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Downtown Dancer » Blog Archive » Dance Europe’s Response

Dance Europe’s Response

A PDF of the article about Ohad Naharin written by Maggie Foyer. That’s all that I and another reader have received in response to our emails. No explanation about the conversation, no statement about why they omit Israel in their list of companies around the world. As for the article itself? I’d say the first half is about dance, and the second half is politics. There is a full paragraph where Naharin criticizes the Israeli government and the Israeli people:

“I live in a democracy where people are ignorant, stupid and paranoid. There is real paranoia in Israel. Instead of seeing that the course we are taking is wrong, we blame everybody else. And as long as Sharon and the government won’t see that the mistakes lie very much in their actions there will be no progress but I am optimistic because I think gradually people will see that the mistakes don’t lie only in the other hand, but we can correct our mistakes too.”

Apparently that’s not enough because Foyer then asks him:

how he could express these views and keep his state subsidy.

And then later writes:

I asked how the dancers coped with military service and suggested it must be very damaging especially for creative people. Naharin agreed.

Foyer finishes up with:

Did he not think that it would help if a person of his profile gave support to the peace movement?

So there you have it. An article on an Israeli dance company. Blatant in its politics, but an article. Add it to:
OHAD NAHARIN
FRANCOIS FARGUE has a brief encounter with the Israeli director

and
Curtain Up in Tel Aviv
Nicholas Rowe shares some zionist movements in Israel

Click below for full text of the article.


