Tal Levin on Demonstrate Restraint, Haaretz

Tal Levin

A Movement Language Unlike Any Other


Yasmeen Godder’s presence in her new work “Demonstrate Restraint” is nothing short of mesmerizing. It stands next to several other shows that premiered this year, and that placed the “older” female body in center stage.

In May 2013 choreographer Yasmeen Godder took to the stage with two colleagues/artists, Dalia Chamsky and Shuli Enosh in the piece “See Her Change”. They examined the boundaries of the female body, whether it was the women themselves who determined them or rather their onlookers. The show emphasized two principal themes that cut across Godder’s works in the past decade. The first is that the body in general and in particular the female body, is in itself the discourse about it and that it gets its meaning and interpretation from a series of social and cultural images. The second theme is Godder’s inquisitive nature that touches not only on the body as an object, but on movement as a whole.

On paper, Godder’s new work “Demonstrate Restraint”, which will premiere this weekend at Jaffa’s “House Theater” contains both those features. It’s a duet between Godder and musician co-creator Tomer Damsky. Other than movement the show includes live music played on a computer, sculptures and texts. The program states that the two performers “contain, represent and deconstruct images, words, sounds and symbols relevant to local political representation. This charged, contrived and explosive content gets blended anew through a myriad of stage concepts and with uncompromising execution, it shifts between the need to express, to protest and the external and self-silencing mechanism.” Therefore, on the one hand, it deals with the political aspects of discourse and how it shapes our lives. On the other hand, it depicts the female body as a crossroads wherein this discourse intersects, into which and out of which the body reacts and consolidates.

The show begins with Godder and Damsky’s energetic entrance, then positioning themselves on both sides of a large drum. They start drumming vigorously, like soldiers in an army about to head to war. They let out screams and battle cries, but such that have been ridiculed, as if they were displaced of their natural environment and became a sound sample. This technique of displacing sound and reassembling it, repeats throughout the show. In one scene, Godder records herself in a variety of weird sounds and squeaks, placing the recording devices next to each other to create a cacophonous choir. Who is it speaking out of these tape recorders? How do the sounds we produce so quickly become external echoes that order us on how to move, as it were, on how to live our lives? Godder is obsessed with this question throughout the show, and so at a certain point, she starts asking the audience what thoughts her gestures conjure? What images? As if the show were a Facebook/Instagram feed one must constantly update on the one hand and get feedback on the other. In the meantime, Damsky uses the audience’s words and images and infuses them as text into the soundtrack playing in the background.

Her presence on stage in this work is nothing short of mesmerizing, and it renders the theoretical or political discourse into a concrete, present, live, painful one. We also get the chance to watch Godder dance, really dance, with all the marks of age and time, that presumably ought to be concealed on stage when it comes to women dancing, and her dance is filled with strength, pain and desire. It’s not only a glimpse onto her body but rather her body of work the creativity that flows out of her body. In comparison, it’s as if we could observe a painter’s brush strokes rather than the finished painting. How powerful and delicate she is when she moves, in a sort of indistinguishable language of movement, that resembles nothing. There are no gestures one might attribute to Godder in particular or some reoccurring theme. And yet, the movement in “Demonstrate Restraint” doesn’t seem improvised (unlike some of Godder’s other works) or scattered, but instead thoughtful and intentional.

With this work, Godder joins several other shows that premiered this year and place the “older” female body (Godder is 45, and so the title “older” in this respect is dodgy) in center stage: Galit Liss, who has been exploring the issue for quite a few years now and reached a creative peak with this year’s “Go” featuring older women. Also, Noa Dar’s touching piece “NoaNoa”, which marked the return of the choreographer, now in her fifties, to the stage.

This may be a response to the #MeToo campaign, that brought to the surface not only the issue of sexual assault and harassment but also the presence of the female body, warts and all, into the public sphere. It’s possible that the violent atmosphere regarding culture in Israel has spurred the need to shout sans barriers or mediators. Either way, these are inspirational works that allow us the opportunity to watch these women move.