This video is a short representation of an absolutely UNREAL trip. Last summer the guys at Google and YouTube decided to fly a few of us to Israel, to perform a cover version of the legendary ‘Power to the People’ by John Lennon in front of a huge audience during a live YouTube event. Afterwards we went into Jerusalem, ate watermelon, visited the sights, laughed a LOT, and ended up throwing an impromptu party at the old market in Jerusalem.. surreal but AWESOME.
At the age of 23, British choreographer Rachel Erdos packed up her belongings, said goodbye to family and homeland and headed for Israel. It was 2002 and she had already graduated with a first-class honors in dance from the Roehampton Institute in London, and completed an MA, specializing in choreography, at the Laban Centre, London. Although she came from a pro-Zionist family and had visited Israel a few times in her childhood, her Hebrew was limited and her knowledge of the Israeli dance scene minimal.
That is a distant memory now that Erdos has become a well-known figure on the Israeli dance scene. Over the last decade, she has created eight dance pieces, participated in nearly every Israeli dance festival, from Intimidance and Gvanim BeMahol (Shades of Dance ) to Curtain Rising and International Exposure, toured the globe, bringing her works to such desirable venues as the Kennedy Center in Washington and Royal Opera House at London’s Covent Garden, and won prizes and critical praise.
To celebrate the tenth anniversary of her arrival in Israel, three of her new dance pieces are to be performed together on Saturday at Tel Aviv’s Suzanne Dellal Center.
Erdos dreamed of becoming a choreographer ever since she was a child in Newcastle, where she was born and raised. Her family – who are of Eastern European Jewish ancestry – settled in the northern English city after her father, a psychology professor, took a job at the local university. Erdos was attracted to the world of dance and took dance lessons, but finally decided in a high school workshop that she preferred to become a choreographer rather than a professional dancer.
Never at home
Erdos says that she never felt that she completely belonged in Newcastle, where the Jewish community is quite small. The fact that she was the only Jew in her classes was clear to everyone. “The minute I didn’t want to attend school on Yom Kippur or Rosh Hashana, I became ‘the Jew.’ You’re a bit different – you refuse to eat pork at friends’ houses. Everyone knows you are Jewish.
“There I was more attached to religion,” she adds. “It was part of me. If I had to be different from everyone else, it was important to me to examine what made it so. We attended synagogue on Saturdays; it didn’t matter if afterwards we got into the car and drove to the shopping mall. It was something you did to be part of the Jewish community.”
Choreography was not considered a legitimate profession. In order to be allowed to study dance in college, she had to promise that afterwards she would complete a master’s degree in dance therapy – something she ultimately did not do. She spent her gap year in Israel, volunteering in various projects and understood that she wanted to remain here. But eventually she realized she would be better off returning to England to take advantage of her right to a free university education there.
“When I finished my B.A. I didn’t have a lot of self-confidence,” she says. “It wasn’t enough that I was the best choreographer in my class, and I decided to study at the Laban Centre, which had a bigger name, to make sure I could survive [and receive] a choreography degree in another place, as well as gather professional experience.” During her studies she became interested in dances tailored for unconventional venues and mounted pieces in the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Royal Courts. She completed her degree in the nearly impossible span of one year, with a clear goal of moving to Israel.
“I could see myself living and working in England,” she says. “But I wanted to try to live in Israel. It seemed to me that I had met too many people who spoke of doing this but never took the step. Today it looks much scarier than it did then. I was a young and naive Zionist and I simply decided to get up and go.” Five years ago her parents joined her, moving to Jerusalem, and her brother has recently done so as well. Only her sister, she says, is not interested in leaving England.
When she arrived, Erdos was surprised to discover that the Israeli dance scene was both rich and turbulent. It was clear that she’d have to do some homework before she could integrate into that world. For a year she attended every possible dance performance. “At first it was like going to a party where everyone knows everyone else and I didn’t know anyone,” she recalls. “I was an outsider and didn’t even know peoples’ names. I wanted to understand with whom I wanted to work, who was doing similar work.
“I was happily surprised by the fact that there was so much going on here. I felt that there was a place for every possible style and that something good was happening. I think that dance here is more interesting than in England. Everyone asks me if it’s easier here, and I don’t know if it is, because I think this is a career that isn’t easy anywhere. But something in the scene here works – there are always innovations, things happening all the time. I didn’t feel this in England.”
