרט הקטן (שהועלתה גם בישראל) קידם המשפט "ברוכים הבאים למה שאתם חושבים שאתם רואים". בעבודה הנוכחית לבש כל אחד מהנוכחים את אחת החולצות, בתחושה מעורבת של יראת כבוד, מבוכה ושעשוע, ואחר כך ניסה להבין את הכתובת כשהתייצב בתנוחות שונות מול גוש של מראות מתעתעות. היו שנשכבו על הרצפה, אחרים עמדו על הראש. נדמה היה שרק יהודים, כמו תלמידי חדר תימנים שלמדו לקרוא בתנ"ך מכל זווית ומכל צד, בגלל הצפיפות בכיתה, הצליחו לפענח את הכתובת. בסרט וידיאו שהוקרן בחדר נראה פורסיית משתי זוויות צילום, על צגים מופרדים, כשהוא קושר את עצמו, נעקד, כמעט נחנק ולבסוף עטוף בחבל עבה ושחור. לאחר שנכלא בתוך החבל, ראשו עוטה שחור, הוא משמיע צעקה עזה, כמו נביחה מחרידה. אחר כך הוא נחלץ מן הקשר שלוכד אותו, כמו מטפס הרים שההר נמצא בתוכו. ההיחלצות המדויקת היא שחזור לאחור של תהליך הכפיתה. זהו סרט מרשים ביותר, ישיר וחסר אשליות. האם זהו מתווה כוריאוגרפי שבמרכזו אובייקט – החבל – שאפשר יהיה  לתרגמו מאוחר יותר לתנועה של קבוצה? ואולי מדובר ברשת משותפת, מדומה, של שני אובייקטים, שאנו מנסים לתת להם משמעות?

במקום אחר מוצב צג של פרומפטר – כמו אלה המשמשים מגישי חדשות בטלוויזיה – שעליו רץ טקסט שכולו אומר "לא ידענו, לא היינו בסביבה, חשבנו שזה יעבור, לא ידענו את הפרטים – אנו, שחשבנו שעשינו מספיק, שלא הרגשנו בדחיפות הדבר". זה טקסט מרגש, העוסק באחריות אישית, בנקיטת עמדה. בשימוש המקובל, הפרומפטר מיועד לקריין יחיד, אבל באמצעותו מועברים מסרים במדיום של תקשורת המונים. מגילה ארוכה, שסופה אינו נראה, המנוקבת כולה כאילו נכתבה בכתב ברייל, משתלשלת מן התקרה. זהו אובייקט המרמז על עיוורון, בדומה לכפיתה העצמית של פורסיית, שם החבל העבה מכסה את עיניו בשלב מסוים. המיצג מעורר התרגשות, מפעיל ומרתק במידה שלא תיאמן כמעט.

ג'רום בל (Bel), הכוריאוגרף שרוקן את המחול מהמשמעות המסורתית של "ריקוד" והעמיד על הבמה שורות של אנשים שעמדו והביטו בקהל, וכך עירער את המשוואה האבסורדית למדי, שבה אנשים יושבים בחושך ומביטים באנשים אחרים הנעים על במה מוגבהת, פונה עתה "אל העבר כדי לראות את העתיד…" (זה היה המוטו של הפסטיבל,looking at the past to see the future). בסדרה של מופעי יחיד הוא העלה לבמה אמנים ותיקים, שסיפרו על ההיסטוריה שלהם כרקדנים ורקדו אותה. "רק לרקדן המבצע יש את הידע של הריקוד", אמר בל על כוס קפה במלון. מולו ישב לוץ פורסטר, רקדן גבוה ובלונדי, מכוכבי להקת המחול של פינה באוש המוכרת היטב בארץ.

פורסטר עלה לבמה בחליפה כהה וסיפר את סיפור חייו כרקדן. מדויק, אלגנטי, הוא הצליח להעלות בעיני רוחו של הקהל ריקודים שלמים תוך כדי דיבור המלווה איור קל בתנועה. הוא הרקדן המבצע את the man I love בשפת הסימנים. על הבמה הוא עשה זאת בליווי סאונד ובלעדיו, סיפר על אהובו שמת ותיאר כיצד למד את השיר באופן מזעזע בכנותו. לקראת סוף הערב אמר פורסטר "והנה אני כאן" – איש לא צעיר מול אולם מלא, מריע, נרגש עד דמעות. משפט שהוא כאילו תמצית הקיום על הבמה: הנה אני כאן.

זה גם מה שאמר ישראל גלבן (Galvan), שביצע פלמנקו ללא קישוטים של פולקלור, שמלות וכל האמצעים האחרים שמתלווים בדרך כלל לריקוד, ונותר עם הכלים הבסיסיים של המחול  הספרדי. על במה שעליה הותקנו חיישנים שהגבירו את קול צעדיו, הוא עצמו הפך לכלי נגינה. גלבן השתמש בקסטנייטות, בקולו, בשיניו ובטפיחות על גופו, אבל העיקר היה הריקוד המלוטש, העשיר, המרתק את הקהל. הוא רקד לצד הבמה, בתוך ריבוע שבתוכו אבק לבן, יחף, דמות בתוך עננה, ללא סאונד. מלבד הריבוע, הוא רקד גם בתוך עיגול ועם כיסא. כל אחת מן הצורות-המגבלות הפעילה את דמיונו. עם הכיסא הוא יצר דיאלוג לירי, דרמה שלמה של אהבה.

גלבן הוא אמן מסעיר. על רקע המחול שלו, באולם שחלונותיו פונים אל אור הדמדומים המתארך, המשיך העולם בהילוכו האטי והשליו. זה לא מפריע לרקדן וגם לא לצופים. האמנות, כמו בתחומים אחרים, יורדת מהיכל השן ומצטרפת לקהל. אפשר להרגיש רווחה והכרת תודה.

Connection and Detachment Junctions between Concert Dance and the Ethnic Dance in Israel / Ruth Eshel

Dance Today – The Dance Magazine of Israel

Issue no. 15, January 2009, pp.67 -62

Editors: Dr. Ruth Eshel & Dr. Henia Rottenberg

Publisher: Tmuna Theatre

Published with the assistance of The Ministry of Science, Culture and Sports

It is recommended to  view  the full magazine – plese open dance today in israeldance-diaries.co.il 

Connection and Detachment Junctions between Concert Dance and the Ethnic Dance in Israel

Ruth Eshel

The relationship between Concert Dance (Artistic dance) and Ethnic Dance in Israel has undergone many changes. During the Period of the early Yishuv[1]) there was cross fertilization between these two dance genres, however, after the State was established, concert dance and the ethnic dance started to move apart.  This article aims at following the key-points of connection, detachment and the option of rapprochement between the two aforementioned genres from the view point of a person who was raised on concert dance.

Several clarification sentences are required regarding the central characterizations of the terms the article will refer to. The term "ethnic dance" serves as an umbrella assembling all dance expressions responding to the needs of a society, whose members have common genetic, linguistic and cultural relations, with a special emphasis on cultural tradition (Kealiinohomoku, 1983). According to Bahat (2004, pp.28-32), this relates to the widest dance basis from which several dancing types split up: ritual dance, folklore dance, social dance and concert dance.  Concert dance is located at the upper edge of the pyramid, artistically speaking.

Linking up during the Yishuv Period

The source of the close ties between concert dance and ethnic dance in the Yishuv period lies in the artistic concept the creators brought with them from Europe upon immigrating to Israel. Artists of ausdruckstanz (dance of expression) rejected classical ballet in all its components, arguing that this type of dance represented conventions of the old word. On the other hand, they treated with appreciation performances of ethnic soloists who performed in Europe between the two World Wars. These represented in their eyes the genuine tradition of a nation reinforced in the 19th century following the national struggles for independence in Europe, known as the "Spring of Nations".

The technical level of the ausdruckstanz dancers was not high and relied considerably on talent, musicality and natural ability. Therefore, the ethnic dancers' ability and the rich movement language of this genre were appreciated, being conspicuous on the poor movement language of the ausdruckstanz at the beginning of its route. Although ausdruckstanz was considered avant-guard, the artists integrated ethnic dances in their repertoire.

The dancer and choreographer Ruth Saint-Denis created her repertoire with the inspiration of exotic ethnical cultures. Rudolf Von Laban claimed that part of the ausdruckstanz artists' role was to create "movement choirs" instead of traditional folk dances. He created amateur mass performances on topics related to trade unions, and all in the "spirit of the period" (Manor, 1978, p. 33). The classical ballet also integrated ethnic dances into ballets created by Marius Petipa at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century.

