I would boycott my own show if it helped the Palestinians, says ‘cancelled’ Israeli choreographer

Ballet Ireland dropped Ohad Naharin’s choreography from an upcoming programme


Photo: Ballet Ireland

Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin has spoken out about Ballet Ireland’s decision to cancel an upcoming performance of his work over the ongoing conflict in Gaza.

In a statement, Naharin told the JC: “If the act of cancellation would have helped the Palestinians’ cause I would boycott my own show.”

Naharin’s statement came in response to the recent decision by Ballet Ireland to pull a dance number that was originally choreographed by the Israeli choreographer for Nederlands Dans Theater in 1999 and has since been performed by numerous international dance companies.

According to a statement released by Ballet Ireland on Wednesday, the Minus 16 piece by Naharin will be withdrawn from their Bold Moves 2024 programme which is set to take place from 22-30 March.

The performance of the routine was opposed by a group of Irish dancers called Apartheid Free Dance, who wrote in a statement that they found Ballet Ireland’s choice to present a work created by “an Israeli state-funded choreographer” was “deeply troubling.”

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

The withdrawal of the piece was commended by the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC), who 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.”

Naharin, who is the house choreographer for Batsheva Dance Company in Tel Aviv, said: “It is obvious that this cancellation does nothing to help reduce the suffering of people in our region or to reduce anger and frustration of the people in Ireland over the wrongdoing of the Israeli government and army in the Gaza Strip.”

“I believe that artistic expression is what gives balance to our lives. With the presence of evil forces, abuse of power and so many innocent victims over the course of history, artistic expression always stood as a pillar that gave meaning to people's lives. Therefore I find this cancellation disappointing.”

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