by Gaia Regoli
Body.Dance.Site: three dance meetings at the YMCA. I was there on May 27th.
How would I define it? A series of contrasts.
The first contrast was the light, as the event started in the courtyard of the YMCA before sunset, and then moved to the dark undergrounds of the building, in its historical swimming pool.
As seven choreographies took place, they succeeded in creating an intense atmosphere where one could get easily involved and by doing so they made it hard for people not to be at least touched by what was happening around them. This goes hand in hand with the interaction that is so much typical of contemporary art nowadays. A peculiar trait common to all the seven performances was that they all aimed at focusing on the city of Jerusalem and its issues.
The dances were sometimes accompanied by narrating voices, who shared their personal experiences of the city. In the following section, I will dive into each one of the dances and try to provide a general impression of them.
The first performance, named The Place Where You Stand, was directed by Sharon Valevski. A group of dancers gathered in the courtyard of the YMCA and began to spread among people. In the beginning, the moves reminded me of the sun salutations practiced during yoga classes. However, after that, the dancers started to look very weak, almost sick, as they divided into couples who were supporting each other in order not to fall. Was this referring to the fragile part of the population of Jerusalem who is now asking for our help?
Afterwards, El Kuds by Sahar Damoni guided us through the dressing rooms of the swimming pool. Everything was surrounded by darkness, with the lights switched off, and the audience was asked to use the flashes of their cell phones while proceeding. The atmosphere was distressing, uncertain, uncomfortable. Lonely performers were suddenly appearing in front of our eyes, repeating the same actions for an infinite time. One of them was squirming on the ground, another one started to scream. The images are all still very much alive in my head. Impressing.
The third performance, Uno, dos, tres by Sharon Saguy, was the first one to take place in the historical swimming pool. Nine girls dressed in red were standing in line, then breaking the same line and ended up laying on the borders of the swimming pool. However, I could still feel the tension provoked by the former performance.
Immediately after that, the next group of performers revealed itself. Synchronized practice by Maya Brinner. Probably the strongest critique to the double role played by women in the city: in this case, the swimmer and the soldier. I can remember the song “Que Sera Sera” playing, while the dancers were miming the marches and the use of firearms. Nevertheless, I read it as a more general critique to the mandatory army training that every young Israeli person has to go through in life.
Moreover, the fifth dance Up and Down created by Maayan Gur was characterized by the continuous rise and fall of the dancers. A way of looking at Jerusalem as a venue where “empires rise and fall perpetually”, as claimed in the Body Dance Site booklet. At the end of the performance, each one of the dancers dived into the arms of the others. This is another proof of the incredible preparation and courage of the dancers. Impressive once again.
In the penultimate performance, Not By The Book directed by Maya Yogel, seventeen dancers walked towards the audience with winking looks while holding lettuce as if they had rabbit ears. It made me reflect on the condition of the woman in Jerusalem but I am not sure that was the message they wanted to convey.
The event was finalized by Bluebird 1 directed by the American choreographer Ann Liv Young. In her first visit to Jerusalem, Liv Young presented the public with a tribal and aggressive dance. After a couple of wild roars, the dancers started to dance in the most energic way. This last performance was probably the most open to the interpretation of the public.
Also, as this last performance was an explosion of energy, it was perfectly in contrast with the quiet atmosphere of the first dance accompanied by the melodic and soft voice of George Harrison, former component of The Beatles.
This is the second year that this unique project Body.Dance.Site is taking place, as last year it was located at “Hamifal”. To sum it up, an amazing event which combined suggestive atmospheres created by contrasts of lights, colours, dance styles, music genres and strong emotions. Finally, this performance was made possible thanks to a fruitful collaboration between the Jerusalem Foundation, the Jerusalem Municipality and the Academy of Music and Dance.