Vova and Alon stand on a diagonal, gazing at one another. Two men in long black garments, arms outstretched, palms up, open. The space between them charged, alive with questions: what do they desire, what do they offer one another – is it a challenge, a benediction or a curse? Spinning, robes flaring out, moving – together and apart, the whole body is engaged in this moment, this dance. Vova takes hold of Alon’s hand. Is it a form of restraint, embrace, or perhaps both at once? Whatever the mysteries of the relationship in this dance, they are open to experience one another – that is the essence of Noa Wertheim’s strength as a choreographer and the defining quality of Vertigo, the dance company she created with her partner Adi Sha’al in 1992.
This first encounter with Wertheim’s new work “Mana” – soon to be performed at the opening plenary of the General Assembly of The Jewish Federations of North America (GA) on November 9, took place in a studio at the Suzanne Dellal Center, where the Vertigo Dance Company will open the “Curtain Up” Festival on November 24.
Introducing “Mana”, Sha’al began by asking the dancers to introduce themselves to the audience, reflecting the vision of the company as composed of individuals who are talented dancers, and partners in creative work, rather than dancing bodies. Guided by a philosophy of life that permeates every aspect of their work, Wertheim and Sha’al imbue every encounter with creativity, openness and respect. Dance becomes a meeting place between individuals, the most intimate of conversations, to be entered boldly. In the studio or onstage, Wertheim’s choreography engages dancers and audience in an intensely visual, physical, and emotional dialogue that is deeply spiritual as well.
This first view of “Mana” reveals a deeper involvement with physical and conceptual themes that distinguish Wertheim’s earlier works. Relationships – spatial, emotional and conceptual, are a recurring motif in her work. Energy generated by the relationship between opposing elements surges through Wertheim’s choreography. In “White Noise” an involvement with the forces of gravity and connection to the ground finds its expression in dancers leaping, falling and thrown into the air. Birth and death are at the heart of “Birth of the Phoenix” a work performed literally on the earth, on a raised platform of red dirt that is open to the sky. “Vertigo,” the duet that started it all in 1992, contains the elements of Wertheim’s choreographic style: playful, energetic, physically demanding and emotionally intense, deriving its force from an encounter between two opposites, in this case – a woman and a man.
The energy and creative force generated by the Vertigo Dance Company, along with the spirit of generosity and openness to dialogue complements the theme of this year’s GA: “Remember When You Thought Anything Was Possible? It Still Is.” It has recently been announced that President Barack Obama will address the 2009 General Assembly in Washington, D.C, on November 9. This will be the first Jewish communal organization event Obama has addressed since taking office. “We are honored to be hosting President Obama at the GA,” said Dede Feinberg of Washington, who with her husband Kenneth is serving as the GA’s North America co-chair, in partnership with International Co-Chair Leonid Nevzlin of Israel. “The voice of President Obama will surely expand our thinking and stretch our perspectives,” said Joe Kanfer, Chair of the Board of Trustees of The Jewish Federations of North America.
Vertigo is scheduled to perform following President Obama’s address. Looking forward to the performance at the GA, Vertigo General Manager and Co-Artistic Director Adi Sha’al said, “We are very excited.”
Midnight East will be looking forward to the Israeli premiere of “Mana.”
Suzanne Dellal Theatre, 5 Yehieli Street, Neve Tzedek, Tel Aviv
26.11 & 6.12 at 21:00, 10.12 at 22:30
Tickets: 03-5105656, www.suzannedellal.org.il
Jerusalem Theatre, 20 Marcus Street, Jerusalem
11.12 at 13:00
Tickets: 02-5605757, www.jerusalem-theatre.co.il
Top image: Vova Zak and Alon Karniel in Wertheim’s “Mana”/Photo: Gadi Dagon