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Robyn Orlin © Jérome Séron

Israel Festival: Embracing Culture

This year's festival offers attractive options in theater, music, dance, performance and video art from Israel and around the world

By Anat Zechariya

Right when the temperatures on Israel's coastal plain begin to rise is the perfect time for heading up to the capital, breathing in the fresh mountain air, and enjoying the plentitude of performances offered by the 58th annual Israel Festival. This year's multidisciplinary menu offers an abundance of attractive options in theater, music, dance, performance and video art from Israel and around the world.

In the past few years the Israel Festival, currently celebrating its 58th year, has morphed into a focal point for art and culture under the guidance of CEO Eyal Sher and artistic director Itzik Giuli. This year as well, the festival is offering a multidisciplinary artistic line designed to enrich the cultural landscape with diversified and piercing productions in the fields of theater, music, dance, performance and video art offered by artists from Israel and around the world. In addition to appearances in conventional performance spaces, an effort has been made to host events in lesser known, under-the-radar locations including the Nature Museum, the Islamic Art Museum and the Tower of David Museum. Audiences can take an active part in some of the events.

May 30- June 15, Jerusalem Theater and other locations in the city.  israel-festival.org

Here is a look at some of the most prominent happenings:

Balkan Beat Box © Orit Pnini

Music: Giving the Beat

The 2019 Festival opens with 'A Pulse Per Second', an original musical production led by musician-composer Gilad Kahana, lead singer of the Israeli band The Giraffes. It centers on brief encounters with songwriters bringing the local beat to different places, including Balkan Beat Box, made up of members Tamir Muskat, Tomer Yosef and Gili Yalo. The adrenaline-rich performance will go deep into the night in an after-party event on the big stage at the Jerusalem Theater.

Figure a Sea © Urban Jörén

Dance: Challenging the Intelligence

Cullbergbaletten, the contemporary Swedish company, performs two works at the Festival. One is 'Figure a Sea', a collaborative venture between choreographer Deborah Hay and multidisciplinary artist Laurie Anderson, who created music for the performance. In the work, Hay seeks to challenge the intelligence, the presence, the humor and the beauty of the company's dancers through the central elements that characterize her work - serenity, precision, visibility, popularity and uniformity.

The second work, choreographer Jettan van Dinther's 'Protagonist', is a parable about kinship, care and alliance. The Berlin club scene is the starting point for creating a space in which a group of strangers come together in an intensely intimate story. The dancers create a community that solidifies onstage, but fails to develop a genuine collective momentum and disintegrates. 

Robyn Orlin © Jérome Séron

Productions: Requiem to Love

Unconventional creative artists, to put things mildly, are also coming to this year's Israel Festival. One of them is performance artist Steven Cohen, a South African-born Jew who brings his work 'Put Your Heart Under Your Feet and Walk'. It's an elegy to the dancer Elu, his life partner and lover for over 20 years. The two worked together on the work until Elu's death, after which Cohen went on to complete it while changing parts that concealed his feelings after the passing of his love. This elegant but extravagant and provocative work deals with dance and views the past centering around a structure made of hundreds of ballet shoes, dozens of candlesticks, and a skirt made from gramophones. 

The second is Robyn Orlin, a South African choreographer who has worked a great deal on social issues with a didactic character directed at young people, especially with low socio-economic backgrounds but with the general public as well. This time, Orlin brings a tremendous performer from Soweto - Albert Ibokwe Khoza, a singer and dancer who's respected, humorous, entertaining and touching who declaims his razor-sharp texts while gorging himself on several oranges, peels and all. Albert takes the homosexual elements of his behavior to the extreme, gaining admiration of the audience through his talents.

Martin Argyroglo

TheIsraeli Side: From Shalom Shabazi to Romeo & Juliet

In the framework of the outdoor Blue and White program at David's Tower, the Festival celebrates 400 anniversary of Rabbi Shalom Shabazi, the greatest Yemenite Jewish poet, in Heaven's Door, managed by Shai Tzabari and Nitzan Zeira.  Participants include Berry Sakharof, Ester Rada, Liron Amram, Miri Messika, Idan Amadi and others. 

Elad Theater, from the Eilot region, is presenting Romeo and Juliet, the Last Supper, a location-dependent take on the classic love story. The actors and audience are seated around a table loaded with delicacies in Jerusalem Nature Museum's pastoral courtyard, together taking part in the encounter of the young lovers and the story of their great tragedy.



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