It's E-asy Doing Israeli Dance

Brash New Company E Pays Homage to Modern Style

He’s Got Company Paul Gordon Emerson was so bowled over with Israeli choreography, he vowed to showcase it in the U.S.
paul gordon emerson
He’s Got Company Paul Gordon Emerson was so bowled over with Israeli choreography, he vowed to showcase it in the U.S.

By Lisa Traiger

Published February 22, 2012, issue of March 02, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

When the brash new Company E marks its debut with an all-Israeli program of choreography, someone notify the fire inspectors of downtown Washington, D.C. “I wanted to pick work that will set your hair on fire,” former government policy wonk turned choreographer and producer Paul Gordon Emerson said about why he set his sights on a cadre of Israeli choreographers for his latest dance startup.

“I realized that there’s something in the water [in Israel],” said Emerson, who previously led the recently shuttered repertory company CityDance Ensemble on State Department- and embassy-sponsored cultural diplomatic missions to Bahrain, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Peru and the West Bank’s Ramallah. Since his first encounter with Israeli choreography two years ago, while on the company tour to Ramallah and Jordan, he was so bowled over by the breadth of work coming out of Israel that he vowed to find a way to bring a program to America. “There’s more genius coming out of that one small piece of geography than there has any right to be,” he stated. “So when we decided on a series of projects reflecting on national identity, it was obvious to me where to start: Israel.”

Kathryn Pilkington
paul gordon emerson
Kathryn Pilkington

“Next: Israel” opens at the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Sidney Harman Hall on February 25. The program draws attention to the cutting-edge sensibilities of dance in Tel Aviv and around the country. Emerson’s Saturday showcase features contemporary dance works by just a few of Israel’s most progressive choreographers: Ohad Naharin, critically acclaimed artistic director of Israel’s best and most important dance troupe, Batsheva Dance Company; Sharon Eyal, Batsheva’s choreographer-in-residence, and Yossi Berg, a Batsheva alum who has worked in London with the physical theater company DV8 and who now collaborates exclusively with dancer and choreographer Oded Graf.

Thanks largely to the innovative training methods of Naharin, whose Gaga principles of movement have spawned a generation of fearless, fierce and compelling dancers and choreographers, Israeli dance has become one of the nation’s major cultural exports. The nation’s companies and choreographers tour Europe and the Far East frequently and have done so for years.

American audiences and presenters, though, are just beginning to recognize this dance talent. Like Emerson, Company E dancer Kathryn Pilkington credits the Israeli context for the talent and creativity she’s experienced there. “I think the difference is that the art in Israel is so supported by the whole community. Artists in Israel… don’t have any boxes, they can feel free to explore, more so than what I’ve experienced here in the U.S. They’re just light years ahead of us dancewise, and it’s pretty incredible the amount of talent and artistry that comes from everybody over there.”

In Washington, Company E tackles two older works by Naharin. The dynamic “Black Milk,” his 1985/1991 male quintet (and not an allusion to Paul Celan’s use of the phrase in his seminal “Death Fugue”), contains a hypnotic power with its ritualized structure, unbridled physicality and mystical underpinnings that resonate with both ancient and modern sensibilities, and radiate tribal and individual feelings. And there’s the 2006 idiosyncratic women’s quintet “George & Zalman,” where the dancers’ sharply etched gestures accumulate into complex phrases set to American poet Charles Bukowski’s cynical anthem, “Making It.” The program also features “Most of the Day I’m Out,” a boldly confrontational duet that (choreographed in 2001 by Berg) is at turns humorous and violent in its unrestricted and raw hand-to-hand combat.

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Find us on Facebook!
  • Happy birthday to the Boy Who Lived! July 31 marks the day that Harry Potter — and his creator, J.K. Rowling — first entered the world. Harry is a loyal Gryffindorian, a matchless wizard, a native Parseltongue speaker, and…a Jew?
  • "Orwell would side with Israel for building a flourishing democracy, rather than Hamas, which imposed a floundering dictatorship. He would applaud the IDF, which warns civilians before bombing them in a justified war, not Hamas terrorists who cower behind their own civilians, target neighboring civilians, and planned to swarm civilian settlements on the Jewish New Year." Read Gil Troy's response to Daniel May's opinion piece:
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels.
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • 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.