Dances With Sculptures

Accompanied by the sounds of a cello, a new program explores the encounter between dancer and object.

Ruth Eshel
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Ruth Eshel

Improvisations by veteran dancer Anat Shamgar and up-and-coming dancer and choreographer Arkadi Zaides form the basis of "Dance with a Sculpture," an intimate, magical and profound show. Created with sculptor Avital Cnaani, the dance is accompanied by the sounds of the cello, played by Dan Weinstein and Karni Postal.

The name of the program aroused my curiosity, as I was hoping to see the extent to which the encounter between dance and sculpture has changed, 30 years after the trend swept over independent dance in Israel. Back then, the dancers' interaction with sculptures and other props stemmed primarily from a desire to discover a new language of movement. The sculpture or prop became part of the movement solution, and technical dancing ability was occasionally sidelined in favor of creative solutions found in the encounter between the object and the body.

Anat Shamgar performing Dance With a Sculpture.Credit: Efrat Valero

In this particular show, a sculpture is used only in the first dance - Shamgar's solo - and in a different format from anything I've seen before. The dancer and the sculpture each have a presence of their own, with a few points of encounter, and without blending together as in the past. The sculpture is made from a pile of processed wooden beams - white, long and rectangular - scattered on a low wagon with small, half-concealed wheels. The details radiate lightness, but the overall mass exudes a feeling of heaviness and artificial processing. In contrast, a handful of natural, curled pieces of wood hang above from the ceiling, as if they were flying. The illuminated tree-like sculpture has a powerful presence on stage.

The show begins with Shamgar hidden behind the sculpture. Slowly her hand emerges, followed by her head, her torso, and every movement is very slow. The softness of her movements contrast the hefty sculpture. Shamgar rolls over and with a light touch turns the large and heavy wooden sculpture around, presenting its various sides to the audience, which is fixed in one place.

Afterward, she appears to lose interest in the object and embarks on an attentive inner journey of movement, sculpting the movement of her body. Shamgar has a language of her own on stage, using extensive work close to the floor, on her knees, lying down, and deftly tapping into her flexible extremities.

The artist's concentration and maturity reveal a world rich in nuance - a refined, minimalist, light and mysterious world.

And suddenly, as though the dancer remembers that there is a sculpture on stage - or perhaps after she has created a presence equal in value to that of the sculpture - she threads part of her body beneath it and lifts up one end of it. Her hand and leg movements allude to the living part of the dead tree.

Zaides' solo is faster. He is young and his body is restless. He looks inward, and his thoughts and images itch and caress, hitting the walls from within.

His flexible torso reflects an inner tsunami. His performance is wonderful, comprised of fascinating approaches.

The end of the show finds the two dancers and two musicians on stage together, each in his own world, and the eye of the spectator is free to wander and focus on each element separately. As expected, there is finally an encounter between the dancers at the end of the program. The degree of honesty and simplicity are exciting and radiate inner beauty.

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