This year's Israel Festival will open with a new piece by Ohad Naharin for the famed Batsheva Dance Company. The work will feature the entire troupe and, according to the choreographer, each dancer will be a full partner in the creative process.

This is not the first time that a Naharin work will open the festival. In 1993, three years after he was appointed artistic director of Batsheva, Naharin presented "Anaphaza" at the festival's opening night, which became one of the company's signature works.

For this year's piece, Avi Yona Bueno (also known as Bambi ) will design the lighting and the soundtrack will be composed jointly by Maxim Waratt and Ohad Fishof.

The Israel Festival, which kicks off on May 24, will also be hosting the New York-based Merce Cunningham Dance Company, who will arrive in Israel as part of its "Legacy Tour." The tour, which began on February 2010, approximately six months after the death of legendary choreographer Merce Cunningham, will be the company's last international tour. In his will, Cunningham instructed that the company end its activity two years after his death. Therefore, after the final performance on the tour - set for December 31, 2011 in New York - the troupe will disband.

During the visit to Israel, which coincides with the debut of the Jerusalem Season of Culture initiative, the Merce Cunningham Dance Company well perform on June 6 at the Jerusalem Theater, featuring two works: "Split Sides" from 2003, which combines music by the British band Radiohead and the Icelandic band Sigur Ros; and "Sounddance," a 1975 work that Cunningham himself originally danced.

The company will also give six site-specific performances in various spaces at the Israel Museum from June 9 to June 11.

The Danish make their mark

The Danish Dance Theater will also present "Love Songs" at the festival, a work by British choreographer Tim Rushton, who has served as the group's artistic director for a decade now.

The piece features Danish singer Caroline Henderson accompanied by a trio of jazz musicians.

The company will also give an evening performance of a selection of Rushton works: "Kridt," a piece based on both the text of Ecclesiastes and a suite for strings written by the Latvian composer Peteris Vasks; "Enigma" a piece inspired by Bach's suites; and "CaDance," a work for four to six male dancers to a score by Andy Pape.

The Danish company, which will appear at the Jerusalem Theater on June 15, features 16 dancers from all over the world - including a young Israeli woman, Adi Amit.

The Israel Festival's dance program is also set to feature a collaboration between two homegrown artists - choreographer Nimrod Freed and musician Israel Breit - who will perform a work on May 28 and 29 combining film, dance and live music.

Freed, who worked for years in New York, founded the Tami Group in 2004, which is now based in Tel Aviv. Breit has composed music for theater, television and film over the years.

In addition, as part of the Jerusalem Day festivities on June 1, a concert will take place in Sacher Park featuring assorted musicians and singers, as well as the Vertigo Dance Company and the Hora Jerusalem dance troupe.