In order to make a living and become an integral part of the scene, Erdos worked as a rehearsal and performance manager, and taught in high schools. At the same time, she methodically developed her career as a choreographer. “I was told that if I wanted to become a choreographer, the route was clear: There are X number of festivals organized by size. I began with a small piece and enlarged the number of dancers and the budget each time. It was important to me to show people who I was and get them to recognize my name.”
An impressive repertoire
Erdos has created a long string of works: “The Birds and the Bees” (2007 ), “Alma” (2006 ), “Without Feathers” (2005 ), “Inside it’s Raining” (2008 ), “Last Orders” (2009 ) and “OU’” (1010 ). She has received international awards. “Alma,” a pas de deux for a man and woman (surrounded by apples ), won the Danish AICC international choreography competition. It was acquired by the City Dance ensemble in Washington and performed in the Kennedy Center. Her pas de trois “Inside it’s Raining” was performed at Covent Garden a year ago in the Firsts Festival; and “Last Orders,” created for the Danish troupe Mancopy, was produced and performed in a brewery in the city of Erhaus.
Last year was especially fruitful for Erdos, who created three new dance pieces that will be performed together on Saturday at the Suzanne Dellal Center in Tel Aviv, to mark her tenth anniversary in Israel. The first, “Why We Tell,” featuring Ori Lenkinsky and Idan Yoav, was created during a dance residency in Ireland at the beginning of 2011. The lovely pas de deux, which has already been performed in Italy and New York, is based on a theory by Christopher Booker that all stories are based on seven fixed elements. At the end of the year she mounted “in her words” ) at the Curtain Rising festival. A work for three dancers (Lenkinsky, Shiran Sharabi and Talia Bick ), it examines aspects of femininity and is accompanied by live music by the Monte Fiore band. The third, “And Mr.”, is a solo she created for dancer-choreographer Ido Tadmor. A minimalistic dance lasting 25 minutes, it was inspired by the famous Robert Louis Stevenson novel, “The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde,” and includes cello music by Adiel Shamit. “My goal was to present Ido Tadmor in a way that is different than the way nearly everyone sees him. He has a distinctive style of movement, ones he chooses himself – footwork, jumps, all kinds of virtuoso things – and I wanted people to see another side too. “It was a very interesting pairing,” she adds. “He isn’t the same age as the other dancers I work with. He’s almost 48, and I took this into account. Physically, he is capable of doing things that no one else can. He’s amazing, and usually takes roles for 20-year-olds, but I felt that the time had come for him to find a character relevant to his age.”
Tadmor, who initiated the collaboration, said in a separate conversation that Erdos is one of the most intriguing artists in Israel, and that the process of working with her was one of the most fascinating in the 30 years of his career. He mentions her seriousness and total dedication, intelligence and openness, and talks about exceptional precision.
A unique artist
Erdos is indeed a unique artist on the local landscape, a choreographer who did not develop out of a dance career and was not educated by a particular Israeli troupe or school. The fact that she comes from Britain and acquired her skills in the academic world stands out in her work. “There is something very communicative about my work,” she says, “and the people who dance are very important to me. The pieces don’t have to please the audience; what interests me is that it looks at the dancers and sees human beings. I think that the combination of English and Israeli tastes creates a different, more refined aesthetic.”
In her first years here, she says, many found it hard to accept the fact that she is not a dancer. “It’s as if you always wanted to be a movie director and not an actor,” she explains. “I don’t create dances so that I will have a place to dance. And I never understood how you could perform your own works; I have to be outside and observe. This looking in from outside is very important. And I like to stay in the dark, behind the scenes, watching the dances receive attention. I don’t need it. To me it’s my idea that makes people encounter each other. What’s interesting is the mixture of all the artists on the way to the result.”
What does Erdos like about Israel?
“I love Tel Aviv. Living here, working here. I think that’s why I stayed (in Israel ). “It is a big and a small city at the same time. Not like London which is big and feels big, where it takes you an hour on the underground or you need a car to meet a friend. In Tel Aviv I have a cafe downstairs from where I live; I walk around and meet seven people I know; and it only takes me 10 minutes to get to work.”
