Noa Shadur: Shifters/We Do Not Torture People

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Noa Shadur’s Shifters held its world premiere at the Tmuna Theatre’s October Festival, in an evening composed of two works: Shifters, a duet for two male dancers; and We Do Not Torture People, which premiered in Curtain Up 2012, and recently won first prize in the 2013 No Ballet Choreography Competition, Ludwigshafen, Germany.

Adi Boutrous and Almog Loven in Shifters by Noa Shadur/Photo: Luiz Green
Adi Boutrous and Almog Loven in Shifters by Noa Shadur/Photo: Luiz Green

Shadur’s work often explores harsh and difficult themes, yet it is profoundly aesthetic. Her movement language reflects a deep involvement and research, resulting in a physical expression of the concept that feels very natural and intuitive. Shifters is marked by a stark simplicity and powerful impact, performed by two dancers – Adi Boutrous and Almog Loven – with expressive depth to their movement, and a strong presence. They stand on the white floor of an empty stage. Dressed in street clothes, Almog, in a white shirt and dark pants, stands near one side of the stage, his back to the audience. Adi, the white collar of his shirt resting on a dark sweater, stands in profile, a few feet away from Almog.

Adi almost casually begins to turn his head toward the audience, his face is solemn, piercing the audience with his gaze, then his entire body bends and twists to the side and returns sharply to his original stance in the blink of an eye. The movement is repeated, all this while the other dancer, Almog, remains standing, his back to the audience. There is a beginning, a suggestion of movement, a barely perceptible half turn of the head, a movement of the arms, but Almog remains in the same position. Adi moves towards him, his arms reach out, but he does not approach Almog. The sound rises from a soft rumbling, becomes louder, and Adi’s movements, sharp and articulate, become faster. Almog moves into a back bend, his head back, arms wide open, his whole body beseeching, asking for something.

Shifters by Noa Shadur/Photo: Luiz Green
Shifters by Noa Shadur/Photo: Luiz Green

As Shifters moves into full force, the two dancers reveal movement that is at times reminiscent of martial arts, yet rich in nuanced shadings. Subtle gestures, such as the way the fingers of the hand are articulated, form a distinct language for this work. Original music by Shahar Amarillio is an integral part of the work, an internal engine that powers the movement, and the suspense.

The dancers are suspended in this space, which, with its lack of set or props, feels almost infinite. It is a very abstract work, yet resonant with emotion. As they dance, each on a different, individual path, the dancers are very aware of one another. Yet they do not meet or touch. The philosopher Suzanne Langer writes about the “invisible forces” created within dance; in Shifters I felt that these forces were being made visible in that space between the dancers.

There is a muscular physicality to the work, fast, visceral motion that utilizes not only the full expanse of the stage, but the vertical space as they leap or slide onto the floor. Yet within this vocabulary of large movements, there is an enigmatic motif of gaze and beseeching arms – it is as if the movement on the stage were a quest of sorts, seeking for something unnamed. The tension created in this space is mesmerizing, and the two dancers spin the suspense within their body, gaze and movements as the anticipation builds and within the music there grows a beat, a pulse.

Almog Loven and Adi Boutrous in Shifters by Noa Shadur/Photo: Luiz Green
Almog Loven and Adi Boutrous in Shifters by Noa Shadur/Photo: Luiz Green

Yet when it happens, it feels startling, sudden, and rather than provide a sense of resolution, everything becomes even more intense. Bracing against one another, then circling. There is a violence in these encounters. They come together in a warrior’s embrace, looking outward, where danger lies, together, yet so alone.

Shifters makes an excellent companion piece for We Do Not Torture People. There is something very delicate in this work, whose movement draws on military tropes, depicting at once the fragile human and the crushing force of the military machine. It begins on tip toe, as Almog Loven walks back and forth across the width of the stage, arms locked in a formal position, as if holding an invisible weapon. Two female dancers – Einat Betzalel and Or Hakim – stand at the two corners at the front of the stage, all are dressed in worker-blue shirts and shorts, the women’s face adorned with the slightest suggestion of camouflage makeup. One image in particular stands out in my mind: Einat clamps her foot on Almog’s chest, while Or holds his neck from behind, in a gesture that is at once tender and terrifying, revealing a disturbing affinity between the two.  Raised fists, marching moves and monumental poses of victory and domination establish a physical language that is at once seductive and menacing.

Almog Loven and Einat Betzalel in We Do Not Torture People by Noa Shadur/Photo: Tami Weiss
Almog Loven and Einat Betzalel in We Do Not Torture People by Noa Shadur/Photo: Tami Weiss

Shifters
Choreography: Noa Shadur; Performers and co-creators: Adi Boutrous, Almog Loven; Original music: Shahar Amarilio; Costume design: Doron Ashkenazi; Rehearsal manager: Iris Marko; Production and assistant choreographer: Roy Bedarshi; Lighting design: Amir Castro.

We Do Not Torture People
Choreography: Noa Shadur; Performers and co-creators: Almog Loven, Or Hakim, Einat Betzalel; Original music: Shahar Amarilio; Rehearsal manager: Iris Marko; Costumes and styling: Tanya and Joanna Jones; Original lighting design: Dani Fishof; Production and assistant choreographer: Roy Bedarshi; Artistic direction Curtain Up 2012: Ronit Ziv.