List of lectures by Rina Schenfeld

All lectures include unique video screenings, some are followed by workshops.

1/ The History of Dance in Israel from a my point of view, laying the stress on the image, status and role of Women in our society.

The founding of Bat Sheva Dance Company, (Baroness Batsheva de Rothschild- the founder, Martha Graham, the high priestess of modern dance and artistic advisor of the dance company), my work with choreographers of international renown that came to  to help set up a dance company in Israel, our success at home, in Europe and in the United States. My need for a change and the discovery of a new path (after 20 years as prima ballerina, choreographer and artistic advisor in Bat Sheva). The quest after a different line, style and environment that lead to the creation of my Dance Theater and School. My detachment from storytelling, plot, melodrama, and big sets. My adoption of an abstract and simple line with the help of magic objects. The performances of the R. S. Dance Theater in Israel and worldwide (Europe, the US and the Far East. Images of women through the ages. The wish to create a feminine image that is not a Greek tragedy heroine nor a sex symbol. Was modern dance invented and promoted by women? (Talk followed by the projection of rare footages).

2/ The Rina Schenfeld Dance Theater – Four Periods in My Work

Over 50 years of creation and more than 100 works of dance programs which have been staged in prominent venues worldwide.

The geometric period, going back to nature, light and shadow, the use of words, voices, poetry and video. My rebellion against Martha Graham’s esthetics. The influence of Oskar Schlemmer and Merce Cunningham, new creation processes, progress, changes and their connection to life. Amazing dance anecdotes seen through the eyes of a dancer-choreographer. Basic questions such as: what came first, life or art? Is art therapy or prosthesis? Does art try to document life? A dancer – victim or a human being entitled to a better and richer life? Is there a conflict between life and art? Is it possible to be a dancer and to have a family life? In the past a female dancer was compared to a nun, what happens today? (Talk followed by video screening.)

3/ Between East  and West

After touring India, Japan, south Korea and China   –  Rina schenfelds’ impressions, inspiration, stories about people, mentality , way of thinking. She talks about her personal attraction to the Far East. Projection of three different films on her performances, workshops and encounters at the “Laughing Stone Art Village” in Korea, Beijing, Guanzuang (China) and Bangkok. Schenfeld’s film on Beijing is a combination of an intimate journal and her impressions on Chinese culture (opera, acrobatics, etc).

4/ On Music & Dance

The history of dance and music. The connection, dependency and detachment between the two disciplines. The liberation of dance from music over the ages. Dance without music? Is that possible? Information, comparisons, background and relationships between the two. Which is preferable: composing music for a dance or creating a dance for a composed music? Examples from video movies. (this conference was given after the artistic encounter between Rina Schenfeld and Gil Shohat).

5/ On Poetry and Dance – contact and relationship between Israeli poetry and dance

“When the word becomes flesh and the body opens his mouth and says the word that was created – I will embrace this body and I will host it by me”  (Hezi Laskali on the difference in the creation process of dance and poetry). John Cranco’s creation “Ami Yam Ami Ya’ar” (that deals with Shoah and Ressurection), includes the best of Israeli poetry narrated by Hanna Maron and performed by the Bat Sheva Dance Company. (Accompanied by a selection of dance to poetry footages by Rina Schenfeld & her Dance Company)

 6/ On Space & Expanse in Dance

On the concept of space and expanse in Dance. Space is an empty page on which the dancers sketch their existence with their bodies. There is a passionate love story between dancer and space. The dancer has a great appetite for space and the latter is nonexistent without him. The talk deals with changes related to the concept of space in dance history. What is center stage? Martha Graham said: “Center stage is where I am”. After Graham, dancers strived to decentralize the stage – in classical ballet center stage is reserved for the soloists and the prima ballerina. The chorus dances in the background. What happens today? Is each and every corner of the stage important? Does space in dance represent the inner soul’s space? Are we born with a natural instinct on how to use space that degenerates with time? How do children see space? Does a big concept of space heals or frustrates? Performances on a conventional stage and performances in non- conventional spaces such as open air, museums, urban environment, and what does it mean?

7/ A series of 3 lectures dedicated to three key figures in modern dance history:

 Martha Graham –The Great Prophetess of Modern Dance and a Feminist

Rina Schenfeld talks about Martha Graham’s work (her new ideas in modern dance, multimedia, innovative theater and her special posture language, the combination between Greek and Japanese theater, her research on the human soul and its manifestations, feminine characters in the Greek mythology and the Bible, drama), and her influence & relationship to dance in Israel.

For 17 years Schenfeld danced Graham’s repertoire. She will talk about Graham’s influence on her work, her rebellion against Graham’s aesthetics, and her own quest for a new language.

Merce Cunningham, the non-conformist prophet and father of “The Chance Method”

Dancer, teacher, choreographer and dance company director, he developed new forms of abstract dance movement. After studying the influence of chance on creation he developed with John Cage The Chance Method. According to Cunningham: “If you dance and dance well, that should be enough”. He stripped dance from everything irrelevant: “You get nothing from being a dancer. Not a song to keep in your drawer, not a painting to hang on your wall, except that moment on stage, when you feel alive.” Dance and nothing but dance. (Projection of extracts of dances and demonstrations of The Chance Method).

