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Square wheel: Itzik Galili

INTERVIEW. Israeli choreographer Galili leans towards the intense. Now 20 members of Berlin’s Staatsballett are serving as performers and inspiration for his new premiere at the Komische Oper: The Open Square.

Image for Square wheel: Itzik Galili
Photo by Enrico Nawrath

Israeli choreographer Itzik Galili brews his blend of classical and modern, light and movement with the corps of the Staatsballett.

In the course of 10 minutes in a generic cafe in Charlottenburg, Itzik Galili rejects a total of three lattes. The espresso lover leans toward the intense: in his coffee, in his conversation and in his choreography.

At 50 years old, Galili has left his positions as artistic director of some of the Netherlands’s most exciting dance companies to focus on creating his own works – adding to his already impressive list of over 60 productions.

And now 20 members of Berlin’s Staatsballett are serving as performers and inspiration for the award-winning choreographer’s new premiere at the Komische Oper: The Open Square.

Where does the piece’s name come from?

I was thinking of the open circle, but that sounds too easy to communicate. Then I didn’t go directly to a square. I just imagined a space, a closed space where people have to communicate as they already chose to enter. And to me a square refers to a room, the room in here [motions to his head]. I don’t want to pretend that this piece will be more than what it is.

And how is the rehearsal process going?

Very hectic; very intense. The work is a very fast journey that gives an instant impulse of what the dancer is, and they are communicating with it. Lighting is an integral part of your works.

What is your involvement?

Basically Yaron Abulafia and I work on the lights together, but he’s an entity in and of himself. To me light is something I wish I could go deeper with, but what is stopping me from taking it to the next level is budget. I really think I could do insanely amazing things if someone offered me the opportunity. Light is a tool that is much more articulate than set design, say, a chair. You can sculpt so many unusual things with it.

Why did you decide to take a break from running dance companies?

It was too much of the same headache. Either the artistic side is not good or the political side or the business side. No one ever finds common ground with the other. And after 20 years I thought maybe I could focus on finding common ground with myself.

After having been outside of the country for over 20 years, what is your perspective on Israel?

Unfortunately this country is very often in different roles, excusing themselves for different reasons why they need to defend themselves, at times speaking with gracious arguments, at times not. Every woman and man has to go into the military when they turn 18, and people from the outside don’t know that. So, when I was a child my father was in the war, and when he was a child, his father was in the war. It is a feature of the place that you cannot change. I remember at the time crying: why did he have to leave me? Why did he have to go? And I guess this has happened from one generation to the next.

Do you still consider yourself Israeli?

I don’t know. I’m here and I feel there. I’m there and I feel here. I belong to nowhere.

What new trends do you see in the international dance world?

The new trend is that there will always be a new trend, so what’s trendy now is already over. The question is: are you able to catch that fast train within the new trend and make sure you get the maximum amount of money within that trendy time, so that when you’re off-trend you can prolong your life for a bit? We artists always like to believe that we are inventing the wheel. I’m inventing square wheels.

The Open Square Jun 1, 3, 14, 19, 25 | Komische Oper, Behrenstr. 55-57, Mitte, U-Bhf Französische Str.