Three Israeli Dance shows
Having seen Hofesh Shechter’s latest offering in Paris in September, I was most impressed by his work and thought that this very lasting impression could make me write something. I tend to desert the computer at home these days! Too often, a dance piece will please you but won’t strike you for more than the duration of the show. With Political Mother, it was not the case.
It was the first time I had seen something by this brilliant young Israeli choreographer who has been working recently at Sadler’s Wells in London.
Shechter presented Political Mother at the Lyon biennal of dance and it has been widely acclaimed. It is also his first full length piece since he “exploded onto the world stage” with Uprising/In your rooms.
A former drummer, Schechter is a total artist, working on all aspects of creation simultaneously. He once said he cannot tell what comes first, the music or the choreography. His work is furiously alive, an almost violent ‘rave-party’ style. It features on stage a band of live drummers and electric guitarists. With saturated riffs and a thumping bass, the dance atmosphere is simultaneously folkish and prison-like. Moving and striking, it confounds all the aesthetic expectations you have when going to the theatre. Among all this darkness, humanity, tenderness and light also emerge.
Dancers run, fight and reproduce endlessly an almost Balkan dance that seems to come from a past era; the audience is just authorized to breathe, while pieces of music by JS Bach enhance the mood.
Before the end of the show, the lights go up and following words appear at the back of the stage :
“Where there is pressure… there is folk dance.” This sums up his work. It’s an expression of the artist’s freedom, an almost humoristic end to a show that invades the senses, bringing you to the brink of saturation.
Political Mother is still on tour and has come to Britain!
As I was writing on Schechter I began to think of another Israeli choreographer I liked, Emanuel Gat. The Israeli stage scene seems really original, with no comparisons to be made (except a sense of musicality and a deep originality.)
Gat is the first Israeli dancer and choreographer I discovered. Previously a musician, he is one of the most charismatic dancers I have ever seen on stage. He has produced a few works that have been critically acclaimed here in France. Among them let’s talk about his Sacre du Printemps (2004), where he decided to put Stravinsky’s music to dance with a salsa choreography. The result is a stunning piece for five dancers, bathed with sensuality and eroticism, a pure homage to the beauty of his dancers. The two men change partners in an endless dance culminating in the explosion of sensuality transmitted by the music. Salsa movements with an irregular rhythm mix in a surprising way with Stravinsky’s music.
Besides the technical difficulty, it is just beautiful and captivating, full of generosity and suspense:
Since then Gat has collaborated with a lot of dance theatres around the world: for example Silent Ballet, a piece for eight dancers without music, presented during the Montpellier festival of dance in 2008; K 626, that draws from Mozart’s Requiem or his famous solo on John Coltrane’s My Favourite Things.
The last choreographer I’d like to present is Yuval Pick. He is also the last one I discovered, as I saw his last work Score in November. Born in Israel in 1970, Yuval trained as a dancer, and began his career as a performer in contemporary dance in France in the 1990s. He then stated working on choreography, and founded his own company The Guests in 2001.
He has been commissioned by the Paris and Lyon conservatoires (for their junior ballet), and he has also created works for the Geneva junior ballet, and for various important dance festivals in France and abroad, including festivals in Israel.
In Score Pick tries to understand his roots and to talk about his identity by looking for the “sounds” of his culture. In Israel, he has recorded various sounds from daily life, religious songs and pieces of conversation, and mixed them with very modern music. The result gives energy, which is necessary as the piece is an hour long and demands a lot of the dancers. Two men and one girl are pitched onto a very bare stage set: it is just about finding each other and separating again, running and jumping into each other arms, violently finding and losing balance among the group. There are a lot of very originals movements, some fantastic “portés” that look totally new (and originality and new languages in dance are thrilling).
As the show evolves, the spectator find this narration not only original, but inspiring, with a fresh and vibrant energy: “Through my own choreographic language, I translate the unique energy that characterizes Israel for me on to the stage, and the intense dynamics between relationships. We experience vital energy in this country, with high-tension, strong feelings of emergency, of survival, in a “raw” state still not transformed, and a true ignorance of the Other. I created this show as a mosaic, as a metaphor, of the richness and complexity of a people searching for its identity.” (Y. Pick)
Score will be presented in March 2011 in the Nottdance festival in Nottingham
Here an extract of its excellent soundtrack: The Guests Company, and a video extract of his previous work, Paon.
Géraldine Garcia is a French writer and translator based in Paris.