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January 26, 2012 - Image 65

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2012-01-26

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

arts & entertainment

First cohort at American Academy in
Jerusalem gets lessons in the Jewish
state's culture and tensions.

fr

af Rs,

"When I arrived at the studio, I asked
whether we could possibly close the
shades': Byrd said, smiling at the ironic
timing of his request. "The dancers were in
silhouette, and it was hard to see them."
Byrd said "the real success" of his project
was the willingness on the part of these
dancers from different ethnicities to work
together as equals."
The choreographer said the nine weeks
he spent in Israel were transformational.
"I think the work I've done in the past
didn't necessarily resonate beyond what
it was, the way this piece does. I've always
been a very good prose 'writer: but now I
feel I've started to write poetry' Byrd said.
Following a performance of his work-
in-progress, a quirky theatrical piece that
explores "the tragic, moving and exciting"
fate of the Yiddish language in Israel; direc-
tor David Herskovits said his time in Israel
has been "a powerful, magical inspiration.
"I came here for a visit in 1985 so I had
some limited experience of Israel' said
Herskovits, the founder and artistic director
of the avant-garde Target Margin Theater in
New York.
This time around, "I was surprised by
how moved I've been by the beauty and
complexities of everyday life in Jerusalem.
I was surprised by the intensity of feeling
and the way everything is charged. It's both
good and problematic:'
Herskovits, who doesn't yet speak Yiddish
but plans to study it in the coming year,
said he was inspired both by encounters
with Yiddish-speaking haredi society and
the many non-haredim "who value Yiddish:'
including some young secular Jews.
"I gained an extraordinarily rich context
and layer of the story I want to tell and a
zillion new friends and artistic partners":
Herskovits said.
For David Karnovsky, general counsel
for New York City's Department of City
Planning, the fellowship was an opportu-
nity to explore and evaluate Jerusalem's
unique planning challenges: the need to
balance preservation with modernity.
"It's an interesting time to be here," he said.
Karnovsky met with Israeli peers to dis-
cuss reforming Israel's bureaucratic plan-
ning laws. Municipal officials, architects,
planners and social activists also pumped
the New York planner for details of New
Yorks efforts to build more affordable hous-
ing, which is in short supply in Israel.
"I shared the idea of creating mixed
income housing through the use of zoning
incentives. Developers of private housing
might receive subsidies and additional floor
space to create buildings in which there is a
mixture of income levels": Karnovsky said.
Karnovsky also spent time on the pro-
posed relocation of the Bezalel Academy
of Art and Design from its current site

((

Fellows of the American Academy in Jerusalem: David Karnovksy, Donald Byrd,

David Herskovits and Lynne Avadenka.

Michele Chabin
New York Jewish Week

Avadenka said of her exploration of the
commonalities of Jewish and Arab themes
and her hope to bring Jews and Arabs a
little closer together.
Jerusalem
"Along with this series of daily collages
that became a way for me to mark my time
n initiative of the New York-
in Jerusalem, I also worked at the Jerusalem
based Foundation for Jewish
Print Workshop, where I created mono-
Culture modeled on American
prints and artists' books. All this art was
Academies in Berlin and Rome, a
exhibited at the Jerusalem Print Workshop,
Jerusalem Academy program recently
where I also gave a talk about the work. In
brought four top-level artists and profes-
addition, I gave workshOps at a school for
sionals — Lynne Avadenka, an acclaimed
Jewish and Arab Israeli kids.
Detroit-based visual artist; Donald Byrd,
"I've been to Jerusalem before, but this
a Tony-nominated choreographer (The
fellowship was a marvelous opportunity
Color Purple, Harlem Nutcracker); David
to live and create in Jerusalem, inspired by
Herskovits, a theatrical director; and
the city — its beauty, its complexity, its dif-
David Karnovsky, an urban planner — to
ficulties, its artists and inhabitants:'
Jerusalem to work alongside Israeli and
Bryd's central project, a sensual, evoca-
Palestinian professionals during a nine-
tive three-part dance about the relation-
week fellowship exploring and contribut-
ship between the biblical Sarah, Abraham
ing to Jerusalem's vibrant arts and culture
and his mistress Hagar, was performed in
scene.
Jerusalem by three Jewish dancers and an
And, instead of feeling intimidated by
Israeli Arab dancer, Shaden Abu Elassel.
the intrusion of religion and politics into
The piece's first part explores the rela-
every facet of Israeli and Palestinian life,
tionship between Abraham and Sarah as
the participants in the fellowship each
took a deep breath and embraced the situ- Sarah struggles with infertility. The second
depicts the complicated Abraham/Sarah/
ation, immersing themselves in the local
Hagar triangle of love, jealousy and longing.
culture, developing projects, delivering
workshops and providing mentoring. They In the third, Abraham must come to terms
with the nation created by Ishmael, repre-
all said they received much more than
sented by Abu Elassel.
they contributed.
The choreographer gained a deeper
Avadenka of Huntington Woods created
understanding of the city's religious-secular
a type of book inspired by the narratives of
the biblical Joseph and Yusef, the version of tensions at the Kolben Dance Company's
studio in downtown Jerusalem.
Joseph in Islam.
The day before Byrd, artistic director of
"In this part of the world, the book is
Spectrum
Dance Theater in Seattle, arrived,
paramount as a transmitter of a sacred text.
the
company
had staged a protest against
The book became the work of art:' she said.
religious
coercion.
Three years after draw-
The artist began with the Hebrew calen-
ing
their
studio's
window
shades following
dar, including the phases of the moon, and
threats
from
haredi
extremists
who deemed
proceeded to include Arabic and Hebrew
the
rehearsals
immodest,
the
dancers
newspapers and maps of Jerusalem.
opened the windows and rehearsed in plain
"I cut up the Hebrew and Arabic letters
sight of the public.
and made a sort of combined alphabet:'

A

Lynne Avadenka working at the

Jerusalem Print Workshop

2

ti

4-

k

-

Lynne Avadenka's Jerusalem Calendar,
exhibited at the Jerusalem Print

Workshop

on Mount Scopus to the funky Russian
Compound in the city's center.
"It will create an opportunity for Bezalel
to become part of the city again, where it
was once located. I think having an archi-
tecture and design arts school with all
the student presence can create a type of
vibrancy that will help revitalize the center
of the city. It will create a type of synergy'
Elise Bernhardt, the Foundation for
Jewish Culture's president and CEO, said
the artists "got amazing work done, made
good friends and in a profound way
impacted the cultural life of Jerusalem."
The foundation is looking to expand the
number of fellows and would like to see
the program happen twice a year, she said. -
The next cohort of six to eight artists will
head to Israel in September 2013.
Tired though they were from nine inten-
sive weeks of presentations, meetings, field
trips and actual work, all of the fellows
said they are already planning ways to
continue their projects and the relation-
ships they've forged with Israeli and
Palestinian colleagues.
"I'm already searching for ways to come
back," Avadenka said. ❑

January 26 a 2012

37

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