Meet the Dance World's Most Surprising Mash-Up: Rabbis who Double as Professional Contemporary Dancers
Mash-ups aren't uncommon in the dance world: Performers of varying styles have been known to share the stage, from ballerina Tiler Peck and famed clown Bill Irwin to Michelle Dorrance, who's mixed tappers and break-dancers. Likewise, collaborations between choreographers and artists from seemingly mismatched disciplines have produced magical creations, such as Alexei Ratmansky's Whipped Cream, featuring Mark Ryden's whimsical and even grotesque designs and costumes.
But the Israeli troupe Ka'et Contemporary Dance Ensemble has found success in one of the most unlikely partnerships: Secular contemporary choreographer Ronen Itzhaki creates movement for a group of rabbis and religiously observant men.
The International Fine Art Fund, a nonprofit organization that shines a light on artists worldwide, recently visited Ka'et in rehearsals in Israel. This five-minute documentary is a testament to Itzhaki's unconventional work, and the power of movement to unite and nourish across religious divides.
In the video, Itzhaki explains how the group was born: When he was a young choreographer in Tel Aviv, a group of religious men invited him to work with them. Despite not knowing much about Judaism, except from popular culture, he accepted. "They paid me, and I had to make my living," he says. Itzhaki goes on to admit that it only took 10 to 15 minutes for him to fall in love with them.
"Usually, people think in boxes," he says, "like 'I am a religious man' or 'I am a choreographer. I live in Tel Aviv.' And in Israel there is very clear boxes...So, when I met these people, I met people who live out of the box and think out of the box. I've been touched by this."
While an abstract art form may seem at odds with the disciplined life of a rabbi, Itzhaki says Ka'et has allowed the men to respectfully explore their boundaries. "Because the dancers are very religious, and because they love their Jewish-ness...they can play with it," he says.
The troupe also takes contemporary dance into the Orthodox community. The company members are not just deeply religious men who want to memorize dance moves, but artists whose performances are full of emotion, humanity and arresting beauty.
The 2019–20 season is here, and with it more performances than any one person could reasonably catch. But fear not: We polled our writers and editors and selected the 31 most promising tickets, adding up to one endlessly intriguing year of dance.
You nominated your favorite dance moments so far in 2019, and we narrowed them down to this list. Now it's time to cast your vote to help decide who will be deemed our Readers' Choice picks for the year!
Voting is open until September 17th. Only one vote per person will be counted.
Just four years ago, the University of Southern California's Glorya Kaufman School of Dance welcomed its first class of BFA students. The program—which boasts world-class faculty and a revolutionary approach to training focused on collaboration and hybridity—immediately established itself as one of the country's most prestigious and most innovative.
Now, the first graduating class is entering the dance field. Here, six of the 33 graduates share what they're doing post-grad, what made their experience at USC Kaufman so meaningful and how it prepared them for their next steps:
We've been dying to hear more about "On Pointe," a docuseries following students at the School of American Ballet, since we first got wind of the project this spring. Now—finally!—we know where this can't-miss show is going to live: It was just announced that Disney+, the new streaming service set to launch November 12, has ordered the series.