Dance artists who immigrated to Israel during the period of the Yishuv brought along the approach of encouraging ties between concert and ethnic dance. The practical expression of this approach was in the aspiration to create a Hebrew dance with its various components – concert dance and folk dances. The choreographers searched for inspiration sources and turned to the small Yemenite community and the local Arabs. Their way of life, which seemed to have remained still and unchanged with time, ignited their imagination. The Jews of Yemenite origin were identified as continuing the Jewish history, interrupted by Exile 2000 years earlier, whereas the admiration for the "noble" Orientals was affected by the European Orientalism.

The repertoire of the concert and classical ballet artists included ethnic dances. A well-known dance, for instance, was Vodka (estimated date, the beginning of the 30's) by Gertrud Kraus. The ballet dancer Mia Arbatova performed Russian, Spanish and Oriental dances. A prominent example of integration between concert dance and folk dance was Rina Nikova's biblical ballet group where young dances of Yemenite origin performed. Despite the dominant Yemenite ethnic component, the group was considered part of the modern dance activity in the Yishuv, and participated in the dance contest in 1937.[2]) At the same time, the dance artists in the Yishuv, Leah Bergstein and Yardena Cohen, being the most prominent among them, contributed to creating new holiday pageants related to the land. Part of the pageant dances were adopted by the people and turned into folk dances.

Detachment

The cross fertilization between concert and ethnic dance ended after the establishment of the State. The detachment between the two genres was related to demographic changes occurring in the first years of the State and the turnabout the concert dance has undergone. During the Yishuv period most of the Jewish population came from Central and Eastern Europe. However, following the War of Independence and the establishment of the State a massive immigration of Mizrahi (Eastern) Jews, driven away from the Arab countries arrived, changing the demographic balance between Ashkenazi and Mizrahi Jews.  This massive immigration was compounded by the immigration of remnant refugees from Europe and the immigration from the United States and other English speaking countries. Thus, the assembly of Jews from all over the world in Israel aggravated the problem of Jewish cultural mixture in the country. Attempting to tackle this problem the policy of the "melting pot" was consolidated, holding the view that the heritage of each community was not to be fostered in order to enable the forming of a common core for all the communities. Out of this core, so it was hoped, the Israeli culture would be formed.[3] With the background of this policy, seeking to weaken the uniqueness of each community and strengthen the common core, the enthusiasm for ethnic and oriental dance faded away as representing in appearance and culture the Jews of ancient Israel. The phenomenon of pushing tradition away, up to feeling ashamed of it, characterized a considerable part of the immigrant population, desiring to expedite the process of their becoming Israelis. On the other hand, there were immigrants who wanted to preserve the tradition they were raised on and felt at home with.

The second significant change which occurred in Israel is the style transformation of concert dance. Ausdruckstanz was rejected and instead, the American dance in the Martha Graham style was gradually adopted, granting the dancers a stylized movement lexicon and a training methodology.  The ambition to professionalize on a universal level was top priority of the "new" concert dance, whereas the aspiration to create Makhol Ivri (Hebrew Dance) was postponed.[4] Furthermore, associating with the ethnic was perceived as a disadvantage, which might color the dance work with localism and provinciality, while the dance artists were striving for the peak of international artistic level.

Inbal Dance Theatre

With the background of the demographic and artistic revolution and the "Melting Pot" policy during Israel’s first years, Inbal Dance Theatre was established by Sara Levi Tanai. This was an example of creating a modern dance theatre nourished on ethnic materials. The timing of establishing the company created opportunity for new avenues for it yet closed others.  The young country's relations with the United States, for instance, led to the establishment of the American Fund for Institutions in Israel (later called the America-Israel Cultural Foundation), which initiated the choreographer Jerome Robbins' visit to the country (1951). With his recommendation, the Fund began supporting Inbal, the first group that was able to work as a professional group in the years when there was no government support for concert dance. On the one hand, establishing a group on an ethnic basis was contrary to the concept of the "melting pot". Therefore, it is possible to understand why during the Yishuv period the Biblical ballet of Nikova, and dances produced by her colleagues with ethnic inspiration were welcomed by all society strata and the national institutions. On the other hand, after the State was established, a group identified with an ethnic community, even a dance group engaging in concert dance (there were many arguments regarding the question whether Inbal was a folklore group or not, and what were its objectives),[5] was a deviation from the declared policy of the "melting pot". Moreover, it was precisely Inbal's great success during its tours abroad, as the first representative of the dance inIsrael, which intensified the ambivalent attitude towards it. The pride its success evoked was accompanied by discontent that an ethnic group, identified with a small specific community was representingIsrael's dance abroad, precisely during the years the young state desired to project unity and not split and multi-cultures.