As for the difficulties of living in Israel, she cites the language. “At first it was hard. In England it was easy for me to express myself, and this difference wasn’t simple. I felt this was also a social barrier; I found myself shutting up completely during conversations in which I had something to say. I remember the first time I took part in Intimidance and they sent me to an interview on the radio. It was one of the most difficult experiences here; I left crying. I consider myself an intelligent girl – I have two degrees, but I spoke like a child of 4.”
And her heavy British accent, which she has tried to lose to no avail, doesn’t make things any easier. “I’ve considered myself Israeli for 10 years, but the moment I open my mouth I’m branded as English. In England I was a Jew and here I’m English. There’s no way to get around the fact that I’m not from here. But whoever gets to know me understands that I’m totally from here. I really opened up here. I’ve got a lot more confidence to say what I think. You have to become Israeli if you live here; otherwise you won’t survive.”
“Alma” is a gorgeous dance by Israeli Choreographer Rachel Erdos. The dance, in the repertory of the American dance company Company E is a work for two dancers and a stage-full of green apples…..
Learn more about the dance and the Company at www.companye.org
Turkey and Israel haven’t been the best of friends in recent years, but agreements may be reached in the kitchen. Famous Israeli chef Shaul Ben Aderet embarked on a 24-hour visit to Istanbul on Wednesday in order to cook live on Turkish TV.
The initiative is part of a Israeli-Turkish collaboration involving Israel’s Ananei Tikshoret company, which operates the Israeli Food Channel, and one of Turkey television’s leading lifestyle channels – TurkMax of the DigiTurk network.
“I have already cooked in many countries,” says Ben Aderet. “I’m not afraid of cooking in Turkey or traveling there despite the political tensions, because it’s a known fact that chefs get along in the kitchen – even though there are knives involved.
“The beautiful thing about the kitchen is that you don’t even have to talk or understand each other. Good food created a bridge between cultures and reconciliation to overcome anger.
“On the personal level, my dream is to cook for Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan.”
What will you cook on the Turkish show?
“Spinach shakshuka with cream, Caciocavallo cheese and truffles. Fresh squash salad with walnuts, mint, cranberries and Gorgonzola cheese. And they’ll also get a fillet of beef coated with mustard and honey burnt like crème brûlée.”
Have you had any thoughts of opening a restaurant in Turkey, or cooking Turkish food here?
“I’m not missing anything in Israel. I only came for them to see the flag of Israel in front of their eyes. I don’t think I’ll cook any Turkish food. Maybe I’ll bring Erdogan along, who knows.”
Ben Aderet was accompanied on his trip by Sharon Lamberger, CEO of Ananei Tikshoret’s lifestyle channels.
“Food and culture create a bridge, even in times of political tension,” says Lamberger. “In this case we can make a contribution and work to bring the people closer despite the tensions.”
Ben Aderet and Lamberger say they met with Turkish chef Eyüp Kemal Sevinç and members of DigiTurk’s management team in order to discuss the current project and future Israeli-Turkish initiatives.
Kemal Sevinç, the executive chef of the Marriott Hotel Asia Istanbul, serves as a member of the European Cooks Association and the World Cooks Confederation. He has won 80 awards in prestigious cooking competitions.
During his visit to Turkey, Ben Aderet toured Istanbul’s biggest market, Kadıköy Bazaar, together with the Turkish chef and was a guest at the chef’s culinary academy.
Today, much of the city’s Arab population remains in the east, while the majority of its Jewish population lives in the west.
Although they are free to do so, few residents move between the city’s Arab and Jewish areas. In the minds of most, the border that separated Jews and Arabs 40 years ago still exists today.
Witness follows Jewish and Arab volunteer paramedics who choose to cross these boundaries.
Hezi, a Hassidic Jew, has been working for United Hatzalah, an emergency service run by orthodox Jews in Jerusalem, for more than 15 years. In 2010, the organisation started employing Arab paramedics and Fadi joined to improve first aid services in Jerusalem’s Arab neighbourhoods.
In Jerusalem SOS, we follow Fadi and Hezi as they traverse Jerusalem, providing first aid at all hours to the city’s residents.