Culture Fop / EVE Parties in Jerusalem: Who Needs Adam?

Women are reclaiming the holy city's nightlife, and: Is Ohad Naharin the dance equivalent of Quentin Tarantino?

They say that you should commute to work, not to your social life. But these wise words make no mention of where your spiritual life fits into the equation. Sarah Weil lives in Jerusalem because it “nurtures my religious identity. But it offers no expression for my lesbian identity.”

Tired of commuting an hour each way to Tel Aviv to enjoy the frequent lesbian parties there, Weil created Women’s Gatherings Jerusalem to bring her social life a little closer. Since the first gathering in November 2011, which brought together about 50 women – twice what Weil expected – the popularity of the regular gatherings have grown significantly. Clearly, she tapped into a need.

This Saturday, April 13, Women’s Gatherings takes another big step, launching E.V.E., its first dance party. And while it may be focused on the female, Weil is adamant that all are invited. “I’m not trying to create a gay ghetto,” she says. Gay, straight and men are all welcome. But behind the turntables, it’s a women’s world.

Women, women-identified and queer DJs are the stars of E.V.E., which aims to “to provide an open, loving and celebratory queer space and to encourage women's club music.”

It’s more radical than it sounds, both because the world of DJs and club music is so heavily male-dominated and also because, in Israel, its so Tel Aviv-centric.

“I want to bridge these two cities,” says Weil. “I’m trying to create a DJ scene in Jerusalem.”

Though not a DJ herself, she does enjoy a good dance party. E.V.E. will feature a local DJ as an opening act, followed by a more established woman DJ brought in from Tel Aviv. Weil hopes the sisterhood of the traveling DJs will encourage those in the holy city to up their game.

As Madonna famously sang, “Hey Mr. DJ, put a record on, I want to dance with my baby” and, a few lines later, “Music brings the people together.” Such is Weil’s intention.

“In Jerusalem, there’s such incredible diversity,” she says; politically, religiously, and culturally speaking. “I want to create a space for all that diversity to flourish.”

In the process, Women’s Gatherings is injecting some new energy into Jerusalem, giving “expression to restless creativity, answering some unrequited longings” (as their mission statement says) and, for those who previously had to trek to Tel Aviv for a vibrant nightlight, cutting their commute by quite a bit.

E.V.E.: Saturday, April 13 / Bass Club
Hahistadrut 1, Jerusalem
Doors open 8 P.M.

Batsheva Unchained: The dance company digs itself into The Hole

Ohad Naharin, the artistic director and choreographer of the Batsheva Dance Company, Israel’s premier contemporary dance troupe, is recognized world-wide as one of the most innovative dance-makers of his generation, still churning out dances that are always intensely physical and witty with a kind of icy sexiness.

In that way, he might be the dance world’s version of Quentin Tarantino – a little brash and in your face with violence seeming to bubble under every surface (of course with Tarantino, it tends to erupt in very graphic ways), and a daring audacity to treat nothing as sacred.

Like Tarantino’s best characters, in Batsheva the men have a quiet cool and the women are bad-ass.

You can never really decide, from movie to movie if Tarantino is digging further into his classic themes or merely rehashing previous material from another angle. I mean, "Django Unchained" was an awesome film but almost scene-by-scene, it smelled suspiciously like its predecessor, “Inglourious Basterds.”

Batsheva’s new work is, “The Hole,” in many ways, a patchwork of elements seen in previous pieces that have been reconfigured in a provocative, original space: the company’s studio. As Naharin said at a press preview about a month ago, “We wanted to welcome you into our home.”

It’s not the first time the company has done so, but it’s the first time they’ve transformed the space so completely – constructing an elevated stage in the center, erecting walls behind the audience and even suspending a metal grid from the ceiling for clever use in the latter half of the hour-long piece.

Despite the radically new environment, there’s a familiarity to the various puzzle pieces (at least for those who follow the company closely, which, in Israel, are many): There’s the part where everyone takes a solo turn freaking out in the center, the part where softer, classical or folksy music cradles a tender duet, the counting section (this time with some Arabic thrown in) and the overall concept of separating men and women into roles and alternating the casts (both are present in the work but depending on which show you see, either the ladies or the gents take center stage).

But it’s Naharin so, of course, none of it is supposed to mean anything (he’s famously against interpretation, as Susan Sontag would say). So don’t you dare assume that the segregation of genders reflects the wave of anti-women incidents in Israel in the last few years. And just because the men are yelling at the women from the perimeter of the space in Arabic while the women yell back in Hebrew doesn’t mean he’s trying to say something about the political situation.

It is just what it is, like “Inglourious Basterds” is just a Holocaust revenge fantasy that’s both haunting and beautiful and “Django Unchained” is just a slavery fantasy that’s both a bit comical and epic.

And “The Hole” is all of that. Naharin manages to create work that are increasingly, and impressively, cinematic. The way he plays with perspective in this work is stunning; all three dimensions of the space are put to good use, which is a rare achievement in dance.

Ultimately, one doesn’t fall into “The Hole” the way Lewis Carroll tosses Alice into Wonderland – it’s not that bewildering or unexpected. But burrowing into it is still a satisfying evening of watching Batsheva do what it does best. For Naharin loyalists, it may not surprise, but it doesn’t disappoint.
 

Gadi Dagon