Infinite Possibilities…Forsythe and Gaga

 
By Rebecca Crystal, Dance Journey
 
This past week or so has been filled with exciting experiences in and out of dance.  Last weekend I went to Tel Aviv with ten or more fellow dancers; we saw the Batsheva Ensemble (the second company) perform Deca Dance. This is my third time seeing Deca Dance, and every time I see it, it is a new experience (This piece is a collection of sections from other works of Ohad Naharin, and regularly changes). “Echad Mi Yodea,” the most-famous section from Minus 16, might actually hold a permanent spot in Deca Dance, because I have never seen the show without it. To be honest, it wouldn’t be complete without it. 
 
In this 8-minute event, the dancers sit on chairs in a semi-circle and perform an intricate and extremely athletic accumulation to the a rock version of the children’s song “Echad Mi Yodea” (Who Knows One?). My favorite part is where they fling their arms back and arch over the back of the chair in a canon; when the light hits the white of their costumes….I don’t know to explain it, but it’s incredibly powerful. This piece is what made me fall in love with Israeli dance, and is definitely one of my favorite works of art…ever. 
 
I know I’ve written about it before. It made me so happy and gave me goosebumps to see it again, live. I have also really grown to love the section where the dancers pull members of the audience (usually of the older or non-dancer nature) on stage. It is such a creative mixture of humor and lightheartedness and technique and grace as they ballroom-dance their way across the stage, leaving the chosen audience members amused and baffled.
 
At the beginning of this week, we had a three-day workshop with Eldad Ben Sasson, who is an indescribably genius choreographer/dancer. He danced with Batsheva for many years, and his class is heavily informed by Ohad’s technique. After a Gaga-warmup (If you are new to this blog and don’t know what Gaga is, see here), he then led us through movement exercises and eventually a long combination based on the principals of William Forsythe. I have read in detail about Forsythe’s ideas of space and dimensions, but I have never had a class that utilizes them. Pretty much…it was awesome.
 
Eldad talked us through the combination, not by naming the movements or using ballet terminology, but in terms of the physics–the points in space we touch, the lines we create with our energy and direction, and through which dimensions (including time, and ones undiscovered) we are traveling. He kept talking about how movement is full of infinite possibilities, and we should never cut a movement short, or stop in our tracks when we mess up, because then we just closed ourselves to the possibilities.
 
The class was so different from anything I had ever experienced before, and the movement was a completely different quality. I really enjoyed the challenge of learning in this new way.  On Monday evening, a number of us met with him for coffee and asked questions about his experiences and philosophy. We asked him about how he creates choreography, and he said he often starts by writing, which is influenced by books and films on quantum physics and simply observing the world around him. Well, I admit I’m a bit of a nerd about physics, and I clearly enjoy writing so….maybe I’m on track.
 
In other news, I feel like I am starting to grasp how to more quickly learn and remember this choreography.  I still feel overloaded–I have NEVER had to remember this much choreography before–but I’m starting to learn how to go about doing it, and what works for me.  I’ve realized I don’t learn using one method, but many.  First I learn by a combination of watching and doing.  I have to physically try the movement to get it in my body, but I also need to stop and just watch the teacher (and from multiple angles) to see the details. 
 
Each time something is added, I NEED to string the old movement to the new, so that I get the sequence and go through what I’ve learned, accumulation style.  I’ve also been taking some video clips of my rehearsals, so that at night, even if I just watch it and let my body rest, I can review it for my brain.  AND….when I really have a sequence down and nail it in rehearsal, it feels awesome, and I can actually have fun with it. 
 
Oh, also, random tidbit, my favorite class thus far is definitely our floor modern class that we have once a week in the morning…what a fantastic way to warm up and get going for the day!
 
“A million things we might do or might not do every day.  A million decisions that make themselves.”~Copenhagen by Michael Frayne
 
Rebecca Crystal graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Department of Dance. She is currently participating in the Dance Journey program with the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company and blogging about her experiences at http://artinmotionblog.blogspot.com.
 

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