about Land-Research

 

Arkadi Zeides possesses the prestigious dowry of being a former dancer in the Bat Sheva Ensemble, one who has worked with Ohad Naharin and later in Yasmin Goder's ensemble. When a dancer with such a record achieves a point in life where he asks himself "what's next", looking for a new meaning to his work in dance, and is also willing to "unlearn" all that he has learned to make room for something new – there's a possibility to create something deep, direct, and intensely focused, with the body at its center.

Over the past few decades, the body has become the place where dance is written. Meaning, not a body telling a narrative with a libretto, and no longer a body at the service of the soul – but a body of bones, flesh, and blood, telling its tale. This is a body that is free of dance genre, free of movement phrases, free of rhythms, and is released of everything familiar, wishing to directly produce only what the body prescribes. In Zeides' work, the body screams with distress. His movement is not humane, is inattentive to the body's natural desires and proclivities, but is rather cruel, screaming. His solos are all characterized by a finely performed restlessness, and this restlessness projects the feeling of a search, with repetitive motions woven into the dance as a motif of refusal; the body's unwillingness to express itself "correctly".

Here the stage is like a laboratory, devoid of a set, with a fixed white light creating a gloomy and unchanging atmosphere. This is a monochromatic stage, where five dancers/performers go on stage, each with his/her own body's solo, wearing casual clothes in shades of black and white. Each solo is like an independent musical instrument, producing its own sound.

During their performance, some black and white photos are occasionally projected onto a panoramic screen: sometimes they are fields of arid land with a few surviving trees, or an industrial building, full of windows, with the appearance of a beehive or a prison. Sometimes the photo is of a sky dotted with black and white clouds, and in all the photos there is a wall – a wall that can be associated with our region, but also to other regions in the world. The photographs, which appear static, move within themselves so slowly it's hard to notice, and they are sometimes blurred and sometimes sharp, sometimes serving a background to the solos and sometimes coming closer and drawing attention. At some points the dancers stand and look into the distance, and though it appears that the movement the photographs each retain its own autonomy, there is a certain restrained dialogue between the two.

"Land-Research" is a fine work with an experimental nature; it's potent in its directness, with a monastic finery of taste. The distress projected by the body is simultaneously global and domestic. The performance demands intense observation, and is suitable for those who are looking for a different type of performance that is beyond the comfort of the pleasantly familiar.

by Ruth Eshel, Haaretz, August 2012


It's not easy to write a critique of a work such as "Land-Research" by Arkadi Zeides, brought to us in the framework of "Machol Lohet 2012" and performed in recent months in France, Germany, and Holland, in a joint Israeli-European collaboration.

On the surface, it appears to be a composition of five monologues of movement, "recited" by five performers who try to express their personal attitude to their land – national or private. One after the other, these monologues are performed by Yuli Kovbasnyan, Ofir Yudilevitch, Raida Adon, Asaf Aharonson, and Sva Li Levy.

Each monologue is an attempt to map the human body moving on the stage and within a visual framework created, in this piece, by a series of political "panoramic" photographs of the wall between Israel and Palestine, photographed by Yuval Tebol and designed for video by Daniel Landau.

Uninspired prophets of dance who cling to the curtails of artists like Zeides try to eliminate the presence of the body in movement. But Zeides acknowledges the existence of the body and uses it in his language in order to express an observation of the space in which we live. "We", meaning the five performers using the language of movement to express the here and now of Israeli life.

The movement is broken or thrown, or is reminiscent of a long lost childhood. Each performer "recites" his/her text at length, as if looking at an internal mirror, examining the reality into which it is recited, trying to decipher its crises, to mend tears and bridge gaps between itself and the larger body – the land on which he/she sits, rises, or falls.

This is a version in which Zeides, along with Anat Cederbaum, who guided and researched, and his excellent performers, provide an original dance interpretation of the lyrical idea "I have no other country" or the saying "man is born in the mold of his country". This is where the claim that with his body, man represents the land trapped within, is created. Movement tries to release and find the freedom for this land-body, and so Zeides disarms the body of the customary armor of dance, breaks the straight lines, sharpens angels on each of the five separate circles, and leaves only shades of grey.

Throughout the entire performance, there is none of the familiar colorfulness, not under the lights by Bruno Pocheron, and certainly not in Nadav Svetlov's costumes. Zeides asks the viewer to listen to the motion, to hear the silence, the breathing, and the rustle of movement, and even notice the subtle and elusive music by Tom Tlalim and Chen Wagner.

"Land-Research" is a discomfiting work of magnitude. One cannot like it or enjoy it. Arkadi Zeides poses difficulties, digs potholes. That is his duty as an artist. And ours, as viewers, is to experience it.  

by Zvi Goren, Habama, August 2012

 

 

In Land Research, Arkadi Zaides presents a stark landscape: images projected on a large screen at the back of a wide stage empty of all props, except a mic stand at the front left. Land Research was performed in Israel on July 30, 2012 as part of the Summerdance Festival at Suzanne Dellal in Tel Aviv, continuing his process of developing an artistic dialogue with artists from a variety of disciplines and backgrounds, into this landscape enter performers: dancer Yuli Kovbasnyan who immigrated alone to Israel from Russia in her teens, Ofir Yudilevitch, a dancer with an extensive background in acrobatics and Capoeira, Palestinian artist and actress Raida Adon, performer and video artist Sva Li-Levy, and dancer/acrobatics practitioner Asaf Aharonson.

