The Top Ten |

The Most Influential People in Israeli Dance

Shir Hacham
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Shir Hacham

1. Yair Vardi, 64, Director, Suzanne Dellal Center

2. Yasmeen Godder, 39, choreographer

Yasmeen Godder, one of Israel's most outstanding and most successful choreographers, premiered her new work, "See Her Change," this year. She is now working on a coproduction with the Freiburg Theater, and this month is hosting a first evening of premieres for dancer-choreographers from her troupe. Many observers consider Godder the foremost aesthetic authority in Israeli dance since Ohad Naharin, and perhaps the only one who marked out a completely different line from his.

3. Ohad Naharin, 61, choreographer and artistic director of Batsheva Dance Company

As the artistic director of the Batsheva Dance Company for the past 23 years, Ohad Naharin is without a doubt the most important taste-setter in Israeli dance. More than any other institution, the company he directs is identified worldwide with "Israeli dance." Indeed, his influence is so overwhelming that dance in Israel is in the grip of a kind of creative paralysis, despite the country's many choreographers. Some also wonder how deeply Naharin is engaged in a dialogue with the local community.

4. Nili Cohen, 66, former head of dance department in the Culture Administration

Nili Cohen's appointment as head of the dance unit in the Ministry of Education's Culture Administration in 1982 was a landmark event that made dance in Israel an established field. She was subsequently involved in all the significant dance events in Israel, including the establishment of the Suzanne Dellal Center for Dance and Theater in 1989, and the formation of the Choreographers' Association in 1998. Her major contribution was the creation of the first platform for independent dance in Israel, "Curtain Up." After three decades on the job, Cohen retired at the end of 2012. Her successor is Keren Carmel-Asaf.

5. Anat Danieli, 49, choreographer

Four years ago, the veteran choreographer Anat Danieli and Tal Gravinsky co-founded a new school of choreography called Kelim, in Bat Yam. The difference between Kelim and the other dance education institutions in Israel is reflected in its emphasis on choreography, rather than dance. Danieli is also working with the new online dance magazine "Ma'akaf." Kelim this year arranged for the Danish choreographer Marten Spangberg, one of the most important and outspoken theoreticians in the field, to visit Israel.

6. Sharon Eyal, 41, dancer, choreographer, founder of the L-E-V company

This year, Sharon Eyal and her partner, Gai Behar, who gets equal credit in her works, founded a new dance company, L-E-V. It is the second company in the world that is based on Gaga, a dance technique and associated vocabulary invented by Ohad Naharin. Although Eyal's works enjoy success in Israel and internationally, the new company's economic future still hangs in the balance. Its activity this year was based largely on the support of the Israel Festival, during which Eyal reprised "House," the last work she produced for Batsheva before she left the company.

Yair Vardi, 29, curator at Tmuna Theater

There are two people named Yair Vardi in the Israeli dance world one heads the Suzanne Dellal Center and the other is in charge of project development and curating at Tmuna Theater in Tel Aviv. They both pull strings one in the mainstream dance world, the other in the fringe world. The latter Yair Vardi holds an undergraduate degree in theater and choreography from Dartington College of Arts in England and a master's in performance studies from the Academy of Arts in Berlin. In 2005 he initiated the annual A-Genre Festival, which has strengthened the multidisciplinary stream in dance. Some hope he will turn Tmuna into a significant dance center and not just a stage for fringe arts.

8. Ido Tadmor, 48, dancer and choreographer, artistic director of the Israel

Last April, Tadmor was chosen to succeed Berta Yampolsky, who for 45 years was the artistic director of the Israel Ballet. Tadmor was a dancer in the Batsheva Company and gained fame for works considered exhibitionist; he was also a judge on the television reality show "Born to Dance." Within just three months, he has staged an evening together with the rock band Hayehudim, had ballerinas dance on the scaffolding of a Tel Aviv high-rise, and hosted one of the major soloists of the Bolshoi Ballet, Vladimir Vasiliev.

9. Naomi Perlov, 53, director of professional dance training at Bikurey Ha'itim center for the performing arts

A few years ago, Naomi Perlov and Ophir Dagan founded the School for Professional Dance Training at Bikurey Ha'itim, in Tel Aviv, which works with dancers aged 18 to 22. Perlov, who was formerly the artistic director of the Batsheva Ensemble (the junior company) and the Shades in Dance Festival, has been working for years with the French/Albanian choreographer Angelin Preljocaj, assisting his creations and restaging his ballets all over the world. She has now founded a school of international caliber, which offers a platform for young choreographers. Some, though, wonder whether it might be over-oriented toward neoclassicist aesthetics.

10. Arkadi Zaides, 34, dancer and choreographer

Arkadi Zaides, formerly a dancer with the Batsheva Company, was turned off by the company's apolitical stance and left it to create performances of a clear political character (sometimes too obviously so). He has worked with a theater group in the Druze village of Majdal Shams, on the Golan Heights, and with the dance and movement studio of Rabeah Murkus in Kfar Yasif, an Arab village in Galilee. In the last year, Zaides, who is currently doing a master's degree in dance in Amsterdam, last year staged a work that investigates the connection between the contours of the separation fence and the contours of the human body. He also launched the "Moves Without Borders" project, in which influential avant-garde choreographers are invited to Israel for performances and workshops.

Yasmeen Godder.Credit: Daniel Tchetchik
Ohad Naharin.Credit: Daniel Bar On

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