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John Benson, The News Herald  |  November 06, 2014

Israel's acclaimed Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company to perform at PlayhouseSquare

In theatrical terms, a chain of events is an important device or vehicle by which artists or even dancers can tell a story.

That in a nutshell is what internationally acclaimed Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company Artistic Director Rami Be'er explores with his "If at All" work, which Israel's most prominent dance troupe will perform Nov. 8 and 9 at PlayhouseSquare's Ohio Theatre.

"We have performed this worldwide across Europe and Asia, India and South Korea," said Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company International Director Yoni Avital, calling from Israel.

"It's been very well received. There's some beauty in this piece, and the set design is relatively basic or naked with more minimalist costumes.

"But the basic element deals with the relationship of the individual's relationship with his or her community and society."

Presented by DANCECleveland, the innovative Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company is known for its emotionally charged productions boasting sophisticated choreography and stunning dancers.

The company's history begins with Auschwitz survivor Yehudit Arnon, who in the late '40s moved to Israel to establish the Mateh Asher Dance Studio. It wasn't until the '70s that she created the performing ensemble that continues to tour today in various incarnations.

"During the Second World War, Christmas 1944, the German officers demanded Arnon perform," Avital said. "They heard about this woman who was dancing in the barracks. They asked her to perform at their Christmas party. She refused and risked her life.

"Her punishment was to be outside in the freezing snow, where she'd die. That evening she decided if she were to survive that she would devote her life to dance and education."

That education continues with the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company's visit to Northeast Ohio. During its performance, the company will hold auditions for its international dance study program called Dance Journeys.

"Every semester we host almost 40 dancers from around the world," Avital said. "And in Cleveland we'll be holding auditions. If the dancers pass the audition, it'll allow them to participate as a student in our international dance program."

Something else that makes the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company stand out is its use of music that is outside of the norm. In addition to music by H. Gudnadottir, Olafur Arnalds and Ophir Leibovitch, audiences will hear songs from Volcano Choir, Nine Inch Nails and Massive Attack.

"Be'er comes from a family of musicians, and he's a musician himself," Avital said. "He's a cellist, and he's a complete artist in that not only does he create the choreography but he also is very much involved in the lighting, set design, the costumes and especially the music. He's always sampling music from everywhere in all genres, and that of course becomes samples and the musical soundtrack of his pieces."

It's this use of different, eclectic music that truly epitomizes the spirit of the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company.

"A big part of the company's success is that it really appeals to the general crowd and not only audiences that are savvy in contemporary dance," Avital said. "It's a complete performance of premiere choreography, music, lighting, stage design and concert design."


What: Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company.

When: 8 p.m. Nov. 8 and 3 p.m. Nov. 9.

Where: Ohio Theatre, Euclid Ave., Cleveland.

Tickets: $25 to $55.

Info: 216-241-6000, 866-546-1353 or

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