Intriguing Contemporary Ballet

Yoram Carmi's 'Clara' came as a pleasant surprise.

Jerusalem Ballet. Artistic director: Nadya Timofeyeva. "Clara" choreographed by Yoram Carmi. Music: "Romance" by Clara Schumann. Costume design: Maor Tzabar. Adagio from "Macbeth" by Vladimir Vasiliev. Music: Kirill Molchanov (Russia ); segment from "Palladio" by Mihai Babuska (Romania ) set to music by Karl Jenkins: "Instead of Tango" by Giorgi Aleksidze (Georgia ) to music by Gia Kancheli. Lighting design: Shai Yehudai. Dancers: Michal Adam, Alina Irego, Nadya Timofeyeva, Artur Troitsky, Keren Notik, Yulia Moster-Verluzki, Kiril Panfilov (Panov Ballet Theater dancer ), Lidia Rotterdamski, Michael Schneider. Suzanne Dellal Center, Summer Dance, 25.8.11

The Jerusalem Ballet's performance of "Clara," which Yoram Carmi choreographed, was a pleasant surprise. The troupe's style previously focused on artists from the former Soviet Union and on somewhat outdated dances, but has changed and now looks like an intriguing contemporary troupe. It was cleaned up of its excess drama, mannerisms and now the dancers' fine technique speaks for itself and the technique is clean.

Jerusalem Ballet - Eyal Landsman - August 2011
Jerusalem Ballet dancers performing "Clara."Eyal Landsman

The change also affected its language of movement, which is no longer the neo-classical ballet we have been familiar with for years, and appears to be focused on searching for structural solutions to "what it is possible to do tiptoes" beyond the standard ballet lexicon. This time there was a more dynamic encounter between contemporary dance that sweeps up and engulfs positions as part of the overall flow, while placing technical obstacles before the dancers involving unexpected combinations of movements that refresh the language.

The inspiration behind the dance is Clara Schumann, who was a gifted pianist, but her creative side as a composer was pushed aside because in the early 19th, "respectable" women did not compose, they only performed - just like in dance, where the creative side was associated with male choreographers, while the women were only the tools implementing male creativity. Clara was the object of gossip because of her musical talents and her place between her husband, Robert Schumann, and her lover, Johannes Brahms. The gossip, as energetic component of movement, of small, quick movements that flood the stage, alongside larger and stronger movements, that perhaps represent Clara's willpower and determination, stand at the heart of the piece as two contradictory motifs.

The dance opens with a kind of fashion show from the early 19th century, with the dancers crossing the stage as if they were strolling along the boulevards of European capitals, seeking to see and be seen. The costumes designed by Maor Tzabar are a colorful box of truffles with an abundance of items, including hats, corsets, puffy skirts, long jackets; a society where external appearance is at the focus. And from this defined procession bursts forth a dance without a moment of rest and with many entrances and exits; a buzz that floods an orderly world of codes of behavior.

Yoram Carmi is an admired contemporary and modern dance choreographer, and this is his first piece with a classical ballet troupe. He brought with him the language, dynamics and different perspective to the world of ballet. It seems to me that this is his best work of choreography where he was dared to go beyond familiar compositional forms, and rediscovers and reinvigorates not only the dancers, but himself as well. Particularly intriguing are the transitions between segments that are built like superimposed stitching, and contain an element of surprise and an endearing wink.

He seemed to build a segment to introduce a duet, and in actuality it was just a diversion before the group segment that flooded the stage. The many artfully tailored transitions alone reminded me of works by the American choreographer Mark Morris. There are frequent set changes, with the stage becoming a rich venue of events and challenging the dancers' stamina.

The dancers are good, notable among them Nadya Timofeyeva, who today is much more restrained than she was in her youth, and Lidia Rotterdamski, who radiates confidence and joy of dancing, and the lyrical Keren Notik and dancer Artur Troitsky, who had fine presence. The same program also featured three familiar, neo-classical style ballet duets which only sharpened the difference between them, between what seemed outdated and the new spirit imbued in it by Carmi's work. These duets were superfluous. Clara is strong enough and interesting enough and does not need any reinforcements.