The Room Dance Festival, which has been running since 1989, focuses on chamber dance - an ascetic style of dance performed without props or theatrical elements. Chamber dance uses movement notation, especially the Eshkol-Wachman system - a method of recording movement on paper or a computer screen that was originally created to enable choreographers to write pieces that dancers could later reconstruct in their entirety, much as composers write musical scores.
This system of movement notation, invented by dance theorist Noa Eshkol and Prof. Avraham Wachman, makes it possible to create a composition that is not a product of movements to which the body is accustomed. The various moves are difficult to perform - not in the sense of technical virtuosity, but mainly in terms of coordination: The body is required to follow several routes at once that ostensibly have no connection.
The opening night of this year's program, held on Thursday in Jaffa, featured four artists performing solo compositions they had created for themselves, including Amos Hetz - one of the festival's two artistic directors, along with Lior Avizur.
Today Hetz is 79 years old and he is rereading two compositions he wrote in the past. During his performance he wears a black suit under which a red shirt can be seen, and the movement becomes somewhat blurred because of the jacket, creating a play between the concealed and the revealed. In the past, the compositions were danced to the rhythm of a metronome, but this time Hetz dances in silence.
The first of Hetz's compositions includes unconnected elements that result in a variety of physical activity. Hetz first presents a statement, like a painter presenting a palette of colors, or a composer the key he will use, and then repeats it in different ways. He stretches it and then reduces it once again. His dance reminds one of a tai-chi composition.
What is wonderful is that Hetz has softened with age. He is calm, at peace with himself and feels free to feed the movements with nuances of color. And he does so in a measured way without diverting attention from the movement, which is the statement, without spilling over into stories that are not connected to the been so enjoyable to see him dance as it is now.
Anat Danieli, like Hetz, is interested in pure movement. And despite the complexity that characterizes her work, her composition also contains clarity and asceticism. Her solo work looks improvised, but it is structured, with degrees of freedom that arise from her renewed and different way of listening to her body in every performance.
Her piece is built on images of folding and spreading out, the falling and gathering of limbs. Sometimes the folding of the body creates strange entanglements, with minimal contact with the floor, and later her body opens up, stretching out entirely on the floor, as if returning home.
As opposed to Hetz, Danieli connects to the body's natural behavior, but like him she does not tell stories: The act of movement is the story. It is an examination of the possibility of movement, and Danieli carries it out by listening to her body in a way that radiates a humane approach. In other words, a human body that is dancing and not the body of a super-dancer, in spite of the fact that she undergoes many technical hurdles. Although Danieli is a veteran dancer, her body responds willingly.
Lior Ophir also offers an impressive performance at the festival. Wearing wide black pants, he enters the stage and sets down a modest, transparent glass vase containing water and a single flower. This is a dance in memory of his father. The soundtrack combines sounds of the family with his personal memories. The dance is personal and not really translated into choreography, but its advantage lies in Ophir's wonderful movement, as he swallows up the space with the flexibility and elegance of a young tiger.
Shelly Palmon, by contrast, examines qualities of body mass. Palmon seems to have been inspired by an essay by Heinrich von Kleist, "On the Marionette Theater" (there was a conference on the subject at this year's festival ). Her work contains a prominent mechanical element, limbs that move in large circles, and on the other hand, moments of listening to her body. Added to these are images of an animal moving fast, to the strains of classical music. But the wealth of ideas here does not consolidate into a structured dance.
"Between Revealed and Concealed," the Room Dance Festival, 2012. The festival moves to the Gerard Bechar Center, Jerusalem, on December 26.