Gon Biran, 21, intense and wiry, is a kibbutznik from Givat Haim. His mom, something of a rebel in her day, had him on her own. No dad. It was just Gon, his mom and Gon’s mom’s mom, by all accounts a formidable woman.
The first time he went abroad was when he was 13, with mom, of course: a Bar Mitzvah trip to see the sights of Italy. “It was o.k.,” he says today, speaking gently, sipping tea and nursing a cold. “I don’t like traveling that much – even now, when I travel all the time.”
It was during that same Bar Mitzvah year that Gon started dancing. Not ballet. Never ballet, he says. He can't really even say how it happened. One minute he was trying out some steps in a modern dance improvisation class at the Democratic School in Hadera – the next minute he was dropping out of 11th grade to join the renowned Batsheva ensemble and performing around the world.
“I liked it. It just flowed,” he says.
Eduard Montelles, 28, angular, handsome and dark, with bushy eyebrows and pierced ears, is a dancer too. That is how the two men met.
Born in Barcelona into a tightly knit Catholic family, Eduard, who most friends call Edu, discovered dancing at age 12 when he followed a girl he liked to a ballroom dancing class: waltz, swing, that kind of stuff. Soon he lost interest in the girl, and girls in general, but stuck with the dancing. In time he traded in the Lindy Hop for Hip Hop, and the sounds of the Argentine Tango for African rhythms, and set off to Senegal to study movement and music.
Back in Europe some time later, freelancing for different ensembles, Edu initially said no when the Batsheva company tried to recruit him. He liked the work of Ohad Naharin, Batsheva’s legendary choreographer, but was not particularly interested in living in Israel, a country he would have been hard pressed back then to find on a map.
A year and another approach later, though, he changed his mind and came over to audition, landing in Tel Aviv for two weeks in the heat of summer. That was three and a half years ago. “There were a lot of jellyfish in the sea that year,” he recalls.
Gon, the youngest member of the ensemble and its rising star, was dating someone else at the time: a Norwegian dancer doing a stint with Batsheva. And anyway, he says, he is a reserved sort of person and didn’t reach out to the newcomer. “It's hard for me to open up,” Gon says. “I need only a few people in my life.”
That does not mean he didn’t immediately clock Eduard. “He was the best looking guy I had ever seen,” Gon says with a small smile.
Edu was also in a relationship with someone else then – a dancer based in Sweden – but when he decided to stay in Israel with Batsheva the two broke up. At about the same time, the Norwegian dancer returned home.
And now, with the Nordic contingent out of the way, Gon and Edu took a closer look at one another.
“I liked Gon from the beginning – but because of the age difference – I am seven years older than him – I didn't even think in a romantic way. I just hoped we would be friends,” says Edu.
And they were friends for a while, adds Gon – until they went to bed together.
“At first we thought maybe we would just be friends who have sex,” says Edu. “But that didn’t work out,” continues Gon.
They realized there was something else going on: They were falling in love. “I can be nave or silly, and being with Gon was sometimes like having cold water poured on me,” says Edu. “He is direct in a way I am not used to. And it was difficult. It was not always fun, but I felt something very strong that I had never felt before Gon. And I learned a lot about myself.”
“At first our connection was complicated,” agrees Gon. “It was love, but it was not relaxed or obvious.”
He actually, he says, liked Edu’s naveté. “He's very open and trusting of people. I am the opposite. It’s calming to be with someone like that,” he says. “Edu gave me confidence.”
Three years down the line, the two have found a good, easy balance together. After a year of dancing side by side, Gon left Batsheva and later joined the Sharon Eyal dance company, which was started by a longtime Batsheva dancer. For a while, before he regained direction and joined Eyal, Gon found himself waiting tables in a café. He hated it. He missed the dancing and even had trouble hanging out with his former ensemble friends. Except for Edu. The two had moved in together by then, renting a small flat in South Tel Aviv’s trendy, if rundown, Florentin neighborhood.
These days, they are inseparable. They spend a lot of time cooking meals together when they are not rehearsing or on tour. Edu has picked up both Hebrew and Israeli cuisine, and has also gotten to know and love Gon’s mother and grandmother, who welcomed him into the family. The men usually spend weekends back on the kibbutz with the ladies.
It has not been as smooth with Edu’s family. “It's scary for me to bring him home,” admits Edu, who only recently told his mother about being gay, and about Gon. “I am afraid he won’t be comfortable. It's not the same as with his family. I want Gon to come and I want to connect my two worlds, but I don’t know how to do it yet.”
When he told his mom about Gon, relays Edu, she reacted “coldly.” She said his father, who died of cancer several years ago, would have been angry. She asked him not to tell his brother and sister. “It’s hard for my mom,” he explains. “We are a conservative family.”
His mom told him she needed time to think about it. Lately, though, she seems to have thought her way through it and softened, Edu says. Sometimes now he passes the phone to Gon to say hi when his mom calls from Spain. And once, when he was over at Gon’s mom’s place, Gon’s grandmother asked to speak to Edu’s mom back in Barcelona, and the men connected their families via Skype. “They were talking and I was translating everything,” says Gon. “My mom was mostly amazed by how young Gon’s mom is. That, and how great her curls were. So I guess you can call that progress.”