In a trance

Celebrated French choreographer David Wampach continues his exploration of trance states as he presents three works as part of the Diver Festival in Tel Aviv.

September 7, 2015 20:07
4 minute read.

‘SACRE’ by David Wampach. (photo credit: VALERIE ARCENO)

‘You do not lose consciousness when ‘in trance.’ At all times you are fully aware of where you are and what you are doing.

The hypnotic trance itself is similar to what you experience when you are in a daydream, when you are wonderfully absorbed in your own thoughts and ideas,” wrote Steven and Joy Gurgevich in their 2009 book The Self Hypnosis Diet.

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After years exploring various paths in and out of trances, choreographer David Wampach’s beliefs have come to mirror the above quote. The celebrated French artist’s infatuation with physiological responses goes way back. Upon finishing high school, Wampach enrolled in medical school, where he spent a year studying the body up close.

“I studied the anatomy of cells and how the cell is functioning. I was very interested in neurology and the studies about the electricity we produce in order to make the information travel. Reflexes and the question of reactions were very interesting for me. I see a lot of connection between all of those things and what I am doing now,” he explained.

Realizing that becoming a doctor was not his dream, Wampach found his way back to a previous interest, the performing arts.

“I had been involved with theater as a student. When I left medical school and went back to theater, I was interested more in movement and physicality than text,” he said.

Over the years, Wampach established his own aesthetic, which draws on dance as much as physical theater.

In his work, Wampach investigates aspects of conscious states across cultures and the physical implications of trance-based practices.

This week he will present three works in two programs in Tel Aviv as a guest of the Diver Festival, each of which embodies some element of a trance. This is Wampach’s first time presenting work in Israel.

“A few years ago, I made a piece where we worked on tarantella, which is an Italian ritual during which women go into a trance to dispel a spider bite. When they go into this trance they are very aware of what happens. It’s the opposite of losing control. It’s not about control it’s about awareness. I am really interested in this state, how we can be super aware,” he said over the telephone.

The piece, which will be performed in part during his visit, is called Veine. It is a duet for dancers Tamar Shelef and Aina Alegre, however Wampach will present an excerpt danced by Shelef alone during his visit. To Veine, Wampach added a solo entitled Batterie, which he will perform with Tel Aviv-based drummer Danni Makov. The performance will take place in Studio Varda as part of the Batsheva Hosts series.

The second program, an evening- length duet performed together with Shelef, will be presented at Warehouse 2 in Jaffa.

Sacre was inspired by Stravinsky’s opus The Rite of Spring.

“My connection with Sacre de Printemps is less about making another version of this piece and more about my personal connection to the music. I didn’t want to use original music by Stravinsky,” he said. “I love it but I feel it is so strong. When I hear the music I have all these different versions in my mind. I didn’t want to make a piece of memories that we all have. It was about the connection I have with the theme, sacrifice, the ritual, which is very important in my work.”

Wampach approached Shelef, whom he had collaborated with on one previous work.

“For me, Tamar is one of the best dancers ever. I knew from the very beginning that I wanted her to do this piece. We have done five collaborations together and this was our second. I proposed it to her as a solo. She was going to be a woman who makes a sacrifice. We began by working on what is sacred for a performer. I told her that in my opinion standing up is the most sacred thing that you can do on stage. With this statement she was obliged either to stand against the wall or falling on the floor. The first week we were mostly improvising, trying things out one by one. We just were showing and watching.”

Not long after embarking on the journey of Sacre, Wampach and Shelef realized that the piece was meant to be a duet. Throughout the work, the two performers work with breath and hyperventilation. The physical effort is immense at times even worrisome.

“I find a way to pass through this ritual even though it can be difficult to sustain the physicality and breathing. There is a kind of release and maybe perhaps a kind of emancipation that I achieve in this work. All rituals require a strong energy but once you pass it you achieve a state that is a kind of trance. It’s exciting to perform the piece,” he said.

The performance of Sacre will be followed by a discussion with dance expert Iris Lana.

Wampach will present Veine and Batterie at Studio Varda on September 8 and Sacre at Warehouse 2 on September 10. For more information, visit

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