The detachment between Inbal Dance Theatre and the modern dance community in Israel was a two-way estrangement. The troupe was composed of dancers and a choreographer of Yemenite origin. Tanai was nourished on the creativity of her Yemenite dancers, their body language, the movement materials and its quality, and succeeded in expressing their special ethnic aspect. The choreographic simplicity of the works Inbal put on stemmed not only from artistic considerations of essence and clarity, which Levy-Tanai was blessed with, but it also matched the dancers' technical qualifications. On the one hand, Inbal withdrew into itself and even maintained that there was ethnic discrimination (Toledano, 2005, pp. 21-32). On the other hand, many of the dancers who were not members of the community could not find a supported professional framework (until the establishment of Bat-Sheva Company in 1964, and this too with private and not governmental support), regarded Inbal as the only troupe with a support enabling it to act in a professional format.  Inbal benefited from conditions that were not available to other modern dance companies, which were in deep financial crisis. Many articles were published in the newspapers under titles such as, "Artistic dance in Israel – No-man's-land" (Eshel, 2001, p.103).

In this context I would like to mention a small personal story. In the middle of the 50's, when I was a 14 year old ballet student I saw a performance of Inbal Dance Theatre at the amphitheatre located in the beautiful big garden of Rothschild Center at central Carmel. The theatre was full. As introduction to the performance Levi-Tanai gave some explanations regarding the costumes and the movement materials of her company. There was festive excitement in the air. The dancers, looking wonderful, and the very special choreography received thunderous applause. Yet to me, who dreamed of becoming a dancer, it was clear that this wonderful group is designed for the physical and mental qualities of the Yemenite community. As a young girl who was not a member of that community, and who grew up on classical ballet and later on modern dance, I knew I could not become part of it. I dare assume that this is how generations of dancers felt, that despite the great appreciation of Levi-Tania's work, they understood that her choreography was not designated for them.

With the years, the reservoir of dancers of Yemenite origin was depleted; the better ones left in order to find their own voice and expand their horizons. Only a small number of the old dancers remained in the group, and the lines were filled with non Yemenite dancers. The new dancers had enhanced technical qualifications compared with the old ones, however, the choreography and the movement language, which a priori were based on the body and the spirituality of the dancer of a Yemenite origin, and not on the ability of a professional dancer regardless of any specific ethnic origin, have lost their magic and seemed foreign and artificial.

As years went by a unique Inbal language was formed, and would be tested by its ability to be accepted as a net movement lexicon capable of enriching the artistic dance and preserve its vitality and the movement interest also when it is performed by professional dancers without any communal belonging.

Israeli Dance for the Stage

As the professional modern dance in Israel was loosing interest in ethnic dance it was also getting further away from the Israeli folk dances. In the 50's there was acceleration in creating folk dances, out of which Jonathan Carmon created what is called in the slang of the creators of folk dances "Israeli dance for the stage". Carmon developed a folk dance style designated for the stage in which he integrated basic elements of the Israeli folk dances typical of that period (step, bouncing, skipping, running etc.) and movement elements from ethnic dances ofIsrael's communities.  In addition, he combined in his works jumps like grand jeté, turns like chainé, grand battement, attitude and balancé. Carmon had also a great influence in the perception of using direction and space. Along the years, generations of choreographers emerged, most of whom were his students, developing this dance direction in their own way, however not all of them were blessed with Carmon's talent.

The question may be asked why movements, identified with classical ballet were interwoven into the "Israeli dance for the stage". Apparently, ausdruckstanz was a more natural partner for cooperation and enrichment.  I believe that the reason lies in the fact that ausdruckstanz was the source from which the said basic materials were retrieved.  Ausdruckstanz was unable to provide the new and significant movement lexicon, beyond what it had already provided. The additional potential partner for enrichment was Graham's modern dance, which in fact was rich in movement materials but its style bore the creator's personal imprint. Thus, elements of the classical ballet movement lexicon found their way into the "Israeli dance for the stage".

