Dance troupe Vertigo gets upgrade at 25-year mark (Times of Israel)

Group marks its anniversary with a new piece, a book and formal designation as one of Israel’s four major dance troupes

It’s been 25 years since Vertigo, the Jerusalem dance troupe, was founded by choreographer Noa Wertheim and her husband, Adi Sha’al.

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It’s been ten years since Sha’al, Wertheim and her three sisters and families created Vertigo Eco-Art Village, the bucolic, ecological space located on the grounds of Kibbutz Netiv Halamed Hei.

They’re celebrating those two milestones with a series of events, beginning with “One. One and One,” a new work choreographed by Wertheim, and a book, “Vertigo — The Choreography of People and Dreams.”

But perhaps the biggest shift is their designation as one of the country’s “major” dance troupes by the Ministry of Culture, putting them alongside the other three, The Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company, The Batsheva Dance Company and the Israel Ballet.

“Finally,” smiled Sha’al. “We’ve been waiting for that.”

It was Sha’al and Wertheim who first started Vertigo at Jerusalem’s Gerard Behar Theater, quickly making it one of the mainstays of the Israeli modern dance scene.

Adi Sha'al (left) and Noa Wertheim, the founders and couple behind Vertigo (Courtesy YouTube screen grab)
Adi Sha’al (left) and Noa Wertheim, the founders and couple behind Vertigo (Courtesy YouTube screen grab)

They moved their family ten years ago out to the kibbutz, where they were joined by Wertheim’s sisters, creating a post-modern take on communal living. Besides using it as a studio for their dance work, they bring groups of local and foreign tourists to tour the space and marvel at the sawdust toilets before trying out some movement and dance.

There’s also the “Power of Balance” Vertigo team, the troupe’s work with professional dancers and disabled dancers.

But modern dance remains at the center of what Vertigo does, and they offered a sneak peak at this latest work that will be premiered at Suzanne Dellal on February 13 and 14, before being performed around the country and internationally.

Called “One. One and One” after a Talmud tractate, it’s a familiar quote repeated in the Yom Kippur liturgy, said Wertheim.

“And so he would count: “One. One and one. One and two. One and three. One and four. One and five. One and six. One and seven.”

It’s a piece that looks at the individual juxtaposed with the group, as eight Vertigo dancers take turns expressing their solo selves and their group work.

The individual and the collective, in Vertigo's latest work (Jessica Steinberg/Times of Israel)
The individual and the collective, in Vertigo’s latest work (Jessica Steinberg/Times of Israel)

Beginning with the careful pouring of lines of fresh dirt from white buckets onto the studio floor, the dancers first swirled their feet into the earth, letting the scent of fresh earth permeate the studio, before diving into it, perhaps recognizing the place that earth and nature play in the dance troupe that has made ecology part of its message.

“There’s a lot of emotional depth in the work,” said Noa Wertheim, a tiny, muscular figure who did a quick warmup exercise with the audience before inviting her dancers to the stage. “I’m not a political person, this is about mortals and ego, and the earth we walk on.”

As with all Vertigo pieces, it’s also a group effort, in which the choreography was developed alongside the mostly dreamy music composed by Avi Belleli (of Tractor’s Revenge) for the piece, as well as the lighting and costumes, which are being created by Israeli designer Sasson Kedem.

For Wertheim, it’s a process that never gets old.

“It’s exciting each time we do it,” said Wertheim.

“One. One and One” will premiere on February 13 and 14 at Tel Aviv’s Suzanne Dellal Center for Dance and Theater. For more dates and locations throughout February and March, go to the Vertigo website.