Israeli Performers Warn Dance Is Teetering on the Edge

Dozens of dancers used Haaretz Culture Conference to protest the Culture Ministry’s decision to halt funding for the Choreographer’s Association.

Choreographer’s Association protesters at the Haaretz Culture Conference.
Moti Milrod

Dozens of dancers used the Haaretz Culture Conference on Sunday to protest the Culture and Sports Ministry’s decision to halt funding support for the Choreographer’s Association.

The organization is a collective of 80 choreographers who are financially supported by it. Last December, the Justice Ministry ordered the Culture Ministry to stop supporting the association, saying it was nothing more than a “pipeline.”

The demonstrators, dressed in red shirts bearing the Hebrew words “They are stopping us,” also called on Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev to repeal the decision. The association warns of a collapse in Israeli dance if the funding is not renewed.

The association petitioned the High Court of Justice against the culture and justice ministries last month, demanding an injunction that would make the ministries transfer advances on financial support to 77 choreographers for the first quarter of 2016. The association has been supported since its foundation in 2001 according to Section 3a of the Budget Foundations Law and not according to Culture Ministry criteria. It also demanded in the petition to hold an urgent hearing on funding and devise criteria for dance groups that would allow the ministry to pay them advances and ongoing support throughout the year. Justice Neal Hendel ordered the culture and justice ministries to respond by March 24.

The petitioners blamed the Culture Ministry for delays in drawing up the new criteria, which the Justice Ministry has demanded for over 18 months. Haaretz reported recently that the Justice Ministry also forbade the Culture Ministry from funding bodies without support-worthy criteria.

“Choreographers whose projects have been made in collaboration with this petitioner for years are being forced to cancel shows and contracts; they are unable to pay suppliers, producers, dancers and others,” the petition read. “They are unable to make new commitments that are required for dance activity in 2016, and are in budgetary distress that is pushing their activity to the edge. The decision of the defendants puts the world of dance in Israel on the verge of collapse.”

The petitioners also claimed the position of the Justice Ministry that the choreographers’ nonprofit is a “pipeline” has no basis, and it was not given the opportunity to express its response to the ministry’s position.

The Association of Independent Theater Artists experienced a similar crisis in recent months, after the Justice Ministry refused to let the Culture Ministry support 13 of some 30 independent artists belonging to the association. The artists had submitted requests for project support last year, which were approved in principal by the Culture Ministry’s support committee. The Justice Ministry also called this association a pipeline. Some of the artists were forced to postpone their productions because of the cuts. Others, who had already opened their shows, ran into serious financial difficulties. Contacts between the artists’ association and the Culture Ministry are continuing, with the hope of arranging support for these artists, too.

The Culture Ministry is optimistic that the situation can be resolved. “The ministry is in touch with the Choreographers Association and other dance groups,” it said. “It supports their claims and is conducting a lengthy discourse with the Justice Ministry to answer them and allow the transfer of funds for 2016.”