In a movement language that is abstract, intensely physical and articulated in gestural detail, each gives voice to his or her personal relationship to the land and landscape – internal, external, conceptual, symbolic, physical, historical, textual, and emotional. Each presence is distinct, and deeply felt. The stage, free of objects, creates a space in which one can let things happen, and time itself seems to open up.

The work begins in silence, as the images on the screen give way to the work’s title – in English, Arabic and Hebrew, like the opening credits of a film. A woman, Yuli Kovbasnyan, walks onto the stage, and the quality of her movements, at first small and delicately nuanced, create tension and attention. Her eyes look out, wide and wondering, questioning, perhaps fearful. At one point her hands are held out in front of her body, palm up, fingers loosely open; at another juncture she is contorted on the floor, her arm bent behind her back.

There is a twisting asymmetry to Zaides’ movement language that intrigues me, a contrasting vocabulary of intensity and an open quality, tightly spiraling inward, moving light and loose across the stage, myriad articulations of the body and its infinite, surprising combinations – all charged with intention.

As they reveal themselves in movement, sound and image – I am curious to know more about these people, and the stories they tell. Ofir Yudilevitch shares the intimacy of his breath, creating a changing sound-scape as he moves through the space, and returns to the mic to make a record of this effort, sliding along the land, tearing through the air; moved by internal impulse, pulled by external forces, this heroic exhaustive effort of moving. Yuli, Ofir – each one in turn performs a solo, and then walks to the edges of the stage, sits and remains there for the duration of the work, in a position of observation or contemplation.

Raida Adon walks on and stands silent, immobile, facing the audience, dressed in black. Her presence is formidable, solemn. When she begins to move her arms, the movement has an almost ritual feel. Making large circles in the air, gathering momentum, she takes a journey through time, her feet moving in folk rhythms, she chants in Arabic, evoking the playful rhythms of childhood; then turns to more turbulent, tormented moments, before returning to the present moment: still, silent.

Sva Li-Levy enters talking – a riveting riff on the body, comic and captivating as he contorts into a pretzel of perpetual motion. The endless flow of clever associations relating the body and the subjective perception of one’s body – “I talk to my body…we have very good contact…I am very physical” – to contemporary culture – the technological ability to “look inside my body…see all the geological layers” – history and wild imaginings, integrated with the movement like the pieces of a puzzle, this brilliant performance introduced a delightful element to the work (and happily introduced me to a performer I had not yet encountered), the sense of surprise that there are yet so many different ways to approach a theme, so much yet to be discovered, experienced and savored.

Venturing deeper into this land, becoming acquainted with its people and their stories, I watched and listened with a sense of anticipation. A secret expectation filled me with mounting tension as I waited for the moment that would surely arrive. Five performers, each with a different body, story, voice and movement; each presented his or her personal perspective. When the fifth performer came onto the stage, I knew that one way or another, something must be resolved.

Asaf Aharonson walked on and almost immediately took to the ground, initiating a circular movement then rising, and covering his mouth with his arm. He spoke, yet I could not understand his words because his mouth remained covered. I watched him move – wandering through the space, arms flailing, head hidden in his arm, reaching the floor again to kneel forward in a prayer-like position – and still, I waited.

In Land Research, each performer is given the time and space to be seen and heard, yet each remains isolated within his or her own story. I waited for the moment when they would meet, the people who live their lives on this land. I waited for the moment will they would talk to one another; I waited for the moment when they would touch one another; I waited for the moment when the individual voices become a dialogue. And I am still waiting.

by Ayelet Dekel, Midnight East, August 2012

 

"Land – Research", Arkadi Zeides' new work, is an expression of the ongoing search for outlines. Five solos, performed one after the other, assemble the performers into a sort of "research group", or "search party". This calls to mind the presentation of figures and specialties in an elite group chosen for a noble cause. Their research is movement-based and philosophical, and is done with the precision, the intensity, and the importance of scientific research.

As the audience convenes in the hall, the piece opens with a video (by Daniel Landau) projected onto the back wall of the stage. The video presents a monochromatic urban scene, with yellow markings across its width, highlighting the outlines it creates between the group of buildings and the sky. This line exists solely in 2 dimensions (photography) and it seems to have been created by a person who thinks about the panorama and defines its boundaries. Zeides does not deal with an objective reality, but rather with the extraction of truths using an inquisitive gaze. By drawing the outlines, he diagnoses the panorama (projected throughout the entire performance as alternating still photographs) and the body (in the dancers' movements), constantly examining their potential relations.

