(photo credit: Courtesy)
Independent choreographer Yasmeen Godder is well placed to reflect upon the propensity of modern dance to shock, an inclination that prompted the focus of her latest creation, I'm Mean I Am.
Godder, 33, has enjoyed a prominent career both at home and on an international scale, one highlights being the receipt, in 2001, of New York's prestigious Bessie Award for I Feel Funny Today, her depiction of the complexities of male-female relationships.
"I'm Mean I Am depicts a creation process which, as a result of the director's obsession with pushing the boundaries of his art, degenerates into bizarre, larger-than-life gestures and actions, some of which are quite sinister and create the impression of a cheap, gimmick-ridden horror film," explains Godder of her work, a collaboration with Berlin's Hebbel am Ufer theater, where it received its premiere in 2006. "There's definitely a somewhat egotistically-triggered tendency among choreographers to attempt to produce 'bigger and better' results than their contemporaries, to push their dancers harder so as to comply with the archetype role of "mean producer."
The piece is one of four by Godder featured as part of Home Field, a five-day celebration of the artist's work, beginning Saturday, September 15, at Tel Aviv's Suzanne Dellal Center, to mark her latest milestone; the recent establishment of the Yasmeen Godder Dance Studio in her native Jaffa.
"After having rented temporary rehearsal space for much of my working life, it's exciting to finally have somewhere permanent to create and teach," says Godder enthusiastically of her new surroundings, which will also feature classes for professional dancers.
The timing, according to Godder, is therefore ideal for a retrospective celebration of her accomplishments thus far. "Other than I'm Mean I Am the pieces are all from the relatively early days of my repertoire, some eight years ago, and haven't been performed recently," she explains. "I want to provide insight into where I've come from and my process of creative development."
The artist's personal highlight, she divulges, will be the performance of Sudden Birds, a 2002 creation examining the relationship between two women, which was recently resurrected at the request of a Hungarian colleague. "For various reasons, among them the financial difficulty of maintaining it, I'd rarely performed Sudden Birds, since its initial season, despite it's being a particular favorite of mine, but those constraints are less pertinent" now that she has her own studio.
"It's a very tactile piece which tests the physical (and emotional) boundaries of female relationships," is how Godder explains Sudden Birds. "In it, two dancers depict two women who both have rich internal lives that are in turn represented by two more dancers, attempting to define their relationship and their sense of selves in relation to this bond. The four dancers appear entangled in a repetitive configuration which is at times both comforting and suffocating."
The prize-winning I Feel Funny Today and Alina's Wall, a poignant portrayal of the power of suppressed memories to dominate and eventually crush those they inhabit, will also be staged.
Alongside Godder's creations, the event also showcases works by three additional artists. Musician Avi Belili, whose composition featured in Godder's famous 2004 piece Strawberry Cream and Gunpowder, stages a musical and visual creation based on its soundtrack, while Godder's former costume designer Alonah Rodah presents a sound installation. Dancer turned choreographic photographer Tamar Lamm's Archive exhibit, featuring images of Godder at work ,will be on display in the theater lobby. Guests can also enjoy post-performance discussions and beginners dance lessons.
Tickets cost NIS 90 for one performance, NIS 70 each for two and NIS 50 each for three. Call (03) 510-5656.