Ohad Naharin Interview by MAGGIE FOYER Published in Dance Europe, June 2004

‘Nothing is permanent’. This, says Israeli choreographer, Ohad Naharin, is his one-line biography. “None of my works looks liked they looked at the premiere. I always change, I always develop. For me the premiere is like a new born baby, then it grows.� Naharin came late to dance starting his first job at 22. He says he constantly questions whether to stay with the dance medium. “But that doesn’t stop me from doing things. I really loved it, so I did it. But there is always the possibility of doing other things.� His father is a psychologist, specialising in psycho drama and his mother specialises in the Feldenkrais technique, teaching composition. Naharin does not like to admit any direct correlation between his talents and his inheritance but looking at his works, the exploration of movement and the layered depth of ideas, it is difficult for us not to make assumptions. At the heart of his choreographic process is the research of movement. “But what turns me on is the ability to compose. How I organise my elements and what I think is the right organisation. It’s the tension between the elements that is creative. I prepare a lot and think a lot but I don’t need to know what the piece is really going to be. I need to find a starting point. It can be the end or the middle of the piece or I can think about scattered ideas I may use. It’sthe starting point for a journey that I don’t know the end of and I only discover it with the dancers. I am very interested in the gap between what I wanted and what really happens; the bigger the gap, the better the process. I would be very bored if I knew where I was going. Then there will be very little discovery, very little learning. So the process is about the learning experience. It has to be about places I have never been before. It has to be about places I couldn’t even imagine exist.� This search for the possibilities inherent in the unknown applies not only to Naharin’s choreography but also to his performers. “I can’t really characterise the dancers I fall in love with. They are very different from each other but also have a lot in common. They are all generous and intelligent, musical, highly co-ordinated but also with alot of weaknesses. I don’t always look for a finished, polished dancer but I am very interested in the potential. Sometimes the size of the potential is more interesting for me than the ability at the moment.� Most of the Batsheva dancers come from the junior company, the Ensemble Batsheva, formed along the lines of NDT2. Naharin devotes a lot of time to working with them. “So I get to know them very well and after two or three years, you know if you want to work with them.� Naharin uses an extremely wide range of music in his choreography, “because there is a lot of music out there that I like. My approach to music is that I respect it but I don’t try to illustrate it. It is something that marks time. Movement also marks time and along the fusion between my movement and the music many things happen accidentally. I don’t care to illustrate the counts or the structure of the rhythm or the meaning of the original composer of the music. This I don’t feel is important. I like many kinds of music. It has more to do with the quality of a particular composer or a particular singer. It also has to do with where I am at that moment.� For Virus, the work Batsheva is currently touring, Naharin uses Arab and Israeli music as well as Samuel Barber’s elegiac Adagio for Strings. The music from Arab villages was specially arranged by Habib Allah Jamal who states in the programme that they both believed in peace and Naharin had initiated this collaboration between ‘two peoples entangled in complex ideological confrontation’. I asked what part dance could play in this peace. “I believe that everyone should dance. Dance can take care of a lot of frustrations and lack of self esteem. People that are able to express themselves in dance enjoy life more. But I have no illusions that I, as an artist, can make a lot of difference. The mistakes of our leaders can only be corrected by the people when they go to vote. In art we look for solutions, in politics they keep their old ideas that offer no solutions. That is something that art can teach people.� “I am not a pessimist, I am a realist. Obviously I think that art encourages moderate thinking, the ability to love creation and to enjoy simple things. Arab culture has produced an amazing musical tradition, an amazing tradition and yet it still produces fundamentalism and cruelty of the highest level. We see this in many cultures, so art is no safeguard against stupidity and ignorance that leads to misuse of power and senseless war. This has to do with education and the real understanding of what democracy is. If you ask people in Israel what a democracy really is, they will say that it is when the majority makes decisions. And that is not democracy. Democracy is when you respect the minority. Democracy is created especially for the weak. “I live in a democracy where people are ignorant, stupid and paranoid. There is real paranoia in Israel. Instead of seeing that the course we are taking is wrong, we blame everybody else. And as long as Sharon and the government won’t see that the mistakes lie very much in their actions there will be no progress but I am optimistic because I think gradually people will see that the mistakes don’t lie only in the other hand, but we can correct our mistakes too. We can take responsibility. The victims right now in Israel are not the Jews, the victims are the Palestinians. Palestinians are much more afraid than Israel is. They have no army, their territory is being occupied, they have no rights to a decent education, to a decent healthcare system. The infrastructure is totally shattered. They are much more afraid, they are also much more angry, blinded by their anger. There is a fear - but it is nothing to compare with the kind of fear that the Palestinians live under right now.� I asked how he could express these views and keep his state subsidy. He said the subsidy was based on artistic merit and not on politics. However their subsidy had been cut by 40%. He felt this had little to do with the security issue as the arts consumed less than 1% of the budget. “It’s a bullying kind of attitude�. Despite protests the arts simply don’t have the leverage. Naharin does not portray himself as an extreme left winger but as someone who loves his fellow human beings. As for censorship, “there are forces which try, but legally nobody can tell me to stop�. Ohad Naharin’s work combines dark subjects interwoven with humour and even slapstick. “I like the mixture of things. The coherency has to come out of the composition, not out of the ability to say this is mathematic, this is music, this is ethnic, or this is dance. It’s about the mix between sacred and ritual. The sense of humour comes from my need to laugh at almost everything and the importance of laughing at ourselves. I think I am very sentimental and very emotional but for me all emotions and sentiments are from the head, the heart is just a pump. Everything that is going on in our thoughts and imagination belongs to our brain and the sensations we get from the edges or from the inside, being able to touch to see to hear. So I don’t separate heart and head.� “To enjoy is very important but the sense of enjoyment can be triggered by challenging your senses, challenging your imagination. Today I went to a gallery I saw an amazing sculpture and I was just blown by this simple work of art. For me that is very entertaining, and moving. I think I am an entertainer in a sense and I don’t think that is a bad word. But there is something about the cliche that I like. The composition has a lot to do with how I organise the elements. I can take a very cliche idea but I can put it against something to create a structure that is complex and subtle. I know that not everybody can see it. So I suggest something that is maybe a cliche but is also offering a multi layered moment. But I admit that the cliche might be there and that’s okay.� We talked about the recurring themes in his work - the anarchy, the undressing, the ritual, the reworking and recycling of material. Naharin said this gave him the chance to look at things from a new angle. “Alittle bit out of obsession, a little bit out of laziness, a little bit out of the sense that I have not yet found what I wanted. So it is for many reasons.� He has given little thought to preserving his works. “I don’t know that I want my work to continue to be performed. I am very particular about my work but I can totally change my mind three days from now about something and then what I said today is not right anymore. So it has to always be updated. There is something I call the soul of the piece. Even if I did it twenty years ago I could still feel the same soul, the same essence. The elements the rhythm can change, the dancers change and I change. So I change the work too, but not the soul of it. I asked how the dancers coped with military service and suggested it must be very damaging especially for creative people. Naharin agreed. “It’s very damaging to have an army, period, it’s just not so much a choice right now. I did three and a half years military service, before I started dancing. Most of the time I was in an entertainment unit, it wasn’t always easy but I wasn’t a combat soldier. Some of our dancers get the ‘excellent artists’ army programme, a particular service that allows them to dance and perform. They have to give very few hours a day or a week to the army. So we have a few dancers like that and we have people who just didn’t go to the army. Did he not think that it would help if a person of his profile gave support to the peace movement? “I support them but it’s not about putting my name, it’s about trying to really help. I don’t think if I put my name it would make any difference except to make me feel better. I think that the only thing that can make a difference is to find a parallel leadership that can have a sane look at things. It’s so much about abuse of power and giving in to the generals. If you think about politics it is about power and about the abuse of power. If you think about art, it is a lot about giving in to your own weaknesses coming out of our limitations.�

March 10, 2006 |

Comments

4 Responses to “Dance Europe’s Response”

  1. Diane Says:

    It would seem the right hand doesn’t exactly know what the left hand is doing over at the Policy Department of Dance Europe. They don’t run articles about Israel, they do run articles about Israel. Um, as long as the Israeli occupation is criticized heavily? Well, that’s actually not the Policy either. The Policy is is non-discriminatory as written in their published statement. But then again, that is not what Stephanie has been told. What is really going on here, people?

    Thanks Rachel for bringing up this topic. I was just thinking today how irrelevant our little downtown dance world can seem sometimes when the world is on lethal fire all over the place.

  2. noname Says:

    Note that though they interviewed Naharin, even his politics apparently weren’t progressive enough to get Batsheva Dance Company onto the page where dance companies from all over the world–but not from Israel–are listed.

  3. Judy Says:

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    I haven’t been able to access a copy, but I am 100% sure that the Nicholas Rowe article you refer to will be based on fervent denunciations of zionism and Israeli dance companies for not conforming to his politics. I discuss the rigidity of his stances from articles of his I have read, in the course of my post on Dance Europe’s boycott here:

    http://adloyada.typepad.com/adloyada/2006/03/the_curious_cas.html

  4. Canonist » Blog Archive » More on Dance Europe Says:

    [...] I don’t know why; his comments seem pretty explicit to me. Also, to get an idea of exactly what kind of mea culpa political statements are necessary for an Israeli to get covered in the publication, check this out. [...]

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