Romeo Castellucci's Julius Caesar/Photo: Luca Del PiaRomeo Castellucci’s Julius Caesar/Photo: Luca Del Pia

Winds of change are blowing in Jerusalem. The Israel Festival Jerusalem is a much-anticipated annual celebration of culture, returning each spring with three weeks of  excellence in the performing arts. In its early years, the festival was unique in its presentation of international music, dance and theatre. The Israel Festival has been influential in developing the vibrant Israeli arts scene, and has certainly contributed to the rich, ongoing artistic dialogue between Israel and the world. How shall the Israel Festival define its role in the current cultural environment, and as it looks towards the future?

Now in its 54th edition, the Israel Festival Jerusalem will take place from May 28 – June 24, 2015, and it is actively engaging with these questions. New CEO Eyal Sher and new artistic director Itzik Giuli have dedicated much thought to creating a program that will infuse the festival with new vigor and sense of purpose.

In a press meeting that took place this morning at the Yellow Submarine in Jerusalem, Itzik Giuli stated, “We are deeply connected to the festival’s great tradition: the belief in art. We wish to present Israeli audiences with the best from Israel and the world, to open up new directions in the arts, discover and develop new preferences, to establish a creative environment that is challenging and enlivening.”

Toward this goal, the festival has taken on the role of presenting performances on the cutting edge of the arts, whether multidisciplinary productions that extend beyond the traditional boundaries of genre, those that take place in alternative venues, and are open to the surprising and the unexpected.

The vision for the festival informs not only the content, but also the belief that art should be accessible to as many people as possible, viewing culture as an active, integral part of  society as a whole. In the effort to reach out to new audiences the festival program will be printed in three languages this year: Hebrew, English and Arabic. Unfortunately, subtitles for shows will only be available in Hebrew, let’s hope that English will be included next year. Ticket prices (except the opening night concert) will be capped at 195 NIS, and admission to most performances will be in the range between 80 to 150 NIS. Smart culture aficionados can benefit from the 48 hour sale that will begin tomorrow, April 28, 2015, with offers of 1 + 1, and 20% discounts on packages of 4 tickets. The full program and ticket information may be found in English on the festival website: http://israel-festival.org/en/.

The program is very enticing! I’ve already begun my list of ‘favorites’ – and I keep adding to it! But here’s a start:

There will be several intriguing contemporary dance performances, on the interface between dance and the visual arts, as attuned to the plastic arts as to the choreographic elements.

Self Unfinished-  Katrin Schoof.JPG 4

Xavier Le Roy, a molecular biologist turned dancer/choreographer will present Self Unfinished, a tantalizing solo that forms and reforms the body in configurations fascinating and playful, within a white space. The performance will take place at Beit Mazya, and seating will be unmarked.

 

X-ON/Photo: Ivo DimchevX-ON/Photo: Ivo Dimchev

X-ON, I-ON is a collaboration between choreographer Ivo Dimchev and artist Franz West (1947 – 2012). West placed his works in public spaces, a challenge to the public to touch and play with them. X-ON creates a scene in which two tourists visiting a museum are asked to interact with the sculptures; in I-ON, Dimchev attempts to make contact with the art works in a gallery. X-ON will be performed in Rebecca Crown Hall, Jerusalem Theater; I-ON in Leo Model Hall, Gerard Behar Center, and will be followed by a short conversation with Dimchev in English.

Snakeskins/Photo: Christine DivitoSnakeskins/Photo: Christine Divito

Snakeskins (A fake Solo) by Benoit Lachambre, is inspired by movement he calls “water snake” that involves undulations of the spine. It is called a ‘fake solo’ as there is another dancer onstage, Daniele Albanese, and the musician Hahn Rowe performing the soundtrack live. The work itself is much visual art as it is dance, performed within a web of ropes that is allusive and beautiful. Snakeskins will be performed in Rebecca Crown Hall, Jerusalem Theater.

Vertigo Dance Company - Parades and Changes/Photo: Maayan HotemVertigo Dance Company – Parades and Changes/Photo: Maayan Hotem

Throughout the program, one feels the reverberations of tradition and history, with the spirit of experimentation and discovery. The festival will feature the works of two pioneers of Post-Modern dance: Trisha Brown and Anna Halprin. The Trisha Brown Dance Company will perform In Plain Site at the Israel Museum (standing places only), and works from the repertoire – You Can See Us, Son of Gone Fishin, Rogues, and Set and Reset, at Sherover Hall in the Jerusalem Theatre. The Vertigo Dance Company will perform Parades and Changes by Anna Halprin at the Israel Museum.

Avant-garde Italian director Romeo Castellucci digs deep into Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, creating what he calls an “intervention” rather than an adaptation. He makes use of Shakespeare’s play to reflect on the place and power of the word in theatre, politics, and society, which includes setting up impediments to the actors in their delivery of the text. In the short clip I saw, the staging looks very striking, and it will be performed at YMCA, with the venue thoroughly transformed for the event. The audience will be seated on the stage, and the performance will take place below. Castellucci and his theatre group Societas Raffaello Sanzio will be performing in Israel for the first time.

Kineret, Kineret/Photo: Roni ToviasKineret, Kineret/Photo: Roni Tovias

Taking a new look at tales of origins, is the Khan Theatre production of Kineret, Kineret. Written by the great Israeli poet Nathan Alterman, the play focuses on a group of young people who settled on the shores of the Sea of Galilee in 1912, idealists who hope to build a new world. Director Shir Goldberg and editor Shahar Pinkas, a very creative duo in the theatre, whose previous collaborations include Tehila, The Overcoat and My Father is Not a Bird, bring their very individual and visual approach to this play.

Connecting the classical to the cosmic is Lysistrata X, a futuristic adaptation of Aristophanes’ play by Emanuella Amichai. Performed at Beit Mazya (seating is unmarked), the play envisions a future in which Lysistrata’s rebellion has led to a revolution, and a world under the control of a super-human female entity. This fusion of theatre and dance describes a world in which sexual desire does not exist, and the only sexual contact between women and men is for reproductive purposes. Ran Slavin has created a compelling video as part of this production.

These performances are just a small part of all the Israel Festival will be offering this year! The full program will be available on the festival website.