Israel Dance in Transition period

Takao Norikoshi

I personally think the most interesting dance stream in the world in these days, is Japanese and Israeli, in the aspect of how various style there are and they never loose a momentum to be developed to a next stage. December 2004, I went to see the annual dance festival in Tel Aviv (There are two kinds of dance festival around that time in Tel Aviv. “Cartain Up” is the introduction of Israeli young choreographers, and “International Exposure” is the exposition of Israeli artists to foreign guests such as producers, festival directors, and journalists). This time, the festival cerebrated its 15 years anniversary, we had a rich programs including premiers of those internationally famous Israeli companies.

It was a kind of delicate period politically, because just three weeks before the festival, the PLO Chairman Alafat has passed away, however there were more than 80 in guests gathered from all over the world, and the festival was quite successful.

I am regular guest to the festival recent years, but what I surprised the most this time, is the many companies challenged to change their own styles without any hesitation. Last year the trend of the festival was “laughter” but this time, we enjoyed the dynamism of the powerful dances.

The most sensational topic of the time was, “Strawberry Cream and Gunpowder” by Yasmeen Godder. The stage is a barren field with only small green grass and a bar with “stop” sign like a check point between borders. You immediately can associate Israel and Palestinian conflict only from these materials on the stage.
We almost don’t have any former examples among Israeli dance production which indicates the element of politics or religion clearly. Probably such elements are too close and too delicate and too heavy for them to deal in the expression of dance. Or, I guess that there is a fundamental understanding among Israeli dancers and choreographers  not to use dance as a message tool for those issues. And eventually this fundamental understanding created the international success of Israeli artists.

Of course the “Strawberry…” is never simple as just accusing somebody or something directly, but it contains various elements. Especially the idea of expression as a combination of “freeze” and “move”, is outstanding. For example a man who gets scared by something suddenly, opens his mouth widely and freezes. Another man who makes his fingers in a gun shape, pushed it slowly to the mouth of the other, and freezes again. Those moments kept going on non-stop. Under the enormous tension, the green grass was destroyed, and three men formed themselves like a tank were crashing the one who lied on the floor.

With no doubt, it is an excellent piece, even though there were too many sequences to beat your feeling with pain. You saw different reactions among the foreign audience, such as those who have shown their uneasiness clearly, and those who were weeping with tears. It proved that this is powerful enough to make such a big difference among the audience. I personally, was moved very much and knocked out completely with such an impact. I really wish the realization of this performance in Japan.