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!
  • British Jews are having their 'Open Hillel' moment. Do you think Israel advocacy on campus runs the risk of excluding some Jewish students?
  • "What I didn’t realize before my trip was that I would leave Uganda with a powerful mandate on my shoulders — almost as if I had personally left Egypt."
  • Is it better to have a young, fresh rabbi, or a rabbi who stays with the same congregation for a long time? What do you think?
  • Why does the leader of Israel's social protest movement now work in a beauty parlor instead of the Knesset?
  • What's it like to be Chagall's granddaughter?
  • Is pot kosher for Passover. The rabbis say no, especially for Ashkenazi Jews. And it doesn't matter if its the unofficial Pot Day of April 20.
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • 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.