A man encased in a white protective suit comes out carrying a notebook, but he is not a scientist or lab technician, he is a dancer. As the music begins, a heart-rending Russian love song, he takes out a vacuum cleaner with an almost impossibly long blood red hose, and begins to vacuum the stage. Loudly. It’s a funny moment, with a strong visual presence generating associations that shoot out like vectors in different directions – the conflict between art and science, references to the Cold War and nuclear arms race, a comic commentary on science and technology. It’s all this and more.
Once the vacuuming is done, the music stops too and the guy walks over to the elevator at the rear of the stage, presses the button – and Particle Accelerator, Yoram Karmi’s new work really goes into motion, living up to its name with an amazing high-energy performance by the Fresco Dance Company.
In contemporary culture, almost everyone has at least a rudimentary notion of what a particle accelerator does (very rudimentary: it makes subatomic particles move really fast) – and that is, at least in part, the concept behind the dance – the influence of science and technology on every aspect of life. At times the work itself is like a particle accelerator, in which the dancers move, collide and are transformed by the interaction. The precision, beauty, power and velocity of the company’s ensemble work are breath-taking, with the duets and solos revealing the expressive depth that takes this work beyond any simple summation. A conversation with Yoram Karmi, artistic director and founder of Fresco, reveals that the choreographer, much as the scientist, is involved in a constant process of questioning, research and experimentation.
“We are living in a technological world, there is no alternative. I would appear to have a lot of leisure time, but I don’t have a minute to spare. My photograph is accessible to anyone at any moment of the day. This dance investigates human life in the 21st century – where will it lead? There is a lot of movement in it [the term particle accelerator] and that is what turned me on,” says Karmi.
The metaphor of the particle accelerator is reflected in the movement, as Karmi relates, “The story of particle accelerator is in the details of the relationships between the dancers onstage, the relationships between their bodies and the space. There are sudden sharp transitions in style which reflect different physical states. Touch, like a collision, can create change within the dance.”
Karmi’s approach to the contemporary technological environment is imaginative, and does not rely on simple equations or oppositions. “There is an apparent conflict between romance and science,” he notes, “but today all romance is found through only through science. Everyone looks for partners on the internet – they don’t think of it as science, but it is.” From Karmi’s perspective, the technological environment “becomes internalized and takes on a life of its own and the character emerges. The lab is a kind of habitat. Suddenly the elevator [used in several scenes to different effect] is no longer threatening, it’s a place where you can fool around and have a love duet.” This thought leads him to further question, “Where does your privacy take place? In an elevator, a cube in which their movement is confined…the couple needs to create a kind of intimacy under the fluorescent lights…Can there be romance in this situation?”
For Karmi, the questions arising from the daily interaction with scientific and technological innovations and the ensuing transformations do not have simple answers: “There is no happy end, there is no Hollywood story.” He envisions a process of constant movement, change, and interaction between people and their environment, saying, “You should just simply be. Inside the cube things can happen, the android can fall in love…the end of the dance is a replica of the same reality but with a warmer feel.” The man in the white suit returns to the scene, but he too has changed in the course of the work. Karmi muses, “Maybe in the sequel he will fall in love with a girl in pink…”
Yet for Karmi, there is one immutable, central belief: “Dance first. I fully believe that I can say everything I want to say without saying a word.” If Karmi’s statement is the hypothesis – Particle Accelerator is the proof.
Particle Accelerator will be performed:
Friday, March 26 at 14:00 and 22:00 and Saturday, March 27 at 21:00
Suzanne Dellal Centre, 5 Yehiely Street, Neve Tzedek, Tel Aviv
A preview of Particle Accelerator on youtube, directed and edited by Sascha Engel, camera Seffy Hirsch: