Gvanim 2013: Adi Boutrous Embracing Contradictions

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Dancer/choreographer Adi Boutrous embraces and embodies contradictions in his work and life, bringing both together onstage in a dance that is at once poetic, deeply aesthetic, intensely personal, sensual, political and thought-provoking. Adi is one of six emerging choreographers selected to present their work in the Gvanim 2013 competition, under the artistic direction of Idit Herman. “Ma SheBe’emet Margiz Oti” (What Really Makes Me Mad), a duet performed by Adi Boutrous and Stav Struz (partners onstage and off), will premiere on August 29, 2013 at Suzanne Dellal, with repeat performances on August 30 and 31st. Smiling and soft-spoken, Adi shared his thoughts on dance, life and “What Really Makes Me Mad” with Midnight East.

Gvanim 2013: Adi Boutrous with Stav Struz/Photo: Gadi Dagon
Gvanim 2013: Adi Boutrous with Stav Struz/Photo: Gadi Dagon

“We live in a place that has what is perhaps the greatest conflict in the world… I don’t know, maybe not the largest, but the most problematic. It has no resolution…at this time. I think it’s one of the most complicated conflicts in history, and for us to live here, in the State of Israel, an Arab with a Jew – however you look at it, however you turn it over in your mind, there is hostility, and there are things about it that get to you, and it’s not always comfortable,” Adi said, in what might just be the understatement of the year.

The duet he has choreographed for Gvanim focuses on his relationship with Stav and the difficulties they contend with, coming from very different cultural backgrounds, and experiencing the pressures – internal and external, of a romantic relationship that some might consider taboo. It’s a story of star-crossed lovers par excellence, yet with a twist. Imagine Romeo and Juliet taking charge of their own story, perhaps there might have been a different denouement. If you are expecting a theatrical drama –  think again. “What Really Makes Me Mad” is a very visually appealing, sensual work that verges on the abstract, yet communicates with immediacy and emotional impact.

While putting your private life onstage might seem to be an unusual choice, for someone who lives in movement and choreography, exploring life and its conflicts through dance is a natural choice. “I’ve been about movement ever since I can remember,” said Adi, who has been dancing and performing since he was a child, starting at age seven with gymnastics, then soon moving on to break-dance and hip hop at age 10, performing on weekends at the Forum Club in a troupe of 5 dancers. Growing up in Beer Sheva, the ballet studio “Bat Dor was next door,” but he never gave much thought to ballet or modern dance and as for becoming a professional dancer, he said, “It was never my dream.”

“When I turned 18,” Adi said, “it was obvious that I would move to Tel Aviv,” and that is where he began to take a different path in dance. A hip hop class at Studio B turned into a work gig in Cypress in an entertainment troupe, where he began to hear terms like “jeté” tossed about. “I saw that my body could do other things as well,” he recalled, “things that were interesting that I had not yet attempted.” Enrolling in a modern dance class for the first time ever upon his return to Tel Aviv, after the third lesson, his teacher Roni B called him aside and told him that he must enroll in the dance program at Ga’aton, home of the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company. Contemporary concert dance differs enormously from break-dance and hip hop. Beginning to study ballet and modern dance as an adult, Adi had the advantage of flexibility and strength from his years of experience, yet had to re-train his body, as he said, “to cleanse it of mannerisms.”

“Imagine me, at age 19, taking my first ballet lesson,” said Adi, “imagine how I looked. They stood me at the bar and had me doing all kinds of strange things. It was a shock.” Yet by the end of his first year at Ga’aton, director Einav Levy recognized his potential and suggested that Adi audition for the Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance. He suddenly found himself in a group of 13 young men in impeccable black and white, who had been training for this moment for years. Facing the admissions panel, who sat observing in silence and didn’t say a word to him was intimidating, but to his elation, he was accepted. Then came the blunt reality: despite the efforts of his family to help out, he finally had to concede that there was no way he could possibly afford the yearly tuition (which was at the time 13,500 ₤).

“I didn’t know where to go,” Adi recalled. Yet, by that time, he knew which direction he wanted to take in dance. Yet another landmark in his training came when he took a summer class at Suzanne Dellal, studying with Barak Marshall and Naomi Perlov. He then participated in ‘Maslool’ professional dance program at Bikurey Ha’Itim, graduating a year ago.

Adi has been out of school for a year now, and it’s been quite a year! He has worked with several contemporary Israeli choreographers including performances in Dana Ruttenberg’s Armed at the 2012 Curtain Up Festival, in the new cast of Iris Erez’s Homesick, Bosmat Nossan’s MISFITS, and Hillel Kogan’s Loving Arabs, as well as performing his own choreography in a solo for Mahol Aher in the summer of 2012.

Adi, who will turn 24 in November, has traversed a great distance in a short time, in both his professional and personal life. In terms of dance, transitioning from hip hop to contemporary dance, he seems to be coming to another turn of the spiral. “Hip hop is very chill, looking down,” he said, “and training as a professional dancer you’re taught to be very present, juicy. It was hard to get rid of …but now I feel that I can take some of that hip hop chill back. Working with Iris Erez shook me up in terms of how I look at dance… you don’t need to be ‘out there’ all the time, you can be more inside yourself, you don’t have to ‘perform’ all the time.”

Gvanim 2013: Adi Boutrous - transforming the private into a collective experience through symbolic ritual
Gvanim 2013: Adi Boutrous – transforming the private into a collective experience through symbolic ritual

In his personal life, the past year has brought an intimate relationship with Stav Struz, a dancer in the Inbal Pinto Avshalom Pollak Dance Company, formerly with the Batsheva Ensemble. While the two share a love of dance and movement, they come from very different worlds. Adi’s upbringing in an Arab Christian family in Beer Sheva emphasized traditional values of family and respect, and he cites his home and family as a strong influence to this day; while Stav grew up in Jerusalem between two worlds – her father is an Orthodox Jew, while Adi described her mother as “very free, a hardcore atheist.” Reconciling their different backgrounds, values and influences is far from easy, and it cannot be denied, they must also contend with the surrounding environment and issues of prejudice, even within the liberal Tel Aviv bubble. For these star-crossed lovers, the way to resolve the crisis in their relationship is through art.

“I wanted to put it on the stage so that I could observe it, examine it, and overcome it through the medium of the stage,” said Adi, “onstage I am interested in seeing the person and not the dancer, the essence of the person.”

Having seen the duet in rehearsal, Adi has choreographed a dance that navigates the treacherous abyss between life and art with grace, creating a symbolic visual and physical language that transforms the private into a collective experience. He credits Idit Herman’s artistic guidance, as having “helped a great deal. She told me to make it simple, and not too abstract.”

How did his partner take to the idea of putting their personal struggles onstage?

“She was very happy,” said Adi, “it interested her to deal with the Arab/Jewish issue…I thought it would be the most healthy and good to solve this crisis, to touch it, and that the right way would be to do it with Stav. She is in this state of mind too, she experienced it with me, she is there.”

Performances of “Ma She Be’emet Margiz Oti” (What Really Makes Me Mad) will take place on August 29th at 22:00, August 30th at 14:00, and August 31 at 21:00, as part of Gvanim Program Bet.

Tickets for the competition are 65 NIS for each program, a combined ticket for program Aleph + Bet may be purchased for 110 NIS. Opening night will take place at Suzanne Dellal on August 28th at 21:00. Tickets are 95 NIS. Tickets may be reserved online, or call: 03-5105656.

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