Pina Bausch – The Mother of Dance Theater

Pina Bausch dealt with basic existential questions in movement language such as love, loneliness and male-female interaction. Her creation is full of humor and is a combination of drama, words and stage sets made of anything that was at hand. Bausch invented a new dance language. She hits the public under the belt with both humor and deep psychological insight and makes important statements on the status of men and mostly women of our times. (Projection of extracts from her dance theater repertoire and from Wim Wender’s film).

8/ On the Process of Creating – Inspiration, Muse, Improvisation

On structures, organization, order and significance while creating a dance. Do we build our dancers just like the bird builds its nest? Is there a code? Is there an inner feeling that creates, lights and awakes the dance? Is there an intuition and an instinct? Can we and should we develop it? Is it worthwhile to “teach how to create a dance?” How to find the path of compromise between spontaneity and organization of material? When and how? Is there a muse? How does she look like? Should we create a dance while standing in queue at the bank, on the street, on the bus? How to overcome the “memory” of the dance phase? Institutionalizing the moves and remembering them – pleasure or hell? Improvisation on stage or finished and ready material – which is preferable? (Accompanied by film projections)

9/ On Work with Objects- still life

“Objects contain within themselves all possibilities” (Wittgenstein).

Dancing with objects from nature brings to your dance an atmosphere close to nature, relaxed, quiter, rounder and softer, wilder and more passionate. You get closer to your real sources and ancient powers. You can feel your connection and belongings and find new energies. The dancer expands his body with everyday objects such as rubber threads, plastic bags, masks, water, etc.

While dancing with an object we learn to use and create many forms, different dynamics, new energies, special balance, we find new ways in movement, we learn to make a dialog and a conversation, to use space, costumes and body parts, to separate, detach and attach, to manipulate and be manipulated, (to make contact, to improvise, to make relationships and partnerships), to get rid of old habits, to use chance operation), to play, to enjoy and entertain, to achieve discipline and freedom and to reveal our inner world.

10/ On Work with Voices

At a certain point in my career I had a need to add  my voice to my movement. I started to investigate how does it work, which muscle or part of the body is responssible to my voice. I was looking for some rules. I realised that some voice come from the throat, some from the tongue, teeth, belly, chest etc. I studied all possibilities and established a technique of working with my voice in order to controle and be able to use it correctly in cooperation with my body movement.

11/ On Work with Light & Shadow

“What people call the body’s shadow is but the body of our soul”- Oscar Wilde

The world of light and shadow is a world of dreams and illusions, an unreal world full of charm and mystery. It is a world of feelings, emotions and illusions, not a world dictated by our brain.

While working with shadows you learn to trust and work more with your intuition, you learn to go blindly after your work and ideas.

While working with light and shadow you develop your ability to take chances in your dancing, to discover other worlds. You learn to trust the unknown, witches and other strange and awkward creatures.

12/ On Work with Video Art

The use of video screening in dance supplies our need to get as close as possible to the body’s movements and at the same time to bring the outside world on stage. The camera can get very close to each and every part of our body and enlarge it. We can see the dancer’s facial expressions and feet work as well. We can see his movements from all sides and not only from the front. The camera can bring on stage many images: sky, rain, flowers, animals, our room & streets, etc, and it enriches the dance world by enlarging the back box of stage.

After working with light and shadow for 3 years I started to work with video. This was a natural extention of my work with shadows and reflections. It was just so natural to screen video after screening my shadow on the wall. I created four dance evenings with video screening with different artists’ attitudes and approaches.

Movies on R. Schenfeld & her Choreographic Creation

 “Threads” This autobiographic film follows the story of R. Schenfeld from her origins in classical ballet in the early 1950s in Tel Aviv, through her studies at Martha Graham’s school in New York, performances with prominent choreographers (Martha Graham, Jerome Robbins, John Cranko), her experience at Bat-Sheva Dance Company (Israel) and at her own dance theater & school. Director: Erez Laufer, Telad Productions (52 minutes, 2001). Projection followed by a discussion.

 “Laga’at Baruach” – (To touch the Spirit) – a profile movie on the main leitmotives in Schenfeld’s creation, her quests and journey in the dance world both in Israel and abroad. Schenfeld is filmed in her studio and talks about dance and her career path. Director: Yoav Ginai. (27:35 minutes, Nov. 2002) Projection followed by a discussion.

 “About a Dream” – on a joint creation via a facsimile machine with the Canadian dancer and choreographer Margie Gillis. Creation via communication at a distance between Canada and Israel. In 1999 Margie Gillis was invited by Rina Schenfeld to create and perform in Israel. The film documents the creation process. Director: Mira Bauer (26 minutes. 1999) Projection followed by a discussion.