Furthermore, it should be noted that Carmon studied dancing with Gertrud Kraus and Mia Arbatova and his artistic career began in concert dance, turned to folk dances and from there reached the "Israeli dance for the stage". An additional aspect of the combination between folk dance and ballet was the habit, already popular in the 50's, of sending young girls to ballet lessons as part of their cultural enrichment. Most of them had no aspirations of becoming professional dancers, but many were attracted to the stage. Folk dance groups provided a framework for these ambitions, and gained public appreciation. Representative Folk Dance groups were established in the framework of a municipal or a regional authority granting the dancers the joy of dancing and the pleasure of being exposed to stage lights. It was also a way of seeing the world, by participating in the many tours taken by the groups, representing Israel.

Frequently, the professional kernel of these groups was built around those dancers who had acquired basic knowledge of classical ballet and dancers who had studied Jazz. In the 70's Jazz became very popular in Israel, following the success of the Shimon Brown "Jazz Plus" dance group (1969-1972), and the international prestige of Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre. The young dancers, who acquired elementary technique in artistic dance, became teachers giving lessons to their dance groups and created their own teaching methods. Out of these youngsters emerged a considerable number of choreographers who created "folk dances" for the masses and also "Israeli dance for the stage" for the representative groups. In both cases they specialized in working with amateurs. Some of the members of these groups reached the professional modern dance companies which were always in need for male dancers. On the other hand, choreographers of the folk dance representative groups, who desired to work with professional dancers and companies, encountered difficulties, stemming from lack of appreciation to their artistic qualifications.

Where did this lack of appreciation, stem from? It appears that the more the choreographers of the "Israeli dance for the stage" integrated movement elements identified with modern and classical dance, as well as trendy folk dances of various nations, the more the tendency of a stage "show" increased, the more disrespect for the works was felt. While the borrowed movement materials from modern dance and classical ballet seemed exciting to the dancers and the choreographers operating in the field of "Israeli dance for the stage", who regarded it as "professionalism", the professional concert dance artists saw things in a different light. The borrowed movement elements, performed by amateurs, left no impression on them. Furthermore, professional choreographers, particularly in the postmodern dance genre, wanted to keep away from familiar movement materials, each trying to express a personal voice and imprint a specific movement mark.

Recently, the choreography of the "Israeli dance for the stage" has become more complex and the standard of dancers has risen, however the movement language, which is the core of the matter, seems like an "odd customer" of modern dance, eclectic movement materials. Sometimes it is expressive or entertaining, and it has some bearing, generally superficial, on folklore. Many of the creators in the field also lack good taste. Choosing a topic or a title for a dance, related toIsrael, or relying on a melody written by an Israeli composer to a song in Hebrew cannot replace an original movement lexicon.

Nevertheless, the achievement of these choreographers or the activity of these groups should not be underestimated. A phenomenon, which might be unique to Israel, was created of thousands of amateur youngsters dancing in folk dance events and in the representative folk dance groups with passion and love of dance, to the sounds of Israeli songs, and that in an era when the Internet and other temptations are at our threshold. This is a wonderful phenomenon that must be preserved and fostered while encouraging good taste. Nevertheless, this is, most probably, not the artistic product the pioneers of folk dance and the "Israeli dance for the stage" dreamt of. One should distinguish between the educational phenomenon of thousands of youngsters dancing and being ostentatious about creating "Israeli dance for the stage".

Where have we lost our way?

The first folk dances were created out of the desire to create a unique Israeli style, aiming to get as far as possible from the characteristics of the other genres. Thus, these dances are built on basic universal movement materials such as bouncing, skipping, running and so on.  These materials are not unique to the Israeli folk dances and most ethnic dance uses the same elements. The difference between one ethnic style and another lies in the different choreographic use of those basic movement elements. The more emphasized the dosage of characteristics, such as focus on various parts of the body, the rhythm or the use of space, the more specifically the ethnic identity becomes.  According to Bahat (2008), when the ethnic identity looses it importance, other channels are sought to express the need in movement and dance.

