I don't like it when performers bore me. But when something surprising and funny is presented onstage, I am ready to forgive everything.
A few weeks ago, I watched a rerun of an episode from "Room 101," one of my favorite television programs, in which Einav Galili interviewed Guri Alfi. As usual on this show, Alfi was asked to choose five things he would like to throw into Room 101 - the torture chamber in Orwell's "1984," in which people are forced to face their worst fear or nightmare, such as rats. Galili's guests are asked to choose the things they would like to see disappear from the face of the earth. One of Alfi's choices was dance.
Galili was amazed, but I was sympathetic. A few days earlier, I had personally experienced the most crushing boredom there is when, out of mistaken judgment, I found myself at a dance performance that redefined slowness. And a year before that, I nodded off at a performance of the Batsheva Dance Company, which was based on the Gaga method but left me with a serious case of cognitive dissonance, because I remembered that, until then, I had been an aficionado of modern dance.
The thing is - I thought to myself after wakening from a nap in my seat at the Suzanne Dellal Center - I like rhythmic, fast-paced shows. Maybe it's because of my ADHD that I can't stand overly long pauses between one movement and the next; maybe it's the music or maybe the simple truth is that I never understand what a dancer wants to express. When the dancers are virtuosos, the music is pulsating and pleasant, the movements aren't off-putting and, above all, when some sort of humorous message also comes across - such as in an unforgettable performance by the La La La Human Steps company - I can actually become totally engrossed.
Another item I would throw into Room 101 is certain types of "other" theater, particularly the interactive audience-involving type. Not long ago, I found myself sitting in a not-especially-large room, together with another 20 or so people in a U-shape arrangement, watching actors (all of them excellent! ) stage a superb, fairly well known play which was also well directed. Nevertheless, I suffered. One of the actors, who two days earlier had asked me in a cafe if I was famous (apparently not if you have to ask, I told him ), seemed to be focusing precisely on me.
Perhaps under his influence, the other actors did the same, and I found myself embarrassed, time after time, and yet also touched by actors dressed so convincingly as homeless people that I wondered whether it wouldn't be better to hire real ones for the job. Twice I was also doused with murky water and my attention was attracted to the stuffed animal (a raccoon ) with which one of the characters - ostensibly, residents of a shelter for homeless people in 1930s Vienna, in which the play was set - was playing. Were there many raccoons in 1930s Vienna, I asked myself, after the 15 minutes it took me to identify the animal, and what is the director getting at?
I suffered most from the fear that gripped me when one of the actors placed a hand on my head. My great fear was that this would happen again, and we know that there is no greater fear than fear itself - apart from that same actor (from the cafe ) who came over to me after about 50 minutes and said, "If you're bored, feel free to leave, we won't be offended or anything." Naturally, I should have gotten up immediately and left, but at that second I moved (figuratively speaking ) from Austria to Poland, which was not the most pleasant feeling. So I had to go on sitting there, feeling guilty, rebuked and shamed, while drenched from head to toe.
Post-traumatic as I am, I ate my heart out for also agreeing to attend a performance by Renana Raz. Because she is a dancer and a choreographer, as the time for leaving the house approached, I tried to make myself sick by thinking about the crushing boredom that would undoubtedly be my lot again. "Why am I going to a dance performance - after all, I hate dance," I said to a friend on the phone, and she agreed with me enthusiastically.
With a heavy heart I arrived at the hall. I was surprised by the audience, which was mostly young to very young, among which a group of American teenagers stood out flagrantly (they are known to be a particularly excitable breed ). But as soon as the show - called "YouMake ReMake" - started, my fears turned to joy. At last, and in our own country, I found myself laughing out loud at a dance performance.
Raz's idea of creating a "remake," in movement and sometimes also via music, of YouTube items, is brilliant - and, more important, communicative. I had no difficulty understanding what it was all about. The people she chose (along with her co-artistic director, Ariel Efraim Ashbel) to perform the pieces were surprising in their talents, style and even their external appearance.
There was a drag artist named Tallulah, who in tights and red high-heeled boots looked like a female dancer with a perfect body. There was another dancer, Inbal Yaacobi, who with grace and highly developed comic skill, performed a remake of a YouTube item in which a Finnish dance teacher explains how to dance disco. A pianist and drummer accompanied a marvelous rendition of "Feeling Good," sung by Nina Simone.
I also really liked Batel Azaria doing a remake of an item she herself uploaded to YouTube, in which she appears in the guise of both Lady Gaga and Beyonce singing "Telephone." Batel would seem to have the most inappropriate body for the "classic" demands of a dancer. She is big, far from thin, amazingly sexy - but a terrific dancer.
And yes, here, too, people - only those who so desired - were invited to go onstage and look at a YouTube clip on the computer to which other people reacted, in yet another YouTube segment, in an extreme way and with disgust. I didn't go up, because the 20 boys and girls who jumped onto the stage and reacted spontaneously, with movements very similar to those on YouTube, became themselves the performers of the item's remake. When they returned to their seats they went on, as before, cheering every part of the show with tremendous enthusiasm. Even Guri Alfi would have enjoyed it. The fact is that even I did.