Chutzpah! Festival brings world-class dance, theatre, music, and comedy to Vancouver

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Chutzpah! Festival (Lisa Nemetz International Jewish Performing Arts Festival) | Norman Rothstein Theatre, Scotiabank Dance Centre, Rickshaw Theatre, Fox Cabaret | February 15 – March 15, 2018

The 18th edition of the Chutzpah! Festival brings a highly anticipated dance series, bold theatrical works, virtuosic musicians, and uproarious comedy from near and far to Vancouver stages. The highlight of the festival is the extraordinary contemporary dance on offer.

Daniel Ezralow’s Ezralow Dance will present the Canadian premiere of OPEN. Ezralow’s choreography credits are impressive: Julie Taymor’s film Across the Universe, Cirque du Soleil’s Love, the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Paris Opera Ballet, and music videos for artists such as Sting, U2, and David Bowie. OPEN is a playful, humorous work that includes provocative ideas, striking visuals, and a striking classical score.

Israel’s Roy Assaf Dance will present Six Years Later, a duet full of quiet intimacy and vulnerability; and The Hill, an all-male trio inspired by veterans’ experiences and based on the Hebrew song Givat Hatachmoshet. Assaf is an up and coming choreographer who already has an impressive resume having worked with Batsheva Dance Company, The Royal Swedish Ballet, National Dance Company Wales, and LA Dance Project.

Italy’s MM Contemporary Dance, directed by Michele Merola, brings their works Bolero and The Rite of Spring for a North American Premiere. Inventive choreography and the company’s classical training will bring new excitement to these works set to well-known classical scores. Merola choreographs to Maurice Ravel’s Bolero (with new composition from Stefano Corrias), and Enrico Meorelli choreographs to Igor Stravinski’s The Rite of Spring.  

A dance double bill features Bulgaria’s Derida Company performing F 63.9 and Israel’s Machol Shalem Dance House performing Black Label. F 63.9, choreographed by Derida Company co-director Jivko Jeliazkov, is a duet that explores love as a problem or “disease” as defined by the World Health Organization. Falling in love is risky, and this piece looks at the transformations that can take place during this process. Machol Shalem Dance House’s artistic director, Ofra Idel, worked with performer Tzvika Iskias to create Black Label, a tale told from the perspective of an Ethiopian immigrant in Israel. 

Salomé: Woman of Valor is a multi-disciplinary work by Grammy Award-winning composer/trumpeter Frank London and poet/performer Adeena Karasick that weaves together poetry, music, video, and dance. The piece presents a new take on the Biblical story of Salomé, presenting her as a powerful matriarch and refuting Oscar Wilde’s misogynistic and anti-Semitic interpretation. Frank London performs the music along with percussionist Deep Singh and keyboard player Shai Bachar while Adeena Karasick performs the text that she wrote. The piece also features choreography by Rebecca Margolick and Jessie Zaritt along with video by Elizabeth Mak that deconstructs Charles Bryant’s 1923 silent film, Salomé.

The music presentations at this year’s festival include the return of Chutzpah! favourite and Israeli music icon Idan Raichel performing his celebrated Piano-Songs. Mexico’s Troker brings their blend of jazz, rock, mariachi, metal, funk and hip hop; and Toronto’s Beyond the Pale brings their Eurofolk fusion. World-class vocalist and Leonard Cohen band member Perla Batalla presents her special concert In The House of Cohen, a tribute to the music of her friend and mentor. Also joining the festival are the Uri Gurvich Quartet, Barbara Adler, and Jake Klar.

This year’s festival includes one piece of theatre: Michael Rubenfeld’s We Keep Coming Back that deconstructs Polish, Jewish narratives. The play premiered in Krakow, Poland in 2016, and it incorporates video and archival materials to present the reality of an ever-changing Polish - Jewish identity.

Two celebrated Canadian comics join the line-up this year: former host and creator of CBC’s Wiretap, Jonathan Goldstein brings his wry, self-deprecating humour and Canadian comedy icon Mary Walsh will present her new one-woman show that features some of her best acts and most popular characters from Dancing With Rage, CODCO and This Hour Has 22 Minutes. Also on the comedy line-up is New Zealand’s Deb Filler’s show I Did It My Way In Yiddish (In English)! which is an evening of memorable stories and songs.

For tickets and more information, visit   

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