We held our 7th Annual Speaking Arts Conference on November 24 – 25 in Jerusalem, thanks to the continued support of the Jerusalem Foundation and the Dear Foundation of Switzerland. A record-breaking 72 artists – actors, dancers, musicians, from all over Israel and Palestine – participated. “This is the first time I’ve heard Hebrew in an everyday context,” said a participant from Nablus. “and not from a soldier at a checkpoint.”
After an opening session with contact improvisation expert Noam Carmeli, the participants split up into master workshops according to discipline. Actors and theater professionals worked with veteran actress Salwa Nakara; musicians worked with internationally-renowned musician Sameer Makhoul; and dancers worked with dancers and choreographers, Raba’a Mourkous and Ilanit Tadmor. All worked with the theme Quiet, which was the theme of the entire conference. “Quiet is what allows us the freedom to create, to dream,” said the JICC’s conference organizer, Hanan Ohana
This year for the first time the artists took greater advantage of Jerusalem’s rich cultural resources, holding many activities at venues outside the Jerusalem International YMCA. The dance workshops were held at the studios of the internationally-acclaimed Vertigo Dance Troupe in downtown Jerusalem. The music workshop held its second day at the Paley Arts Centre in east Jerusalem. On Wednesday evening, Arkady Zeides performed his dance performance, Quiet, to conference participants and guests at the Lab theater and performance space in southern Jerusalem.
Additional distinguished presenters at the conference included Eyal Danon, curator and director of the Israeli Center for Digital Art in Holon. He lectured to dancers and actors on Thursday morning on using the arts to advance a political agenda, based on his experience on the project, Liminal Spaces. Shmulik Hadjes, of the Psik Theater, gave a workshop on commedia dell’arte (characterization using masks), in which the theater troupe specializes. Raida Sa’adeh, Director of the Paley Arts Centre, lecturer at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design and internationally-recognized artist in her own right, spoke to the music group about the state of the arts in East Jerusalem.
The peak of the Conference was the closing concert, performed by Mira Awad and Shlomi Shaban. Both artists brought their own unique music, and their own unique musical virtuosity, to a wonderful joint collaboration, in their first time performing together. This was covered in the press (see examples, with some video clips here and here).