Hundreds of dancers from across the world fly to Israel to experience training at Israel’s dance companies every year. Despite the small country, its dance culture is highly respected, rigorous, and a highlight for dancers on a global scale.
Nika Antuenette, a 26-year old dancer currently living in New York City, has traveled to Israel five times to experience the different programs and opportunities which exist on this side of the world. She was inspired by Roni Koresh Dance Company, an Israeli company located in Philadelphia. She connected with the Israeli dance style early on – and she wanted to come to Israel to experience it for herself.
She started off on the MASA Dance Journey, a 5 or 10-month program held at Kibbutz Ga’aton, with a group of 35 dancers who are chosen to train intensively at the esteemed Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company, or KCDC. Dancers came from Japan, Brazil, Spain, Germany, Australia and more to experience the Israeli Dance Journey, which also illuminates another side of Israeli culture to the mix of Jews and non-Jews. In addition to being immersed into kibbutz life, the group was able to tour the country and get a taste of the must-see spots across Israel.
Today Antuenette is back in Israel to experience Ohad Naharin’s Gaga Intensive. Naharin founded the Gaga dance movement, which has been making exponential waves in the modern dance worldwide. Naharin calls it movement language and focuses on sensation, creating an entire process surrounding the body cues. “It’s all so holistically satisfying – to do and to watch. We’re asked to go to dark places, and it becomes a physical manifestation of accessing your emotions. It takes you so far to this point of vulnerability and being exposed – and it’s released in your own movement,” says Antuanette, who has been dancing professionally for the past 6 years.
Perhaps the deeply ingrained dance culture and the size of the country are a couple reasons why the handful of dance companies that do exist in Israel are of such high caliber, like the world renowned Batsheva Dance Company or the duo of Inbal Pinto and Avshalom Pollak. Given Israel’s small borders, it becomes crucial to go deep, especially in terms of their commitment to the art form of movement, expansion and expression.
There is no movement for movement’s sake in Israel. Dance companies seem to value the process more than just the aesthetic of being a good dancer. It’s not about looking good – it’s about feeling the movement, where each individual dancer learns the tools to create a piece which is both filled with technical prowess and mesmerizing to watch.