Two films show the complexities of Israeli dancing

San Francisco Performances offers the chance to see Israeli choreographers and performers muse about their art when they showcase two films on contemporary dance from Israel. “Israel Dancing” and “Boobies” let us enter the world of dance in Israel where, much like in the United States, there are dancers and choreographers who are attempting to challenge themselves and audiences with an experience that explores the complexities and ambiguities of life.

It’s always a treat to see good dance, dance which attempts to move beyond illustrating music, or simply emoting, and challenges us to think and feel. By and large the masters of dance in the United States have stopped challenging us, and as audience members we have let them. We continue to praise and buy tickets to rehashes of the same themes and musical contortions, without daring to wonder if we deserve more.

We’ve put dancers in a singular place. One where they become delicate creatures — sublime, ethereal, majestic. They are not human and we don’t allow them to be.

Treating dancers as “other” has a detrimental effect on the form. Choreographers can assume this difference as superiority and begin to take themselves too seriously. As a result, their art doesn’t deal with everyday life. And, unfortunately for dance, that is where we lose our audience.

For dance to be relevant it can’t lose its audience. As a dancer it is too easy to forget that when we perform we enter into a contract with the audience. We have to respect the audience — we can’t look down at them as lesser beings who just don’t get it. We have to bring them in and invite them to feel along with us. If we can keep from being too opaque, the audience will rise to the challenge.

That is what is appealing about “Israel Dancing.” We get the sense that the choreographers are trying to share an emotional experience with their audience. The various artists profiled see dance differently, yet they all share the notion that it should be fun. They don’t take themselves too seriously, yet they also strive to produce something greater than themselves and at the same time entirely human. This something is an attempt to figure out what is going on and the role they play in the situation.

They see themselves in a historical context, acknowledging the many influences that came with the creation of the state of Israel. The influx of immigrants from around the world has a created a fertile place for dance. They see their dance training and everyday life as a backdrop to their art, taking each of these disparate influences to create a new fresh experience.

Ohad Naharin, director of Batsheva Dance Company, explains that Batsheva was founded as a Martha Graham repertoire company, yet while working, he “never thinks about her.” His creations come from his current understanding of who he is. Martha lives in him, but shares that space with life around him. Dance for him doesn’t just happen in the studio — it is “existence.”

Similarly, the directors of the Inbal Pinto Dance Company (who created “Boobies”) reflect upon how they view their life experiences as a huge “soup” from which they draw upon to create their work.

In their own way, the various choreographers are trying to synthesize their everyday lives and histories, and present us with an experience. This is never an easy task. The challenge is to be able to find the universality in the details of one’s reality, and allow the audience to share in the experience.

Felipe Barrueto is a dancer with the San Francisco-based Joe Goode Performance Group and a dance instructor at U.C. Berkeley.

Dance/Screen: Contemporary Dance From

Israel presents “Israel Dancing” and “Boobies” at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 24 at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Screening Room, 700 Howard St. (at Third Street), S.F. Tickets: $7. For information, visit