Arts Envoy Programme
AXIS Dance Company
January 9 - 14, 2016
AXIS Dance Company sent a team to Israel with our Guest Artistic Director Marc Brew. Here is a report back from Marc on our incredible time there.
It was a wonderful opportunity for AXIS Dance Company to be invited by the US Embassy Israel and the State Department’s Arts Envoy program. It was a unique opportunity to exchange, share and learn in cultural differences, contemporary dance practice, religion and philosophies in physically integrated dance as well as discussing disability and equality issues within society.
We began our arts envoy adventure in the holy city of Jerusalem that truly was a magnificent city of culture and religious importance. We had a Lecture Demonstration ‘Redefining Dance & Disability’ at the Machol Shalem Dance Center with a full house. There was a real buzz and excitement around what we do with the opportunity for the audience to ask questions and join us on stage for a structured improvisation to blur the line between witnessing and experiencing.
We had an Artist Exchange/Discussion with a men’s only religious contemporary dance company called Between Heaven and Earth, where we had the opportunity to watch them rehearse their work and we showed two excerpts from our repertoire but without the women performing as they could only observe due to the company’s religious beliefs. After the sharing we had a very fruitful discussion about the work and had lots of questions for each other but time got the best of us and we had to move on to our next workshops. I found this company very exciting, physical and fascinating to watch and we discovered similarities between both companies and how we use our restrictions and differences as strength to create high quality contemporary dance work.
Our first workshop was with Vertigo Integrated Dance and Vertigo Dance Company where we had the opportunity for Hai and Tali of Vertigo Integrated Dance to lead the first 45min before the AXIS dancers continued to lead the workshop sharing our philosophies and practice of physically integrated dance. Vertigo Dance Company also have an eco village outside of Jerusalem which houses two dance studios where they rehearse and have residences and classes which a few of us got to visit and enjoy the hospitality of Tali and Hai and amazing home cooked food.
Next city was Tel Aviv, which was a vast contrast to Jerusalem. While based in Tel Aviv for two nights we travelled to Ganai Aviv Community Centre in Lod to be apart of ‘Everybody Dance Now’ a study day on integrated dance where we led workshops, teacher training, a masterclass and was part of a round table discussion on the integration of people with disabilities in dance in Israel. The day finished with an evening performance which local companies and community groups and AXIS was the headline, performing Remember When, Dix Minutes plus tard, Falling Up and an excerpt from Divide.
The next day we travelled to Sakhnin to teach workshops in an Arab Community Center for Deaf and disabled people where it was the first time they had experienced a creative dance workshop which they thoroughly enjoyed and had fun. We also had the opportunity to exchange at the end the workshop learning some traditional dance from the workshop participants, now that was fun. Our day wasn’t done and we next travelled to Kiriat Haim, a Jewish community center where we were treated to tea and cakes before watching the participants of Hora Ilan a community group of volunteer dancers ages ranging from 60+ perform a mixture of their work of folk, modern and ballroom with “seated” and “standing” dancers as they called them. AXIS performed small excerpt from Divide and Dix minute plus tard before leading the group in a fun and lively creative workshop resulting in sharing of their choreographic masterpieces they had made in small groups with each other, along with some impromptu improvisations. The last day the dancers taught two simultaneous creative dance workshops in an Arab community in Arara village before getting dinner at a local restaurant and travelling home.
It was a very successful Arts Envoy and we are all very grateful for the experience and the friends we have made while sharing in our passion for integrated dance. The seed was planted of cultural exchange on physically integrated dance between US and Israel and already we are discussing possibilities for future collaborations. Watch this space to find out more and see the opportunities grow and blossom.
We want to especially thank Polina Eskenazi and Jackie Stein for all of their work and hospitality.
Written by Marc Brew, Guest Artistic Director