I maintain that the "ethnic uniqueness" of the first Israeli folk dances lies precisely in "neutralizing the ethnic", by leaving the basic movement materials in their most natural way; in one word, in their simplicity. Any emphasis of one dosage or another in dimensions of time, space, form and strength, might draw it closer to the known combination identified with the ethnic dance of a certain people or a specific community. Nevertheless, to that "natural simplicity" of the first Israeli folk dances was added the element of the dancers' bursting energy. The combination between natural simplicity and energy created freshness, which came off well with the message of national renewal. In other words, and with the appropriate caution, the uniqueness of the first Israeli folk dances is not in the formal movement characteristics (for instance, a uniquely stylized foot lifting, or a variety of stamping with knee lifting in variations), but precisely in the lack of prominent traits. This is how the simplicity and the modesty of the movement were preserved in its natural origin. The characterization "the young energy" of the dancers could have been translated into the rich use of rapid hopping, running, jumping and deployment within the general space.

That is the core of the problem, because if simplicity is the main characterization of the dance, any complexity and enrichment might destroy it.  Since simplicity and energy are the basis of the Israeli folk dances, the development for the stage must be entrusted in the hands of a wise choreographer, who will act with sensitivity,  respect, knowledge and creativity. Borrowing materials of other nations is an easy solution but a destructive one.

The more popular the folk dance events became and turned into a livelihood source, the greater became the pressure on the dance instructors to create more and more new folk dances, as if it were about a combination of movements, as customary in Jazz lessons, ending with a small dance combination. The most popular instructors have also turned into the choreographers of the representative folk dance groups.

Beginning of Rapprochement between the professional dance and the ethnic dance

While the disinterest of professional dance in the folk dances and the "Israeli dance for the stage" has not changed in the course of time, one may occasionally locate exceptional cases of interest in ethnic dance. It seems this trend is increasing, though very slowly. Moshe Efrati adapted, in an extraordinary manner, movement elements out of the Sepharadi Jewry culture in some of the dances he has created. A prominent example is Camina A-Tourna (1990), a dance engaging in the Expulsion from Spain and the endless wandering of Jews along the generations. Liat Dror and Nir Ben Gal were pioneers when they started combining belly dances in their programs, for instance in Donkeys (1989), Inta Omri (1994) and Dance of Nothing (1999). They did not do it as part of an international trend of relating to belly dances, which accelerated in the world, but as part of a genuine integration effort into the East.  Dror and Ben Gal regarded belly dancing a movement material belonging to the place we live in, and this approach was reinforced by the couple's relocating to the desert and dissociating themselves from the entire show accompanying belly dancing, such as the female dancer's garments. Dror and Ben Gal's international prestige contributed to the concert dance artists' attitude change towards ethnic dance. Barak Marshal combined in his works motifs of Hassidic Dance, Yemenite dance and Pop and Ilana Cohen of Inbal continued creating dances in the company's movement lexicon. Renanna Raz has recently created Kazuarot inspired by the Druz Debka and the author of this article is working with members of the Ethiopian community with Eskesta and Beta dance troupes. Inbal Dance Theatre, with a new management headed by Razi Amitai, has entered a new path: talented choreographers, identified with concert dance will be invited to created dances inspired by ethnic dance.

There were great hopes that the Karmiel Festival, which brings together various communities, will also succeed in creating an encounter between the genres. The various genres share the same location in Karmiel Festival, whilst each one maintains its independence. The festival does not initiate nor provide a place for dialogue between concert dance, currently flourishing in Israel and revealing much greater curiosity and awareness than in the past to the treasure of ethnic materials of the communities, and the enterprise of folk dance and the Israeli dance for the stage, which despite its success in drawing thousands of people to the dancing circles has reached a dead end from the artistic point of view.

Apparently there is no escape from a clear definition of objectives: a creation of a folk dance, designated for the masses, or development of concert dance for selected professional dancers, inspired by Ethnic dance. There is no contradiction in being open to influences, no matter how diversified they may be, provided the objectives are clear, the professional knowledge exists and primarily good taste is preserved.

Ninety years after Baruch Agadati, the pioneer of concert dance in Israel, turned to the Jewish ethnic traditions, Ashkenazi and Mizrachi, as a source for a new movement lexicon. As known, Agadati's name is associated also with the first Israeli folk dance.[6] Since then, concert dance, ethnic dance of the various communities and the folk dance have gone a long way, and awareness of the strengths and weaknesses of each genre has increased. Now, with new tools of an updated world, with technical and budgetary ability not existing in the past, the time has come for a renewed connection.

