The playful, physical exuberance, the intensity of the connection, the power demanded by the choreography, the push up from the ground to fly – Noa Wertheim and Adi Sha’al’s original duet “Vertigo” captures the essence of the partnership, dance company and community that has evolved from it. Winning the “Shades of Dance” competition in 1992, “Vertigo” became the couple’s calling card for years as they performed throughout the country, and ultimately the name of the dance company they established.
Wertheim and Sha’al, who have not danced professionally for the past ten years, returned to the stage with “Vertigo” at the request of Yair Vardi, Director of the Suzanne Dellal Centre as part of the “Shades of Dance” (Gvanim) Festival that took place March 18 – 21. Honoring the America-Israel Cultural Foundation, which supported the festival for many years, the program “Then and Now” featured excerpts from Vertigo, Liat Dror and Nir Ben Gal, Ronit Ziv and Barak Marshall with their award winning dances from previous years (Shades of Dance is no longer a competition) alongside current work.
Moments before the general rehearsal, Wertheim stood on the edge of the empty stage smiling and displaying her “trembling” hands to the company members and crew in the theater. Yet the creative energy of the duet was fully embodied in the joyous and powerful performance the couple delivered on opening night. The idea for “Vertigo” originated when Wertheim and Sha’al, young dancers taking their first choreographic steps, were talking in the car. Sha’al spoke of his experiences in pilot’s training in the Israeli army, his hand rising up from the steering wheel to arc through the air. Wertheim immediately felt that this was to be the core of the work – vertigo – the dizzy disorientation that pilots and divers may experience, as a metaphor for dance and relationships. According to Sha’al, Wertheim recalls that they created the duet together, but he feels that the division of labor between the two began very early on, saying, “I am more of the dramaturg.”
Modestly commenting on their performance in the festival, Sha’al says, “This excerpt is [physically] what we can do today, we can’t perform the whole piece.” He expresses no nostalgia for performing, having chosen to focus on their growing family, dance company and the eco-arts village they have established in the Elah valley at Kibbutz Netiv Ha Lamed Heh. Wertheim is still very much in the studio, as Sha’al says, “the choreography of Vertigo is very much from her body…she can wake up in the middle of the night with an idea or stand in line at the garage and think of a movement.”
The company dancers, who performed an excerpt from “White Noise”, display not only athletic and technical ability, but an expressiveness and maturity that lend a strong emotional impact to their stage presence. In their emphasis on relationships and continuity, Vertigo reaches out across generations with a dance school whose teachers are former members of the company who, according to Sha’al, “speak the language of Vertigo and embrace the spirit of generosity that we are trying to impart.” Vertigo’s latest adventure is the launching of Vertigo Two, their junior company which will premiere with choreography by the next generation of Vertigo creative artists.
Wertheim and Sha’al’s performance of their original duet inevitably leads to a discussion of older dancers with their unique and usually untapped potential. Sha’al says, “We are playing with the idea of Vertigo three, like NDT III, for dancers over forty. They have something to say. It doesn’t need to be a large company; you don’t need the same mass of people on the stage in order to create the power.”
Reflecting on the duet “Vertigo” he says, “It was created in such naiveté, without any knowledge, just working with our intuition. [we asked ourselves] What was so right there? What did our bodies know? Truth, there is truth there on the stage. An authentic moment – if you have that, the audience is with you.”
His advice to young choreographers – “Don’t fake it.”
For information on future Vertigo performances: www.vertigo.org.il