Turning Heads in Tel Aviv

Shamel Pitts talks a dancer’s life in Israel

Whether onstage or on the streets of Tel Aviv, Shamel Pitts commands attention. When performing with the Batsheva Dance Company, Israel’s premier contemporary dance troupe, he projects magnetic focus and pounces with ferocious abandon. When strolling down Rothschild Boulevard in the center of town, often with oversize glasses, flowing graphic shirts, nudged-off-center hats and a cool stride, he makes you turn and think, “There goes a personality.”

Mr. Pitts joined Batsheva in 2009, two years after graduating from Juilliard. When the company lands at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Nov. 12 to 15, it will be a homecoming for this Brooklyn native. “I’m hyped about it,” he said in a Skype interview from his apartment in Tel Aviv. “It will be special to bring my life in Israel to my family and friends in Brooklyn.”

In addition to his presence in the concert hall, Mr. Pitts has become a Tel Aviv night life fixture as well, starting a fashion magazine and hosting monthly parties with local collaborators. He’s inspired by Tel Aviv’s openness and creativity, which he likens to his hometown. He sees in both places “a shared sense of realness.”

Ahead of the company’s monthlong 50th anniversary tour of the United States, which began its California leg this week, Mr. Pitts chatted with Brian Schaefer about finding himself in Israel and dancing under the threat of rocket fire. These are excerpts from the conversation.

Read the interview on the New York Times