Life & Culture

Itzik Galili: the Israeli leading the dance for English National Ballet

The latest in a series of talented choreographers from Israel who are making it big on the British dance scene


To say that Itzik Galili is busy would be an understatement. The Israeli choreographer has broken through spectacularly in the UK in 2012 — there have been four premieres of his work performed by companies as prestigious as the Rambert Dance Company and the English National Ballet.

His SUB was performed at the Sadler’s Wells last month, and next week And the Earth Shall Bear Again is being performed by the English National Ballet as part of the Cultural Olympiad.

Such disparate works, performed in different styles by a variety of companies, have created quite a reputation for Galili. Not that he takes it too seriously. “People describe me as some sort of messiah. It’s absolute nonsense. I’m not riding on a white horse. It just so happens I am here working in Britain now. I have the experience and the creative mind but the real pleasure of being here is seeing how little I know. I am giving myself a valuable injection of knowledge.”

Galili, who spent 20 years working in the Netherlands, came late to dance. After completing his Israeli army service, he contemplated studying psychology but was drawn towards dance. He recalls: “It was fascinating for me to see that through the body it was possible to communicate and to provoke emotions within yourself and other people.”

He likens the start of every new production to a blind date. “You always have an idea before you start, but then you arrive, you realise the perfume is different from what you expected, the posture is different and the mind is different. What can you do? You can finish your coffee and say thank you and goodbye or you can enjoy the surprises and continue.”

He sees his work as an exercise in collaboration. Indeed, taking the metaphor of the blind date to the next stage, he talks about a production as “investing in a relationship”.

He says: “I like to respect, cherish, stimulate and manipulate the dancers — anything for the benefit of the product. I do not like to suppress.”

But for all his concentration on people skills, there are other things that also contribute to a production coming together. He is, for example, fanatical about getting the lighting right. “Lighting is poetry. It can define personalities, it can distinguish between cold and warmth, And it can also define space.”

Galili is one of several Israeli choreographers, including Hofesh Shechter and Jasmin Vardimon, making waves in the UK dance scene at the moment, but he has no explanation for this flowering of talent. “Do you know how many Jews get Nobel Prizes? Do you know why? No, neither do I.”
But he says he is coping well with his workload. “People ask me how I manage to do so many different things at the same time. It’s simple. I do it because I love it. It’s all about good planning.”

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