Wine and Dance in Jerusalem

Wine And Dance In Jerusalem 

I have a confession:

When I was younger, I hated dance. When my mom took me to see the Nutcracker at Lincoln Center, I spent the entire time waiting for it to be over, resentful that because I was Jewish I wouldn’t get any gifts from Santa.

That changed when I saw 15: I saw Pedro Almodovar’s film, “Hable Con Ella”. I cried like a baby when the Pina Bausch piece came on at the end (spoiler alert - sorry).

I was reminded of the power of dance at Machol Shalem’s “Jerusalem and Lithuania, Wine and Pita”, an event that combined Israeli and Lithuanian dance with wine and pita.

The first piece, “Measure Me”, by Dana Hafouta, a graduate of Machol Shalem’s arts accelerator program, focused on the impossible standards of the dance world: ballet, belly-dance, and singing in French are not enough to imbue the young dancer with confidence as she practices for her grand audition, letting the audience in on her internal dialogue. In addition, the piece can be seen as a metaphor for the role of women in our society, always being asked to measure themselves against impossible standards, and constantly second-guessing themselves as they try out for the daily dance of social interactions.

The next piece, “Body Montage” by Yoanna Blikman, combined video with dance to examine the body as object, and the object as a body.

The third piece, “Black Label”, choreographed by Ofra Idel and performed by Tzvika Iskias, was brilliant. Iskias’s pure presence on stage is a pleasure to watch; whether embodying silliness, sadness, or confusion, he turns his body into a conduit of emotions. The dancer tried on different identities -literally, pulling costumes out of a closet - before settling for the white identity that is played out against a classic Yiddish song in a searing critique of racism in Israeli society. The first part of the work allows the dancer to soar, conquering the stage, whereas the second presents his attempt to compress himself into a socially acceptable label. The piece would be too heavy, were it not punctuated by moments of laughter that give it an elegant grace.

This concluded the Israeli dances for the evening; the crowd gathered in the hall to chat and drink wine while the stage was readied for the Lithuanian dancer-choreographers, Aurida Gudaite and Laurynas Zakevicius. Their piece, “Feel - Link”, explored human loneliness in the (post)modern era and in urban society. The two dancers exhibited technical prowess and an exuberant and aggressive energy, as they battled in a modern ballet: Sometimes dancing in parallel, unaware of each other’s presence, sometimes, reaching out only to be rebuffed, sometimes fighting, and sometimes joining bodies. This tension -between longing and loneliness, between unity and solitariness - captured the inherent tension in all romance, and perhaps even in the human condition itself, where our need to be individuals is in constant tension with our nature as social animals. The dance was raw and powerful and excellently executed.

I’m keeping my recommendations light this week, so here goes:

1) Closing Party at Tahrir Bar, June 28, 9 pm:
Tahrir Bar is legendary -and soon will be the stuff of legends. I can’t believe it’s closing! Expect this party to last all night. Be prepared to do lots of dancing.

2) Tamar and Netanel at Beit Avichai, June 29, 7 pm:
This Jerusalem duo specializes in country music, and are partners in life as well as in song. Their concert will take place in the lobby and will be open to the public, free of charge.

3) Naomi Shemer Tribute at Beit Alliance, June 29, 7:30 pm:
This sing-a-long tribute, produced by “Highway 1” literary magazine, will honor one of Israel’s most famous song-writers.

I would start at Beit Avichai, catch some music, wander up to Beit Alliance, and from there go on to drinks/late-night dinner at Mahane Yehuda. The nice thing about many Jerusalem events is they’re casual - you can show up a little late or leave a little early.

Wishing you a rest-of-the-week and weekend filled with excellent music, and just the right amount of beer.