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Choreographer says: You’ve seen the dance. Now, ‘read’ the book

Dancer and storyteller Ella Rothschild’s trilogy of works sees performance of ‘Summer Snow’ by Batsheva troupe followed up by a website that sets the scene, and an illustrated book

Jessica Steinberg covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center.

  • From 'Summer Snow' by Ella Rothschild, part of a trilogy that includes a dance work, website and illustrated book, created for the Batsheva Dance Company in 2021 (Courtesy Roi Shalty)
    From 'Summer Snow' by Ella Rothschild, part of a trilogy that includes a dance work, website and illustrated book, created for the Batsheva Dance Company in 2021 (Courtesy Roi Shalty)
  • From 'Summer Snow' by Ella Rothschild, part of a trilogy that includes a dance work, website and illustrated book, created for the Batsheva Dance Company in 2021 (Courtesy Ascaf 12)
    From 'Summer Snow' by Ella Rothschild, part of a trilogy that includes a dance work, website and illustrated book, created for the Batsheva Dance Company in 2021 (Courtesy Ascaf 12)
  • From 'A Year Without Summer', the illustrated book that is the third part in the trilogy created by Ella Rothschild that includes a dance work, website and illustrated book, created for the Batsheva Dance Company in 2021 (Courtesy Ella Rothschild)
    From 'A Year Without Summer', the illustrated book that is the third part in the trilogy created by Ella Rothschild that includes a dance work, website and illustrated book, created for the Batsheva Dance Company in 2021 (Courtesy Ella Rothschild)
  • From 'A Year Without Summer', the illustrated book that is the third part in the trilogy created by Ella Rothschild that includes a dance work, website and illustrated book, created for the Batsheva Dance Company in 2021 (Courtesy Ella Rothschild)
    From 'A Year Without Summer', the illustrated book that is the third part in the trilogy created by Ella Rothschild that includes a dance work, website and illustrated book, created for the Batsheva Dance Company in 2021 (Courtesy Ella Rothschild)

Some artists stick to one medium, and others, like dancer and choreographer Ella Rothschild, explore other formats, as shown by her recent trilogy for the Batsheva Dance Company that involves the stage, screen and a book.

Rothschild’s illustrated book, “A Year Without Summer,” is the latest and third and final chapter of the trilogy, offering a kind of intimate diary between the creator and reader through Rothschild’s line drawings.

The project began with Rothschild’s stage work, “Summer Snow” which premiered in May with Batsheva as part of the Mart International Festival, then continued with her video work, “On the Edge of Nowhere,” and is now coming to a close with the book.

The idea, said Rothschild, was to create something wider with the trilogy, works that are connected yet don’t have to be seen together in order to understand each one.

“They’re all separate items, but the idea was that if a viewer has all three, then they have the option of connecting between all three,” said Rothschild.

This isn’t a pandemic project per se, either, but it was the heavy use of video during the lockdowns of the first year of the coronavirus that showed Rothschild the power of media, and the possibilities it offers beyond performing onstage.

“I wanted to open myself to the tools I could use that were now in my basket of ideas,” said Rothschild, who has danced with Batsheva and other companies, and is now a choreographer and storyteller.

“Summer Snow,” which has now been performed by Batsheva at the Suzanne Dellal Center for Dance and Theater several times since May, offers the full story of the trilogy, a narrative with a beginning and end, showing a series of surrealistic scenes through which the story of one character is woven into the other characters.

“Summer Snow” is being performed this week at Suzanne Dellal, on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.

The second part of the trilogy, “On the Edge of Nowhere,” is a website in which viewers enter a room by way of their own screens, viewing an office with a desk, a computer monitor and shelves full of books and objects, with fragments, such as the dance performance playing on the computer monitor in the room, that connects to the staged work and book.

“It’s like a map,” said Rothschild. “You’re seeking information in this room, you get information just like when you sit in a café and overhear a conversation. There were things that didn’t make it onstage or the book but made it into the scene.”

From ‘A Year Without Summer’, the illustrated book that is the third part in the trilogy created by Ella Rothschild that includes a dance work, website and illustrated book, created for the Batsheva Dance Company in 2021 (Courtesy Ella Rothschild)

And finally, the illustrated book is Rothschild’s more personal approach, her journal, in a sense.

“I’m in there as a kind of figure,” said Rothschild.

Rothschild wants viewers to take a look at this entire world that she has created, to come in and stay, or leave, or take time to find things, perhaps not understanding everything within view.

“The experience is one of exploration,” she said. “How much time will you stay, how much will you want to hear and read.”

From ‘A Year Without Summer,’ the illustrated book that is the third part in the trilogy created by Ella Rothschild that includes a dance work, website and illustrated book, created for the Batsheva Dance Company in 2021 (Courtesy Ella Rothschild)

Rothschild isn’t demanding that every viewer see or read each piece of the trilogy.

“I’d be happy if people see it all, because that offers other options,” she said. “If you would come see it on stage, you would then go home and watch the digital version differently.”

For now, however, the experience is entirely personal.

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