Bibloiography

Bahat-Ratzon, Naomi. People Dancing: Dance – Society- Culture in the World and in Israel, Carmel, Jerusalem, 2004

Eshel, Ruth. Dancing with the Dream – the development of artistic dance in Israel 1920-1964,  Sifriat Hapoalim, 1991

————-. "Hips Swirl like a Mobile in Kibbutz Ein- Hashofet: Celebrating pageants in the valley and in the mountains[English]", Dance Today no.1,2000, pp. 77-78

Toledano, Gila. "Eskesta Dance Theater: Artistic Dance inspired by Ethiopian Folklore", Dance Today no.3, 2000, pp.30-35

————————-. A Story of A Company: Sara Levi-Tanai and Inbal Dance-Theatre, Resling, 2005

Goren, Ayala-Kadman. "Debka and its Metamorphoses: Affinities Between Arab Debka Dancing and Jewish Debka Dancing in Israel", Dance Today, no.3. 2000, pp.10-16

Manor, Giora. The Life and Dance of Gertrud Kraus, Hakibbutz Hameuchad, 1978

Kealiinohomoku, Joann. "An Antropologist  Looks at Ballet as a Form of Ethnic Dance", What is Dance – Reading in Theory and Criticism, Roger Copeland and Marshal Cohen, eds., Oxford University press, 1983, pp.533-548

Roginsky, Dina. Folk and Ethnic Dancing in Israel, Dance Today no. 3 2000, pp. 18-24

——————-.  Sixty years to the First Dalia conference, 1994-2004: Changes in Israeli Folk Dance [English]", Dance Today no. 11, 2004, pp. 87-99

Ronen, Dan. "Dance for Everyone: On Multi- Culturalism in Israel and its Influence on the Development of Dance", Dance Today no.3, 2000, pp. 4-10

—————. "Yearning for Israeli Attributes `Carmon` in Dance", Dance Today no. 5, pp.44-49

—————. "Folk  Dances as an Inspiration to Artistic Dance, Dance Today no.11, 2004, pp.75-81

Dr. Ruth Eshel – Dance researcher, choreographer and dancer. Performed dance recitals (1977-1986), author of the book Dancing with the dream – the development of artistic dance in  Israel  1920-1964.   Co-editor of the magazine Israel Dance with Giora Manor (1998-1991), editor of Dance Today (Machol Ahshav) (1993-2006) and from 2008 co-editor with Dr. Henya Rottenberg. Dance critic in Ha'aretz daily as of 1991 . Artistic director and choreographer of the Ethiopian dance groups Eskesta and Beta.

Notes


[1] The Yishov period – the early Jewish settlements in Israel before the establishment of the state of Israel

[2]    Establishing the dance group its being run by Nikova, who immigrated from Russia and was not a member of the Yemenite community, must have facilitated its integration in the 30's and the 40's as part of the dance for the stage making. On the other hand, in the 50's and henceforth, the fact that a Yemenite group was headed by a non-member of that community strengthened its image as an Oriental group.

[3]  The perception of the "melting pot" did, in fact, threaten the conservation, the revival and the spreading of the Eastern communities' ethnic dances. Already at the end of the 40's Gurit Kadman, the musician Ester Gerzon-Kivi and the literature researcher Yehuda Ratzabi acted for their preservation and documentation. Thereby Kadman preceded her generation and contributed to the growth of a multi-cultural society. According to Ronen (2008), affected by Kadman's activity the community dances contributed to the Israeli folk dances, so that each one of them could feel they were "his own".

[4] In 1951 the American choreographer Jerome Robbins came to Israel. With regard to the aspiration to create Makhol Yisraeli (Israeli dance), he wrote in the report to an American Fund and to institution in Israel (later on the Israel-America Culture Fund) that the Israeli dancer must assimilate the techniques of classical ballet and modern dance, master these techniques and other, "Till they no longer seem strange and hostile. Only then will you reach the stage where you may make your own experiments, grow and develop".

[5] Regarding the many arguments about Inbal's mission, see a discussion on the group's way, held in 1975. Toledano, pp. 161-162.

[6] The folk dance called Horah Agadati was created by Gurit Kadman based on Baruch Agadati's solo dance. Kadman asked the composer Uria Boskovitch to set the song to music.