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Dance with desire

Cravings and cultural identity on display in Jerusalem end-of-year dance fest

This year’s ‘From Jaffa to Agrippas’ dance event from the Catamon Dance Group moves from its home in the market to new museum spaces

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

Dance piece 'She Looks Like She’d Be An Animal In Bed' by Batsheva dancer Béatrice Larrivée, is a site-specific piece for Ticho House, performed as part of the 'From Jaffa to Agrippas' festival December 30, 2022 (Courtesy Adi Admoni)
Dance piece 'She Looks Like She’d Be An Animal In Bed' by Batsheva dancer Béatrice Larrivée, is a site-specific piece for Ticho House, performed as part of the 'From Jaffa to Agrippas' festival December 30, 2022 (Courtesy Adi Admoni)

The contemporary dance festival ‘From Jaffa to Agrippas’ started out in the crowded alleyways of Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda market, but is leaving the shuk for museum spaces in the city, using the galleries of the Israel Museum’s Anna Ticho House and the Tower of David Museum to present its meetup between dance and space.

Opening Friday, December 30 in Anna Ticho, four different pieces will be performed from 11 a.m. through 2 p.m. throughout the spaces of the historic building.

The event continues Saturday night in the Tower of David Museum in the Old City, with six different events and performances, including two during the early hours of New Year’s Eve and a dance party that is slated to last until 7 a.m. Sunday morning.

Choreographer Elad Schechter, who founded the festival and Jerusalem’s c.a.t.a.m.o.n Dance Group has his signature on several of the pieces, including ‘Sweets’ and ‘Premier,’ a collaborative dance work by two Jerusalem artists, one Arab, and one Jewish.

Schechter likes to emphasize historical and cultural identity in his works and says he draws inspiration from Jerusalem, catering his works to the city’s diverse audience.

He sat in one of the smaller dining rooms of the former Anna restaurant on a recent morning, located on the upper floor of the Anna Ticho House, rehearsing ‘Sweets’ with dancer Michael Levi and harpist Sari Shemesh.

Catamon choreographer Elad Schechter’s ‘Sweets’ will be performed with dancer Michael Levi and harpist Sari Shemesh at the ‘From Jaffa to Agrippas’ festival on December 30, 2022 at Anna Ticho House (Courtesy Natasha Shakhnes)

It felt appropriate to think about cravings in a space where homemade pasta and creamy sauces were once served.

The short, ten-minute piece is about obsessions and appetites as performed by the engaging Levi, a generously proportioned man who explores his own voracious desires.

“I love to eat, and I love it most when food is prepared for me,” said Levi, turning from side to side on the floor, as Shemesh’s harp played, with music including familiar bars from The Sound of Music’s ‘My Favorite Things.’

“Sweets” was first performed in an intimate hotel room as part of the Room Service Festival at the nearby Villa Brown hotel and then for a larger audience at the Israel Museum this past summer, said Schechter.

“You leave with cravings,” he said.

From Elad Schechter’s ‘Premier,’ a collaborative dance work by two Jerusalem artists, Arab and Jew, performed as part of the ‘From Jaffa to Agrippas’ festival on December 30, 2022 (Courtesy Tomer Zmora)

Tickets for “From Jaffa to Agrippas” are available through the Israel Museum and Tower of David Museum websites.

The c.a.t.a.m.o.n Dance Group will be taking parts of the festival to venues in the US, Mexico, Canada and Europe in 2023.

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