EYE ON DANCE: THE POLITICS OF DANCE IN ISRAEL
December 9, 2014
EYE ON DANCE Public Screening: The Politics of Dance in Israel
Gibney Dance Center’s recent “Sorry I Missed Your Show” event delved into the Israeli dance scene -from its slow start to today’s success and international appreciation. The free, public screening featured a one-of-a-kind EYE ON DANCE episode that originally aired in New York in 1991. In the episode, Producer and host, Celia Ipiotis discusses the politics of dance in Israel with Jeannette Ordman, the well-known director of the country’s (now-defunct) Bat Dor Dance Company. “Dance has taken longer,” Ordman noted, alluding to the Israeli culture’s affinity for music.
A focal point within the discussion is the dynamic between the arts and the government. Plagued by war and unrest, the Israeli dancers were quite used to rehearsing with their masks lined before the studio mirrors. In addition, the country’s mandatory service meant excellently trained dancers diverted to army during their prime years of 18-21. Luckily, some accommodations were possible for artists; many were stationed close to the theater and rehearsal studios in Tel Aviv to continue participation in dance classes with at least some consistency.
As Ipiotis brings up the work of Martha Graham, Ordman fondly remembers attending a performance of hers in London, and “the fullness of her movement, the depth of it.” Differing from the American modern dance icon who is crediting with influencing countless choreographers however, Ordman viewed dancers and choreographers as very distinct artists. “What would you say if I wanted to write a book in Hebrew?” she once told a dancer expressing interest in choreography. “You must learn your language before you can talk with it.” In the same vein she discusses the significance of teaching dance, describing it as an incredible responsibility, and one over someone else’s body. It is clear that her systematic dance training and high standard of professional etiquette are certainly remaining legacies.
Following the screening, Ipiotis moderated a panel discussion with the Israeli dancers, choreographers, and filmmakers Ze’eva Cohen and Dana Katz. As Ipiotis noted in her opening remarks, “EYE ON DANCE was meant to be timeless, to connect the world of dance with much broader social, cultural, historical and political themes.” This proved true in the rich experiences, memories, and opinions shared by the panel guests, bringing the issues of two decades past into a contemporary light.
Both Cohen and Katz served two years in the army while training as often as possible. In fact, Cohen recalls being stationed in the dessert and hitchhiking hours to Tel Aviv and back in order to take classes at night, until she was caught and asked to be relocated. Katz, who trained under Ordman during the final years of her life, remembers her powerful presence in the studio even following two hip surgeries (after which she returned to stage) and a difficult bout of breast cancer.
Funded almost entirely privately, as no government funding was readily available, Bat Dor marked one of the leading contemporary dance companies of the country at the time. Today, many more are flourishing, even traveling abroad, and Israel is now home to some great dance festivals. Cohen asserts, “Dance used to be very isolated [in Israel] during my time. Now it is very porous.” This January, New Yorkers will have can experience the benefits of this cultural shift at the 92nd Street Y’s “Out of Israel Festival,” curated by Katz. It will feature the work of her company, DanaKa Dance, along with other Israeli-influenced choreographers.
And for those who want to share in the continuation of an unmatched resource chronicling America's dance heritage, you can make a tax-deductible contribution to the EYE ON DANCE Legacy Archive Campaign HERE
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY – Jenny Thompson