In Yuli Kovbasnyan's virtuoso opening solo, the joints of the body (elbow, shoulder), are marked similarly to the way the building corners were highlighted in the preceding video. By marking the joints, imaginary lines connect them, and there is an enhancement of the shape of the body as one that can be drafted. Like the outline of a panorama, "cutting it" from the sky or the background (perspective), the marking of the joints sharpens the outline of the body and its separation from the space in which it moves. Simultaneously, Zeides' movements create the relation to the ground, and the body's desire to attach or detach itself from it. The underlying question raised is about the body's ability to connect or detach from the ground; essentially a political question. In the next solos also, the video projected in the background expressed the meta-theme: the space and panorama of the divided country, and the body moving in the space of the stage (the forefront of the video), in an examination of its relation with the ground beneath. The relations built between the moving body and the ground and the background, raise the question about relations between the individual, the land, and space (if you like, as axes of three dimensional relations).

In the second solo, performed by Ofir Yudilevitch, the breathing he records in the microphone at the front of the stage becomes the soundtrack for the movement. His live recorded breathing is rapid and anxious, prompting the physical search of the body which leaps and slides endlessly across the stage. Perhaps if the breathing were regular, the body could move securely across the ground, but the restless pace forces it to continue to search for a point of contact with the ground, one that will give peace. This search is pointless and has not conclusion – for now, it will continue forever.

The third solo, performed by Arab actress Raida Adon, comprises child-like skipping accompanied by her singing an Arab childhood song. Her skips are an attempt to extract some childhood levity or playfulness from the ground; a fluttering touch. The Arabic context and language are a clear opposition to these attempts, and enhance her futile, repetitive, and progress-free attempt, but one that knows no despair and continues stubbornly. The "music" of the fourth solo is the text recited by the dancer Sva Li Levy. The repetition and its rhythm grant this series of questions a comic nature of the type that is heart-wrenching and poignant, with the phrase "there is no nationality in my body" echoing as a paradox to the entire evening. The final solo, performed by Asaf Aharonson, is an epilogue to its predecessors. There is no new "trick" and its kinetic language contains, to an extent, some of the preceding solos. The viewer, called onto an ongoing search with the performers, can now sit back in his/her seat and consider the piece, moments before it evaporates, leaving behind a feeling of great difficulty.

What all the solos have in common is a lack of distress or helplessness. This is not a search immersed in suffering or pain, but rather in earnestness and intensity, severe diligence. The physical thought, in this case, is spiral and endless in nature. In this sense, although Zeides' work is intense and requires viewers to think and concentrate, there is a modicum of optimism, enabling the continue study of the land, postponing despair or doom, and earning some time.

In all the photos presented by Daniel Landau as a video background to the dance, or as the scenery in which it exists, concrete is manifested as material. The lines drawn at the beginning of the work continue to be perceived later by the viewer, who has already learned the technique. Now, in each photo, we immediately see the boundaries between building and sky, between the path and the trees that remain exposed beyond the concrete wall, etc. The marking of these boundaries is what defines space and who moves before or inside it. The connection Zeides proposes between the geographic and political space to that of the individual body, is one that is inseparable. Meaning, the templates created or discovered in the scenery, are a reflection of the human body creating them, as a political action. Form has a meaning, and it is undoubtedly loaded with ideology. Zeides presents political dance at its best.  

by Dana Shalev, 2ed Opinion, August 2012

 

Choreographer Arkadi Zaides gathered five solo pieces into a sort of parting hymn from Israel. Zaides' works have a precise and subtle sound in a world of noise. In his new work, "Land-Research", Zaides deals with the ideological formation of the body by its surroundings. The work, which uses the architectural nature of the place and its substance, manages to retain a very precise frequency and becomes a parting hymn, a secular requiem, to this country.

"Land-Research" presents five consecutive solos, with each of the dancers in a restricted physical situation in search of salvation. Zaides places and connects hi performers in a manner that creates stories, absurd routines, truths, and perhaps most of all – the common hunger for transformation. On stage is a panoramic photograph of a local landscape. The dismantled wall of separation we can see immediately creates a concrete space for the dancing body.

Yuli Kovbasnyan moves, and every time she lies down, her body is a reminder of the flat concrete plates comprising the wall. In Ofir Yudilevitch's solo, there is an accumulative movement that doesn't stop. His body is repeatedly flung, tormented, to the floor, and each time he records his own breathing. Raida Adon sings a children's song in Arabic. Every time she stops singing, it seems that she loses something and has to continue from another place. Eventually her body becomes a stain, retaining the struggle between the internal and the external. Sva Li Levy talks with his body, everything is tense and vulnerable, and every moment that body is obliterated and is reborn. Asaf Aharonson redefines balance, but by this time the viewer is so overwhelmed that he cannot take it in.

This is not a piece that is easy to like or embrace. After the external and internal eyes compose the complex picture, it's hard to live with it when you see up close how people live here, in this place. How each person wants to get out of their bodies into the light or dark, through a constrained, teeth-grinding tension. Because no matter what they or we do, nobody here can rescue themselves from the country.  

by Anat Zeharia, Yediot Aharonot, August 2012