Roy Assaf will travel to Nashville in the fall of 2018 to re-envision his work Girls on the dancers of New Dialect.
Assaf, an award winning Israeli choreographer, former soldier, and a father of 3 daughters, shares his response to female stereotypes in a work that provides a multifaceted and complex vision of contemporary women in society.
Under the auspices of The Consulate General of Israel to the Southeast RegionNew Dialect will premiere Girls alongside Banning Bouldin's latest creation, The Triangle, at OZ Arts Nashville on February 21-23, 2019.
An Israeli choreographer reflects on the experience of war through dance
Born on a moshav in Sde Moshe, Israel, Roy Assaf was not formally trained as a dancer. As a kid, he would dance at community parties and perform homemade compositions for relatives and friends. He had a natural talent that was recognized by local dance teacher Regba Gilboa, who invited him as a teenager to perform in a youth dance club in Kiryat Gat. There, he was spotted by Emanuel Gat, an Israeli dancer and choreographer who would soon build his own prestigious company in France. Assaf was one of the founding members of Gat’s company and danced with him for six years. This mentorship built the foundation of Assaf’s professional career and ignited his passion to create choreography.
“Roy has incredible musicality and a truly natural way of being in his body,” said Gat in a phone interview. “He is understated, which makes his ideas and explorations of the human condition really easy to see. It was only matter of time before he would start building his own work.”
Assaf’s choreographic career took off quickly, and soon after he left Gat’s company in 2010, he began as an artistic associate at Noord Nederlands Dance in Groningen. He won several choreography competitions in Europe including awards in Copenhagen, Hanover, and Braunschweig.
In November 2017, two of Assaf’s pieces—Six Years Later and The Hill—were featured at the Baryshnikov Arts Center in New York. Both pieces depicted intimate relationships but of very different types. Six Years Later, a duet between Assaf and Madison Hoke, showcased the ebb and flow of a romantic partnership. With a score by Handel, Beethoven, and the Scottish band Marmalade, the piece explored physical proximity. Assaf perched Hoke in the air in fiery overhead lifts and embraced her tightly. Hoke amplified the tenderness of small moments. The simple gesture of her head resting on Assaf’s shoulder was as lush and willowy as an ornate ballet adagio.
If Six Years Later was a romantic drama, The Hill was an action film. Set to the folk songs of Yoram Taharlev about a Six Day War battle, this piece examined fraternal camaraderie. Pulling and pushing each other in turns and jumps the dancers were consistently interlocking arms and folding over one another’s torsos. The choreographed rough-housing revealed the closeness of a unit and the trauma that occurs when a band of brothers is broken.
Assaf made a return to Israel with the creation of Girls and Boys in 2015, initially two separate evening-length works that explored gender and community. The Batsheva Dance Company commissioned him to revisit the work and create a dual piece entitled Girls & Boys, which ran for a month at the Suzanne Dellal Centre in Tel Aviv.
“Girls is about togetherness and contact,” said Ariel Freedman, a longtime dancer with Assaf and original performer in Girls. “The psychological element is strong in regards to exploring femininity, but like most of his works, it all stems from movement. How and why we move together.”
While he continues to be commissioned to create new works all over the world, Assaf maintains Israel as his home base and resides in Ramat Gan with his wife and four children. “It is an equation with many variables,” he explained. “Dance is in the Israeli culture and heritage, but Tel Aviv, in particular, is bursting with energy. All of the artists in a small space keep up a momentum, and we feed off one another. It is a competitive atmosphere but ultimately a really supportive environment.”