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Jewish Journal

Kibbutz dance troupe: A global phenomenom

by Jonathan Maseng

February 20, 2014 | 3:21 pm

Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company. Photo by Uri Nevo

Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company. Photo by Uri Nevo

For the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company, dance is more than just an art form, it’s family. The Israeli-based KCDC, founded more than 40 years ago by Holocaust survivor Yehudit Arnon and led today by choreographer Rami Be’er, is a rare entity in the dance world. Its dancers, who hail from around the globe, live and train together in the international dance village at Kibbutz Ga’aton in the Galilee, and on Feb. 22, they’ll perform at California State University, Los Angeles’ Luckman Fine Arts Complex, bringing their unique vision and style to Los Angeles.

Speaking by phone to someone in Israel is always a delicate operation. Schedules must be matched, time zones must be aligned, and so, on a recent evening, at close to midnight in Los Angeles, Yoni Avital, KCDC’s international director, found himself explaining how a man who doesn’t dance came to be the tour manager for a dance company.

“I don’t come from the world of contemporary dance — it’s all completely new to me,” Avital said. “I’m a flute player, a guitarist and a singer, and also a Chazzan.” Avital, who tours the world with his music group, The Shuk, fell into the dance world for perhaps the noblest of reasons: Love. He met his wife Dorry Aben, a dancer, while hanging out with mutual friends in Tel Aviv and followed her home to Holland. The two lived there together for a while before KCDC came calling. 

The couple moved to Kibbutz Ga’aton, and Avital soon found himself charmed by an art form he hadn’t necessarily responded to before. “I was just blown away. I was really, really intrigued by this company in particular,” he said. When the people at KCDC learned about his history of managing international gigs for his own group, they invited him do the same for them. “Rami knew that I was really involved in international arts.  ... It was very fitting.”

The company’s current mini-tour of America, which starts in Reno, Nev., will see the American premiere of “If At All,” a new piece by Be’er that KCDC describes as “a moving theatrical event in figurative and abstract circles, from the closed form to the open structure.” The work is aggressive, often fast-paced, with dramatic lighting and music.

“Rami’s work — it’s not only choreography — his performances are about a full and comprehensive experience of choreography, movement, lighting, costumes and music,” Avital said. “He really is part of the whole creation.”  

Avital says what makes KCDC’s work such a good fit for touring is its accessibility. “KCDC appeals to everybody. ... The work is very accessible, it’s super exciting, it’s intense.”

While in Los Angeles, Avital and Aben, who is also a teacher at KCDC, also will be holding auditions at the International Dance Academy in Hollywood on the morning of Feb. 22 for KCDC’s Dance Journey, a five-month program that brings skilled dancers from around the world to study in Israel with the dancers and teachers at KCDC. Participants in the prestigious program, which has 32 slots available, live at Kibbutz Ga’aton and get to experience what it’s like to be a part of the company.  

“There’s a sense of camaraderie and family,” Avital said. “We’re not a homogenous group ... we’re also international. ... In our main company right now, we have dancers from France, Portugal, Ukraine, Italy.”

In the search for qualified applicants, Avital said, “We’re going to be going to 12 different universities, including Cal State ... Rutgers ... UCLA ... [NYU’s] Tisch ...” 

For younger dancers starting their careers, who may not be polished (or old enough) yet for the Dance Journey program, which is only open to ages 18 and up, KCDC also runs a summer intensive program for 15- to 20-year-olds with a strong interest in dance. “It’s more open to a wider range of levels,” Avital said of that program.

A city dweller for most of his life, Avital said that the rural setting of Kibbutz Ga’aton is a great place for artists to work. “Being away from [the city], it gives you some peace of mind, and more of an ability to focus and to engage in art and creation and spirituality,” Avital said.  “It’s a very colorful life I have, and I feel blessed.”

Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company performs Saturday, Feb. 22nd, at 8 p.m. at the Luckman Fine Arts Complex.  Auditions for the Dance Journey program will be held from 10:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. on Feb. 22 at the International Dance Academy in Hollywood, and on Monday Feb. 24 from 2:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. at the Alonzo King LINES Dance Center in San Francisco.  For more information, visit KCDC online at http://www.kcdc.co.il/en.html.

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