Brothers in arms: We do not torture people
When the lights go up on Noa Shadur’s work, regardless of which piece is being shown, it is clear within seconds who the choreographer is.
Noa Shadur Photo: Tammi Weiss
When the lights go up on Noa Shadur’s work, regardless of which piece is being
shown, it is clear within seconds who the choreographer is. Though she is at the
beginning of her career, Shadur embodies a certain visual clarity rare to
dance-makers of her generation.
The movement is sharp with Fosse-esque
overtones, the music fluid with the occasional electronic spike and the visuals
clean and concise.
Her newest work, We Do Not Torture People will premier
this weekend at the Suzanne Dellal Center as part of the highly anticipated
Curtain Up Festival. For the past 23 years, this event has annually offered a
handful of emerging choreographers an opportunity to create a new piece with the
artistic guidance of one or more directors.
Shadur is a veteran of
Curtain Up, having presented the duet Into The Night as part of the celebratory
20th anniversary program in 2009. This year, the Ministry of Culture and Sport
took on two artistic directors for the festival, Ronit Ziv and Yoram
The choreographers were each given a rough time limit and were
challenged to fulfill their vision. For the past six months, Ziv, who was
charged with curating two evenings for this year’s program, has mentored
“I loved working with Ronit,” said Shadur in a recent interview
over coffee in Tel Aviv. “Every time she came to watch she had an important
insight. She really believed in the piece from the very beginning.”
Shadur, Ziv had just as many kind words to impart to the press at a presentation
leading up to the opening of the festival.
“Noa’s work is political
commentary,” said Ziv. “She has a very engaging way of doing things. I remember,
right at the beginning, we had a meeting and Noa pulled out this old photo from
a youth movement or some teen group making a Star of David with their bodies.
She told me that, basically, that was what the piece was about.”
image, a photo taken in 1946 in Palestine, was one piece of the puzzle that
propelled Shadur throughout her process.
“I was drawn to the notion that
these people were inside a world where they stood behind a certain symbol, no
matter what. There was also something about the way these teens held their arms
up in the star that looked like weaponry. I got very interested in the beliefs
of this particular time period in history and the undoing of those beliefs,” she
explained. “I referenced Zionist and Communist symbols.”
the young men in the postcard, Shadur wanted to assemble an all-male cast.
However, as she began to work, the need for women in the studio became
undeniable. After a bit of shuffling, Shadur alighted upon the optimal cast,
comprised of Almog Loven, Einat Betsalel and Or Hakim.
Dressed in denim
shorts and work shirts, the three dancers look like they have been transported
from the fields onto the stage. However, their effortless, striking movements
betray the old fashioned aesthetic created by their clothing, creating poignant
juxtaposition between the then and the now.
Much like in Shadur’s
previous works, Calypso and Into the Night, no step is taken for granted in We
Do Not Torture People. A fan of subtlety, Shadur’s dances are chock-a-block with
minimalist gestures. The dancers move between mechanical, repetitive phrases and
sweeping, physical interludes.
“As I started to create, the idea of
soldiers came into my mind. I didn’t really want to get into the army as a
subject but I see now that some kind of technical or robotic element did enter
the piece,” she said.
Another theme in this work is the oppression of
sexuality and of women. Loven, the lone man, seems to bear a certain
responsibility over the women.
Instructing them like a camp counselor,
Loven moves between the two powerful ladies, keeping each in check, guiding them
away from the explosion that seems imminent.
“Maybe Almog represents me.
I didn’t want to let sexuality play a part in this piece. I wanted them to be
unisex, which is why they are dressed the same. However, within that dress code,
there is this femininity that shines through,” said Shadur. “Throughout the
entire process, I paid very close attention to the power dynamic between the
three of them. In the end, Almog is the one who rebels against their common
cause, leaving the women to serve it themselves.”
original score makes We Do Not Torture People feel like one cohesive thought.
The music makes no sudden movements, keeping a steady rhythm and flow throughout
The name for the piece is a memento for Shadur of another piece
of her inspiration puzzle.
“I was watching a documentary about the Black
Water Militia in the United States,” she explained.
“And one of the
leaders was interviewed about their activities. This is an independent, armed
organization and they are very serious. This man said ‘We do not torture
people,’ as a kind of disclaimer. Something about that line really resonated
with me. I think this piece speaks of a type of systematic torture and of the
little tortures between people.”
We Do Not Torture People will be
presented as part of Curtain 4 on November 23 at the Suzanne Dellal Center and
on November 26 at the Jerusalem Theater. For more information, visit