This has proved to be a year of new chapters in the Atlanta dance scene, from the turnover at the Atlanta Ballet to the launch of Terminus Modern Ballet Theatre and the March opening of the Dance Theater at Kennesaw State University’s Marietta campus.
On October 24, another new chapter will come to KSU’s Dance Theater, a venue designed specifically for dance, when it presents its first professional dance performances. Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company, appearing in Atlanta for the first time, will give one performance of Horses in the Sky, a work featuring choreography, costume, lighting and stage design by artistic director Rami Be’er. The work premiered in 2016 at the Sydney Opera House in Australia.
“One of our goals has been to launch a professional presenting season that will bring to Atlanta world-class dance companies and choreographic artists,” says Ivan Pulinkala, founding director of KSU’s dance department. (Full disclosure: Pulinkala is on the ArtsATL board of directors.)
Founded in 1970, Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company is based in Israel’s Kibbutz Ga’aton. From 1973 to 1996, it was under of the direction of Yehudit Arnon (1926–2013), an influential member of Israel’s dance community who survived World War II and the Holocaust. Be’er, who studied under her and danced with the company, has led Kibbutz since 1996.
The company has performed works by choreographers including Ohad Naharin, Jiří Kylián and Mats Ek. The company’s work is typically non-narrative and often draws upon social, political and historical themes. Some of these topics have included the Holocaust, consumerism, the environment and the isolating effects of technology in the modern world.
Horses in the Sky is likewise non-narrative, but Pulinkala says it’s a “social commentary on world politics and the consequences of our actions.” He describes its atmosphere as conveying a surrealist sense of dreams contrasting with the sense of a looming apocalypse. The work will be performed to a variety of music including Ólafur Arnalds, Björk and the Canadian band Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra, whose song “Horses in the Sky” was one of the inspirations for the piece.
When Pulinkala first saw Horses in the Sky performed in Israel last December, he knew it was the type of work he wanted the Dance Theater to present during its 2017–18 season. “I’ve seen Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company perform several times in Israel over the past five years and have always found their work artistically and physically compelling,” says Pulinkala. “They bring to the stage an athleticism that is unique to the choreography of Rami Be’er. Their physical vocabulary is what I find to be a hallmark of their success.”
He further says the company embodies the choreographic and artistic qualities that the university hopes to curate in the future. “KSU Dance is committed to training dance practitioners who have a scholarly understanding of the field,” he says. “And Kibbutz brings work that is intellectually stimulating and physically spectacular.”
The company’s appearance at the college is likewise part of the institution’s ongoing initiative with Israel, which began five years ago. Pulinkala notes that they established an annual study-abroad program with Batsheva Dance Company, brought in guest artists and teachers, received grants specifically to pursue initiatives in Israel and developed a collaborative relationship with the Consulate. Beyond connections with Israel, Pulinkala hopes to bring other international and national companies to the Dance Theater in coming seasons.
“What we have repeatedly heard is that presenters have closed their doors or drastically reduced their seasons over the past decade,” he says. “This has been due to funding challenges, so, the advent of a new presenting organization is widely welcomed. . . . What most audiences do not realize is that performance tours are often financially possible only with the collaboration of presenting organizations across a geographical region. KSU Dance hopes to add to this ecology by creating another stop for professional companies touring the southeastern US.”