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Israeli Dance Takes Center Stage

Israeli Dance Takes Center Stage

Out of Israel festival features choreographers, master classes and a dance party.

Sandee is the arts and culture editor at the Jewish Week.

Choreographer Dana Katz turns the idea of dance theater-in-the-round inside out, when she premieres her new work, “Thousand Plateaus” at the 92nd Street Y, as part of the weeklong Out of Israel Dance Festival. Audience members will be seated in the middle of Buttenweiser Hall, while the four dancers of the group Danaka Dance will dance around the perimeter of the room.

This year’s festival, beginning on Jan. 10, is an expanded one, featuring the work of six Israeli choreographers based in New York and Tel Aviv, with master classes, workshops, a showcase of all their work, performances and a dance party.

The six groups — Danaka Dance, Zvi Dance, Ori Flomin, Renana Raz, Netta Yerushalmy, and Niv Sheinfeld with Oren Laor — will be on stage together for the first time. During the master classes, the choreographers will share their individual dance-making process with the dance community of New York. Expected participants include professional dancers and pre-professional college students.

“It’s a very exciting mix of Israeli choreographers,” John-Mario Sevilla, director of the 92nd Street Y’s Harkness Dance Center, said in an interview. This is the first Out of Israel Festival that Sevilla has curated, along with Dana Katz of Danaka Dance. A dancer, choreographer and dance educator who has performed most recently with Pilobolus, Sevilla has been at the Harkness Center for eight years and served as its director for the past year. Previously, he was director of the 92Y’s Dance Education Laboratory.

“The Israeli artists coming to New York bring a fresh perspective about dance; sometimes New York can be provincial,” he said. “To view concert dance from the perspective of overseas artists is always refreshing.”

About the differences between the modern dance worlds of New York, Sevilla said that they’re equally diverse. “In New York, dance is very centered in the vision of the artist. I feel there’s more of a narrative that’s dramatic, with less abstraction, in Israeli work.” And in Israel, he said, since there are fewer places to train as a dancer, there’s more of a shared aesthetic.

Visiting Israel last month, Sevilla was “surprised by the amount of dance theater that I saw. I was also very impressed with the concentration of dancers — there’s a lot of dance coming out of Israel now that’s very soulful.” A lot of the settings, structure, narrative, character development and dramatic forms remind him of German expressionism.

Sevilla describes the work of Tel Aviv-based Renana Raz as focused on the impact of YouTube, with choreography in “YouMake, ReMake that deconstructs YouTube clips. “No one has done that in modern dance,” he said. The other Tel Aviv-based group, Niv Sheinfeld and Oren Leor, will restage the classic “Two Room Apartment” — an innovative 1987 work by Liat Dror and Ben Gal dance from the 1980s— in a contemporary way.

Katz’s “Thousand Plateaus” is inspired by cinema. Each one of the audience members will see a different dance, as the dancers move around them. The work is considered a first draft.

On Saturday night, the choreographers, dancers, workshop participants and all New Yorkers who love to dance are invited to join in a festive dance party.

The Out of Israel Festival, which takes place during the Association of Performing Arts Presenters Conference, also ties in with the Y’s programming for Israelis living in New York, bringing together Israelis in Israeli-centric programming.

“Historically, Jewish-themed dance has been part of the Y since 1931,” Sevilla pointed out, “when the first classes were given, even before the founding of the Harkness Center at the 92Y in 1935.”

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