Yasmeen Godder’s latest works make a shift in the active dancers/passive audience dynamic. In them, she transfers some of the power and initiative of the piece to the audience, but for her, as always, the true hero is the human body.
The work “Simple Action” was inspired by the 13th century Catholic Hymn ‘Stabat Mater’, depicting the moments when Miriam, mother of Christ, stands next to Jesus’ cross watching his anguish.
Inside a cloth-covered canopy, the six dancers invite the spectators to take part in a series of seemingly simple actions. Each time, one of the dancers approaches someone in the group of approximately 40 spectators and invites him or her to join him at the center of the room. Together, couples of all ages and types duplicate time and again mirror exercises of trust and submission, all in various balance, cuddling and yielding techniques. It’s like observing a complete archive of surrender and submission that at first seems detached of reason and circumstance.
Ever so slowly, an expectation for something to occur grows, there’s an air of anticipation to an event, drama or a resolution. And gradually, what started out as a handshake, a little smile, turns into a ritual wherein dancer and spectator repeatedly reenact the minimalist construction of the Pieta scene, Christianity’s ultimate motif of Maria cradling Jesus, her dead son, after lifting him down from the cross. It’s the accumulation of touching mise-en-scenes by characters frozen amid a self-absorbed human action. It’s more interesting to consider this action as one element within a full sequence that produces an accumulative assertion, than as a singular moment in time. Tomer Damsky’s musical accompaniment, singing and playing the Shruti box (an Indian instrument) creates a rough surface and the top sounds, a moment before we get the feeling that this is a space of pure abuse, scratch and penetrate us like something that has been suppressed and now involuntarily rises to the surface.
The beautiful thing here is that it all happens out of authentic dynamics rather than complete control of the situation with zero risks. And yet, Godder ought to beware people’s surprising willingness to follow orders given an authoritative figure bossing them around. Their obedience level rises in vague, alien situations and with the absence of personal responsibility, they are devoid any sense of criticism. She ought to steer clear of works that resemble such guru cult simulations that encourage the participants’ herd-like, non-critical worshiping behavior in a process that is almost parodic.
Godder, utilizing her judgment and sense of aesthetics, expects her audience to experience her art through the same a-materialistic prism of direct body-art as a substitute for immeasurable, unexchangeable emotions and consciousness. She creates an artificial witchcraft-inducing bubble, and through multiplication of the same thing, establishes a complete extravaganza of submission. And for those among us who are willing, she offers a sort of rewarding universe imbued with the sadness of ghostly spectacles.
“Simple Action” by Godder, one of Israeli dance’s most original choreographers, is yet another ongoing journey that refuses to arrive at a safe harbor. It’s romance in its most profound and humane sense, accompanied by an ever-present shrewd smile, that lifts the spirits of all those on board for the ride.