For the past 14 years, Yasmeen Godder has worked out of a sun-washed studio on the second floor of the Mandel Cultural Center in northern Jaffa. Her company’s activities include workshops, morning classes, performances and festivals.
Godder, a Jaffa resident since 1999, has become increasingly entrenched in the bilingual community in the neighborhood. And yet, as is so often the case with the arts in Israel, her studio remained a space that served mostly Hebrew-speaking (or other foreign language-speaking) individuals.
This weekend, Godder, together with choreographer, dancer and fellow Jaffaite Nur Garabli, will host the first Na’ot Ma’Ba’ad Festival (Moving Together Festival), a platform for creation in Arabic and Hebrew. Their goal is to create a space that reflects the linguistic and cultural diversity of Jaffa.
“The idea came out of the [creative] process for Practicing Empathy,” explains Godder over coffee. “We decided to hold workshops for mothers from the bilingual community here in Jaffa. Those workshops were very special, but they got cut off by corona.”
It is mid-morning and Godder is in her studio with a few hours free, a rarity for her, due to the last-minute cancellation of a trip to London. On the nearby table, Garabli’s face appears wrapped up in a plaid scarf through a computer screen. Garabli is in England, helping her twin sister relocate to Cambridge.
Affection emanates between Godder and Garabli, unlikely yet inspired partners. Godder is one of Israel’s most celebrated dance artists. Garabli is a recent graduate of the Kibbutzim College. There are more than 20 years separating the two. Godder and Garabli met during a protest at the Jaffa Theater more than a year ago. Godder attended a performance of Garabli’s work Hakovshim and was impressed.
“We decided to continue the workshops, this time in both Hebrew and Arabic,” says Godder. The meetings were open to women from Jaffa and included movement exercises drawing on Godder’s release-based practice and Garabli’s expertise in Palestinian Dabke.
“At the end of the workshop, we would sit around stretching and everyone would tell a bit about their experience in the class, what they felt,” says Garabli.
“I felt the workshops really impacted me as a mother and movement researchers,” adds Godder.
Godder goes on to explain that the language element of these meetings was deeply significant.
“A lot of connections begin with words. We live in a bilingual community but there is a whole world that exists that we ignore. I’m looking for other spaces to create connections.”
Together with the participating women, Godder and Garabli began to fantasize about the future for the small community that was coming together.
“We joke about turning it into a company but we’re careful with those ideas. It’s more about the internal, about creating a space where it is nice for the body to be,” explains Godder.
The festival emerged from a desire to continue the artistic and communicative line of the workshops and to fold in other female artists whose works connect with the mission. The festival also coincides with International Women’s Day. “We’re looking at femininity from all different kinds of channels,” Godder says.
The festival will include performances of Hakovshim X Allenby, which Garabli created together with Neta Meidan and Shaked Shneller, Practicing Empathy #3, a solo created and performed by Godder, additional performances by the Rana Choir, Luna Abu Nassar, artist talks with Abir Haddad, Noam Shuster Eliassi, Samira Saraya as well as workshops for the whole family in a variety of styles from hip hop to Dabke to belly dancing to performance. The festival will close with a dance party with DJ Hadar Sharir. All of the events will be free, aside from performances, tickets to which cost NIS 20.
“Art can be privileged,” says Garabli. “As an Arab from Jaffa, I wasn’t exposed to art in school. My mom signed me up for ballet and jazz but, when in ninth grade, the classes were canceled, I didn’t go to Tel Aviv to take classes. That’s how I got into Dabke. Not [everyone] can afford tickets to art. This festival offers what was missing for me growing up in this area.”
The Na’ot Ma’Ba’ad Festival will take place March 3-5 at the Mandel Cultural Center. For more information, visit www.yasmeengodder.com.