Minimalist Israeli dance piece skids into San Francisco

A man and a woman live together, but they don’t communicate. Their home has a door and window, but they can’t get out. They fantasize about their youth and lost innocence, while building barriers to keep one another out.

What sounds like a therapist’s jackpot is actually the plot of Israeli choreographer Shlomit Fundaminsky’s new contemporary dance piece, “Skid Marks,” a dysfunctional pas de deux that will mark Fundaminsky’s U.S. debut when it hits San Francisco next week.

The duet will be performed by Fundaminsky and fellow Israeli dancer Gyula Csakvari at the Dance Mission Theater from May 30 to June 1, presented by the S.F. International Arts Festival and the Israel Center of the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation.

Inspired by prolific Israeli playwright Chanoch Levin, “Skid Marks” is a sort of sequel to a solo project Fundaminsky did a few years back, entitled “Inner Pocket.”

“I went for a real small story about a couple that really reminded me of people I know,” Fundaminsky said in a phone interview from her Tel Aviv home. “They are living together in the house, or shall I say they are boxed — they never go out from the house, they have their routine lives … Nothing’s happening, there’s no excitement in their lives.”

Compounding the couple’s problems is the fact that while they can’t communicate with the outside world, they also don’t communicate with each other.

Fundaminsky intended this to be a commentary on the state of Israeli-Palestinian relations today.

“A lot of different people in Israel are really sharing the same fate, and they don’t accept it,” she said. “They just go around and around, and they don’t know how to get out from the loop and start to bring a change. There are a lot of people in their houses — in their boxes — that live like that.”

In “Skid Marks,” though, the “house” is all in the audience’s mind. Taking a concept from her study of physical theater, Fundaminsky chose to go propless for the show.

“I like that my stage is empty, and I need to create the place with my body,” she said. “After a while the audience can really see what I’m creating — they can see the house, without needing anything there.”

Fundaminsky, 34, has emerged as one of Israel’s celebrated young choreographers, performers and dance teachers, even though she didn’t start thinking about dancing professionally until after her service in the Israel Defense Forces.

Among her accolades are a 2005 award from the Israeli minister of culture for being an “outstanding young choreographer,” and a scholarship from the America-Israel Cultural Foundation.

She started dancing at the age of 5, but didn’t really take it seriously. “I always did it, but I never thought it would be my work,” Fundaminsky said.

She studied a number of subjects not related to dance to get a well-rounded education, but “somehow I got into [dance] — it took me,” she said.

After her military service, during which she served in the air force, Fundaminsky started looking for professional

companies to join. She would go on to perform with the Noa Dar Dance Group and the Nimrod Fried Dance Theater Company in Tel Aviv, and study dance education and physical theater.

Modern dance themes — such as the propless, physical theater of “Skid Marks” — are commonplace in the United States and Europe, but to Israeli audiences they’re far more innovative.

Dance in Israel is still in its genesis, Fundaminsky said. While the art scenes in other countries have had centuries to develop, with only 60 years under its belt, Israel is hurrying to catch up. “It just started to be in the past 20 years that it’s developing,” Fundaminsky said.

“It’s the beginning, and the beginning is very hard, but I think there’s a lot of energy to create here … but this is it — this is the start, we need to build it.”

Though this is Fundaminsky’s first performance in the U.S., she is no stranger to dancing far from her native land.

Because of Israel’s small size, Israeli dancers often go to Europe to perform — and Fundaminsky has already shown “Skid Marks” in Copenhagen and Dublin.

She is excited to finally be coming to America: “I like to see what different people are saying about my work.

“To feel what the audience expresses after the show, this is the most natural way to [understand] the people who are living in the place where you are.”

“Skid Marks” will be performed 7 p.m. Friday, May 30, 2 p.m. May 31 and 9:30 p.m. June 1 at Dance Mission Theater, 3316 24th St., S.F. The performance is double-billed with “Capital Life,” featuring San Francisco’s Dance Elixir. Tickets: $20. For information or to purchase tickets, visit or call (800) 838-3006.