Out of the Circle: The Art of Dance in Israel, the new exhibition at the Israel Museum, celebrates Israeli dance and choreography with photographs, video, posters, drawings, and live performances in the exhibition space. Contemporary dance in Israel is an astonishing phenomena, the diverse talents and kinetic brilliance of Israeli dancers and choreographers have made Israel an international dance hub. Culturally, the history of dance goes back at least as far as Biblical times, when Miriam took up her tambourine (Exodus 15:20). While this exhibition focuses on dance and choreography in Israel from the 1920s hence, there is an enormous amount of material. How then does one convey a sense of dance in this culture? How does one decide what to include?
Talia Amar, Curator of Interdisciplinary Art at the Israel Museum, has chosen to view the subject through the metaphor of the circle, and while inevitably, there are dancers and choreographers whom one might wish to have more of a presence, yet the circle serves well as a narrative arc and provides an excellent introduction to the creative energy and cultural significance of Israeli dance. The hora, a circle dance, was an expression of the physical energy, connection to the land, and sense of collective spirit for the young pioneers who came to Israel in the early part of the 20th century. The dance became a symbol of their ideals, and as they sought to create a new cultural identity, forging new traditions for the Jewish holidays, dance was an integral part of these celebrations. The land of Israel was also fertile ground for innovation. Young people emigrating from different countries were eager and open to new ideas. Some, like Gertrude Kraus, brought with them the avant garde of Expressionist Dance from Europe, others sought inspiration in the cultures of the region, resulting in new forms and exciting fusion.
These chapters in Israeli dance history are beautifully documented by photographers of the time, such as Alfons Himmelreich, whose photographs are works of art in their own right. The exhibition offers a sense of the historical development of dance, and staged dance in Israel, and also a sense of the connection between past and present. The exhibition opens with a video of Ohad Naharin’s landmark work Ehad Mi Yodea, performed by the Batsheva Dance Company, now celebrating its 50th anniversary. In this dance, with Nikmat HaTractor’s rock revisioning of the holiday song, the circle is made and unmade, over and over again, emphasizing the connection to history and the place of the individual in the collective: together and apart.
Past and present come together in the circle as one sees photographs of Margalit Oved, celebrated dancer in the Inbal Dance Company in the 1950s (and contemporary choreographer/performance artist) on the wall, close by is a video of choreographer Barak Marshall’s Monger, a high-velocity contemporary dance in which Marshall – Oved’s son and the new artistic director of Inbal – creates a wonderful fusion of Yemen meets Brooklyn via Eastern Europe. Many of the contemporary choreographers featured relate to the metaphor of the circle and the collective dance, bending, breaking and re-imagining it in different ways. Then again, there are others who work entirely outside the circle, such as the Inbal Pinto Avshalom Pollak Dance Company, creating dances that are worlds unto themselves.
Accompanying the exhibition will be a series of dance performances in the gallery. Each of the featured works will be adapted to the gallery space, creating a unique experience. The full program of performances:
December 23: Roy Assaf – GIRLS (Read more here)
December 30: Yossi Berg & Oded Graf – 4 Men, Alic, Bach and the Deer (Read more here)
January 6: Shlomit Fundaminsky – Mantra and La Divina
January 13: Niv Sheinfeld & Oren Laor – Two Room Apartment (Read more here)
January 20: Avi Kaiser & Sergio Antonino – At Your Place
January 27: Idan Sharabi – Makom
February 3: Noa Zuk – Doom Doom Land
February 3: Hillel Kogan – We Love Arabs (Read more here)
February 10: Yasmeen Godder – Lie Like a Lion
February 17: Dafi Altabeb – Sensitivity to Heat
February 24: Renana Raz – Pictures at an Exhibition (a special evening with highlights of past works performed throughout the museum, featuring Ilayah Shalit, Ran Ben Dror, Ofer Amram and Renana Raz)
All performances will take place at 21:00 in the exhibition gallery. Tickets are 65 NIS adults/50 NIS for members, students and soldiers; they may be purchased online at www.imj.org.il. Admission to the performance includes entrance to the museum after 20:00.