Galili: consciousness through simplicity |

Galili: consciousness through simplicity

Stewart Oksenhorn
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Paul Conrad Aspen Times Weekly

ASPEN ” Itzik Galili operates in an elevated sphere of the creative realm. He is a choreographer who doesn’t necessarily emphasize the body, or even physical movement, in his work, but encompasses the mind and the spirit.

Galili, who was born in Israel and has lived in the Netherlands for nearly two decades, says of his approach to dance: “I think it took 15 years for people to understand, I’m not looking for a language. I’m looking to deliver consciousness to people. I seek for simplicity, and in that simplicity, my inner complexity.” And of his work “Chameleon,” which he began working on in the early ’90s and which was restaged for its American premiere this week by the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet company, Galili says, “Physically, it’s not a big deal. But psychologically and mentally it requires self-recognition and a loose-minded place of self-observation. You’re meant to think with the dancers.”

Given the depth of thought Galili puts into his work ” how much artfulness there is in his art ” it’s hard to picture him without his creative side. But Galili was not into the arts in his youth. First he was an athlete, a champion high-jumper as a teenager. Then, being an Israeli, he did his mandatory stint in the military.

Upon completing his military obligation, Galili began participating in Israeli folk dances. “And it seemed I had some hidden talent,” he said, outside the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet offices on Wednesday morning. “Coming from the military, being a fighter, it was easy to step into that in terms of discipline, stamina. But I was lacking technique.”

On top of the military service was the genetic factor. Galili traces what he calls his “cognitive thinking” to his mother, a professor of English literature at Tel Aviv University. For dance technique, he took his informal experience in folk dancing, and a short course of private instruction, and used them to make a place for himself in the Bat-Dor Dance Company, and then the Batsheva Dance Company, both based in Tel Aviv.

In 1990, after a remarkably brief stretch in dance, and with no diploma or formal schooling, Galili launched his choreography career. His second piece, “Old Cartoon,” won a prize for originality. The following year, he moved to the Netherlands and formed his own company. In 1997, he was named director of a new, publicly supported company, Galili Dance.

Among Galili’s more enduring projects over that span has been “Chameleon.” Originally intended as a study exercise for three distinguished students at the Rotterdam Dance Academy, it was premiered as a performance piece in the mid-’90s by an Italian company.

“I wanted to see if the faces could be trained as much as the body, scaled as much as the body,” said Galili. “It’s about the face, the possibility of switching from one facial expression to another, emotionally.”

A restaged version of “Chameleon” had its American premiere last weekend in a program of works by the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet. The piece ” along with two new pieces commissioned by the ASFB, Nicolo Fonte’s dance-and-video work “Quartet”; and Jorma Elo’s “Sweet Red,” for eight dancers and set to the music of Vivaldi ” has its Aspen premiere on Thursday evening. The program, rounded out by “Noir Blanc” ” a dance theater piece created for the ASFB by Moses Pendleton in 2002 ” has its final performance on Saturday, July 19, at the Aspen District Theatre. The performances kick off the ASFB’s Summer Dance Series, which continues through mid-August.

“Chameleon,” currently staged for five women, is occupied with self-examination. Describing the piece, Galili often mentions the act of looking in the mirror, and it does have that quality. In exaggerated fashion, the dancers put on happy faces ” and serious faces, wondering faces ” as if purposefully taking a look at their emotional expressions.

“It’s about feminine stereotype, mannerism ” and what I call deliciousness,” said Galili. “You’re meant to think with the dancers.”

“Chameleon” is set to piano music by John Cage. And while Galili doesn’t seem to shy away from challenging musical choices, this is Cage music from 1948, just before the composer moved into his avant-garde phase. The piece, “In the Landscape,” is, according to Galili, “romantic, but minimalist.”

Galili, who was knighted by the Dutch Queen two years ago for his contributions to the country’s arts, is headed for his next turn in the road. Six months ago, he resigned from Galili Dance; in January, he begins as co-director of Dance Group Amsterdam.

Aspen Santa Fe Summer Dance Series: Saturday, July 19: Aspen Santa Fe Ballet; Thursday and Friday, July 24-25: Ballet Boyz; July 29-31: Hubbard Street Dance Chicago; Aug. 6: Aspen Santa Fe Ballet; Aug. 8-9: DanceBrazil.

All above performances are at 8 p.m. All are at the Aspen District Theatre, except the Aug. 6 performance, which is at the Benedict Music Tent.

Also in the Summer Dance Series is the Dance For Kids! series, with performances at 4 p.m. at the Aspen District Theatre: Saturday, July 19: Aspen Santa Fe Ballet; Aug. 9: DanceBrazil.

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