Building and Breaking Barriers

'Pericardium' Brings a New Pulse to Israeli Dance

By Stacey Menchel

Published May 28, 2010.
  • Print
  • Share Share
Edo Ceder and Ella Ben-Aharon explore emotional and physical boundaries in their dance.
Adi Shniderman
Edo Ceder and Ella Ben-Aharon explore emotional and physical boundaries in their dance.

Facing each other, kneeling on top of a restaurant bar, Ella and Edo slowly begin to dance. YelleB, the dance company, made up of Israeli duo Ella Ben-Aharon and Edo Ceder, is continually exploring new performance spaces, so it is no surprise that at the company’s benefit party a wine bar would be used as a stage. Their movement is hypnotic: a combination of unbridled release and exacting control. The powerful athletics of this partnership are refined by a beautiful intimacy. Each moves with a profound instinct, in constant dialogue with the other’s body.

YelleB’s newest performance piece, “Pericardium,” premiered May 27th at the Joyce SoHo. Its title, referring to the wall that guards the heart, is fitting because the piece explores the concept of physical and emotional walls, and the human need for self-protection. The multimedia work, which includes dynamic footage of the pair dancing at the mechitza of the Kotel and at the security fence along the West Bank, is the product of a unique collaboration with video artist Adi Shniderman and architect Mattias Neumann. “Pericardium,” featuring an original score by Israeli musicians Yoed Nir and Odeya Nini, uses a video backdrop and innovative set design to dissect the stage into different compartments and to challenge the traditional audience-performer boundary.

According to Ceder, the piece transcends political agendas to reveal the human stories behind the creation of walls: “The physical creation of walls emanates from the walls within us, the fears we have to open up emotionally, and the decisions that we make about what to allow in and what to keep out. By exploring external walls like the mechitza and the Separation Wall, we push the audience to turn inward and look literally into the heart to explore the need for self-protection.”

The themes of separation and togetherness are personal ones for Ceder and Ben-Aharon. The couple met at the end of 2008 at a dance festival in Israel, while Ben-Aharon, who had already been living in New York for five years, was on a vacation. Four days after meeting they started creating dance together. Ceder relocated to New York five weeks later.

Ben-Aharon believes that YelleB’s work is deepened because she and Ceder share a multidimensional sense of intimacy. She reveals, “We consistently explore the idea of walls as so much of our lives are spent together: work, dance, and love. It is challenging to find the needed boundaries without putting up too much of a blockade.”

Originally from Nazareth and trained in classical ballet, Ben-Aharon has been creating dance since her childhood. After the army, she danced with Kibbutz Dance Company 2, and then moved to California in 2000 to pursue a BFA in performance and dance composition at CalArts Institute.

Ceder came to dance in a less traditional way. An athlete, well-versed in yoga and Brazilian Jiujitsu, he began formal dance training in his late twenties. After a year of study with the Vertigo Dance Company, Ceder connected with performance duo Tomer Sharabi and Maya Stern which led him to a variety of dance projects throughout Israel, Asia, and Europe.

In addition to performing throughout the United States since 2009, Yelleb has also developed Dance Exposure, its own form of educational outreach. The educational initiative provides interactive artistic experiences to both dancers and non-dancers. In alternative settings, such as nursing homes or schools, the dancers expose new audiences to dance and foster communication and self-expression.

YelleB relates much of the intensity of its choreography to the experience of living in Israel. “In Israeli society people feel an urgency to create,” reveals Ceder, “and that is very stimulating for the development of dance.” While they take inspiration from other choreographers, such as Batsheva Dance Company’s Ohad Naharin, Ben-Aharon and Ceder develop their work intuitively from their own personal stories.

“Pericardium,” with its distinctive set and video design, is breaking new ground in the realm of dance performance. As Yelleb’s first full-evening length production, last night was the first substantial opportunity for New York audiences to witness these two extraordinary dancers. Ben-Aharon and Ceder demonstrate an exquisite skill for partnering — each intricate movement and gaze appears as if the dancers are sharing their innermost thoughts. The experience is passionate, articulate, and breathtaking.

Stacey Menchel received her Master’s degree in European and Mediterranean Studies from New York University. She has previously written on the Mediterranean experience of the Holocaust, and the Jewish community of Spain. Her current project examines contemporary Israeli dance.

Watch “Working Towards Pericardium,” a short documentary about the development of YelleB’s new performance piece:






Find us on Facebook!
  • Move over Dr. Ruth — there’s a (not-so) new sassy Jewish sex-therapist in town. Her name is Shirley Zussman — and just turned 100 years old.
  • From kosher wine to Ecstasy, presenting some of our best bootlegs:
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.