Ballet Ireland drops routine created by Israeli choreographer in 1999

The dance company was persuaded by pro-Palestine groups to pull the number by Ohad Naharin from its upcoming programme


Ballet Ireland has pulled a dance routine choreographed by an Israeli choreographer. (Photo: Ballet Ireland via X)

Ballet Ireland has pulled a dance number from a performance later this month due to an Israeli choreographer’s involvement in the work.

According to a statement released by Ballet Ireland on Wednesday, the Minus 16 piece will be withdrawn from the Bold Moves 2024 programme which is set to take place from 22-30 March.

Originally choreographed by Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin for Nederlands Dans Theatre in 1999, the piece has been performed by a variety of international dance companies over the last 25 years.

“We stand by the right to freedom of artistic expression, and despite our belief that art should not be drawn into politics, we feel the time is not right to be performing this work,” said Anne Maher, artistic director and chief executive officer of Ballet Ireland.

“Our programming is done well in advance of the performance dates. In this instance, Minus 16 was independently licensed directly from Mr Naharin in 2019 and programmed for Bold Moves 2024 long before the current conflict in Gaza began. We are sensitive to the fact that the situation is very different now.”

The routine faced opposition from members of the Irish dance community in a group called Apartheid Free Dance, who wrote in a statement saying they found it “deeply troubling” that Ballet Ireland intended to present a work created by “an Israeli state-funded choreographer.”

The statement called Nahrain “complicit” for having “accepted funding from the Israeli government for his entire career.”

Apartheid Free Dance met Maher to request the removal of Minus 16 prior to releasing the statement, according to Irish entertainment site Nialler9, and their request was initially refused.

Since Ballet Ireland’s decision to drop the routine, the activist group posted on social media: “We warmly welcome Ballet Ireland’s courageous decision to remove Minus 16 from their programme. We acknowledge the complexity of changing their programme at short notice and we applaud them for it.”

The move was also commended by the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC), which said in a statement on Wednesday: “There can be no place for the artwashing of Israeli apartheid in the Irish arts scene. It has been a very good week for the arts community here, with so many people taking a principled stand. As the Palestinian people face genocide at the hands of Israel, it is the very least we can do.”

Ohad Naharin is the house choreographer for Batsheva Dance Company and has presented works in New York and abroad. He has been contacted for comments.

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