Yasmeen Godder’s New Piece: A Simple, Yet So Significant, Action.
The notion of engaging the audience in dance isn’t a new one, but choreographer Yasmeen Godder creates magical moments with the simple means of a single action.
Nothing could have prepared me for Yasmeen Godder’s concoction of “A Simple Action”. Waiting to go inside the studio where it had taken place none of us was given a program to browse. The audience sat down in a large circle. The studio was transformed into a tent of sorts. A canopy hanging from the ceiling, designed by Gili Avissar, created an intimate space. It was made of large interwoven cloths that seemed to be earthy-white parachutes, neither opaque nor transparent, yet it allowed the light from the lightbulbs hanging from the ceiling softly penetrate through.
In her previous work, “Common Emotions”, Godder invited audience members to come on stage, instructing them what to do and placing them behind a curtain, also designed by Avissar. This time, Godder took a step further, forwent the stage and any convoluted choreography for dancers to perform. She scaled down to one simple action performed by couples made of one dancer and one audience member, men and women. The piece began when a dancer exuding human warmth, started inviting either a man or a woman from the audience. He led the person to the center of the studio and asked him or her to trust him, to encumber him with the full weight of their body. The dancer embraced the person, then ever so slowly, in the most heart-rending caution laid them down on the floor. It seems as if the dancers had been through intense training to properly use force and maintain balance so that their movement is seamless, and the person would appear to melt down to the floor. Later, the dancer sits next to the person, as if to guard them, listening to their breath. Moments later, on will, the person lying down gets up and goes back to his or her place.
Throughout the show, each couple behaved differently. Each person’s weight and the way they surrendered themselves to their dancer created different variations. It appears there’s a general outline, but what first and foremost dictates the progression of the show is the time it takes to get from standing up to lying down. Everyone who came to the show participated in it. Sometimes the roles would switch, and the dancer was to the one to surrender to the audience member.
All this was accompanied by the breathtaking live singing of Tomer Damsky, who also played the Shruti box, an Indian instrument. She stretched some of her vowels to the max, as much as her breath would allow, and they were rich in melodiousness and frequencies. It sounded like Tibetan singing and even resembled that of Meredith Monk. When it was mentioned that Damsky religiously sang all the words to ‘Stabat Mater’, every element of the piece came together to create one unified “Pieta” in which Maria lifts her son down from the cross. The simple action of surrendering oneself turned into variations of the “Pieta” by all dancers and audience members. The material hanging above with the soft light peering through it turned into a vitrage, perhaps that of a church.
This is no ordinary performance, but an event that provides an experience. To be fully involved in such a simple, yet significant action, to rely on and surrender to someone else. To utterly shed one’s body of responsibility and give in to the experience. When the singing stopped the 50-minute ceremony was over. There was a long, quiet pause that lasted for minutes on end as if everyone, dancers and audience alike, needed time to snap out of the quasi-meditative state and get back to reality. The notion of engaging the audience in dance isn’t a new one, but here, with such simple means of a single action, Godder creates truly magical moments.
A Simple Action by Yasmeen Godder. Singing: Tomer Damsky; Set Design: Gili Avissar; Lighting Design: Omer Sheizaf; Dancers: Ayala Frenkel, Dor Frank, Shuli Enosh, Ari Teperberg, Edu Turull, Tal Adler.