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Jerusalem, the tiny town from Footloose

by michael June 27 2008
Municipal newsCity planningNews


Malicious modern dance from the Renana Raz Dance Group

As anybody in opposition to the raw on-screen sexuality of a young and virile Kevin Bacon can tell you, dancing is a threat to the fabric of society. Some jurisdictions respond to the sinister undulations of those nymphs held in the thrall of wicked Terpsichore by simply banning all iniquitous wiggling outright. Others "compromise": profligate poussettes will be tolerated as long as all female participants cover every inch of skin, from neck to wrists to ankles, in featureless smocks and hide their hair beneath all-black Jacques Cousteau tuques. It's a fair compromise, truly: nothing expresses the glory of the human form in movement like a Sears poncho.

It's also the preferred compromise of Jerusalem, which inaugurated its sparkly new Bridge of Strings by lighting off fireworks, dangling acrobats from impressive heights, and dressing up the young girls of the Mechola Dance Center, slated to perform at the ceremony, as gold lamé Hefty bags. The abayas weren't an artistic choice; the girls were forced to modest up after Mayor Lupolianski initially cut the entire performance due to an outcry from ultra-Orthodox residents of Jerusalem.

On Wednesday Lupolianski surrendered to the ultra-Orthodox community's demands to cancel the show by Mehola dance ensemble planned for the inauguration ceremony.  
Following counter-objections made by the opposition of the city council a creative compromise was reached, according to which the dancers would wear long clothes covering their bodies and black hats on their heads in an effort to blur their sexual identity.

Artistic director of the Mehola ensemble Yaniv Hoffman expressed his revulsion at the decision and told Ynet, "The parents are shocked, the children are shocked, and we are even more shocked.

 "These are only young girls, aged 13 to 16. We have performed with them at all of the national events and this is the first time in 20 years that we have come across such an extreme reaction. These are not strippers or gogo girls – the ensemble engages in culture and art."

City councilman Saar Netanel voiced his displeasure by trodding all over a speech by Lupolianski at a council meeting yesterday.

"You always open with achievements and positive things that happened this month," Netanel called out, "so how is it that you didn't open with the 'marvelous thing' that happened to us yesterday when the girls of a dance ensemble were dressed in clothes like in Tehran. How is it that you don't open with the fact that women in Jerusalem are being dressed as in Iran?"

Some of the young people present encouraged Netanel by singing, "Jerusalem is not Iran, Jerusalem is Tehran." Despite many requests, the singers refused to quiet down and were therefore forcefully removed from the hall by security.

Netanel and his backup singers (the Saarettes?) are total drama queens. Jerusalem is completely unlike Tehran. In Tehran, you can't see ladies' necks, but in Jerusalem, all that decadent chin-to-clavicle flesh is on view for the entire public. That's progress.

Oddly, given this reverberating kowtow to the miffed sensibilities of a vocal few, nobody in the city government seemed to pay much attention to Jerusalemites whose aesthetic senses were offended by the soaring, heart-stoppingly expensive middle finger of Iberian modernism jutting out the heart of one of Jerusalem's drabbest neighborhoods. But then, wounded aesthetes don't typically express their displeasure with municipal policy by setting their garbage bins alight, a lack of gumption that's allowed, for example, Moshe Safdie to strew his least appealing designs across the Israeli landscape like a petulant child knocking over his blocks.

But at least, even with all this dancin' controversy, the bridge is finally finished good enough for government work. Jerusalem finally has a distinctive landmark to call its own. Jerusalem has a Calatrava bridge - which is something, all ideological similarities aside, the tiny town from Footloose (unlike, say, Salford, Valencia, Barcelona, Seville, Mérida, Bilbao, Buenos Aires, Milwaukee, Dublin, Redding, Haarlemmermeer, Petach Tikva and Reggio Emilia) never had.

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