Choreographer Meg Stuart 370.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Have you ever laughed for an hour? Can you imagine what it would feel like to
continuously chuckle for a full 60 minutes? On Tuesday night in the heart of
Jaffa, a group of curious participants discovered that laughing is no laughing
The event, entitled One Single Action: Laughing, was hosted by
American-born, European-based choreographer Meg Stuart, who is visiting the
country as a guest of Arkadi Zaides’ Moves Without Borders
Stuart’s long-anticipated arrival in Israel was part of the
Berlin Dayz program, an initiative of the Goethe Institute.
interesting thing about laughter is that the body can’t tell the difference
between real and fake laughter. I find that so fascinating,” said Stuart over a
cup of coffee at Café Suzanna in Neve Tzedek.
Laughter has been a
recurring theme in Stuart’s work. “I made a piece a few years back called It’s
Not Funny. It was the darkest summer of my life,” she said.
and I were discussing my visit, he insisted that I host a laughter
It’s super challenging to laugh for an entire hour. During that
time, the participants go through fake and real laughter.
amazing moments of exchange, of touching one another and of the release of
tension. It can get really wild.”
Stuart is a striking woman with a blond
bob and a muscular build. Over the past 20 years, she has become one of the most
influential voices in the international dance community. Her performances meld
powerfully dynamic movement with text, live music and visual art. She is the
founder and director of the Brussels-based company Damaged Goods, for which she
has created over 30 productions.
Stuart’s work is often referred to as
“I am interested in looking at situations from all sides. I
look at how we create meaning with movement, how we speak with our bodies,” she
explained. Part of her ongoing investigation is devoted to the connection
between physical and emotional states.
Her whirlwind career officially
began in the early 1990s in Europe. After completing her studies in New York
City, Stuart was invited to present an evening-length work, Disfigure Study, at
the Klapstuk Festival in Leuven.
“That premier was really special for
me. People don’t invite young choreographers with the credentials I had
back then to present work like that any more. I barely survived making that
piece,” she said with a laugh.
Though she has a lot more experience now,
Stuart was hesitant to say that creating work has gotten easier. “I am in a
constant dialogue with what I’ve done before. I feel a sense of responsibility
when I create.”
Zaides and Stuart met five years ago at the Ponderosa
Movement and Discovery Festival in Germany.
“I was very intrigued by
Arkadi’s dancing as well as his point of view. In 2010 he started writing to me
about his dream to invite me to visit,” said Stuart. In March, Moves Without
Borders hosted Swedish performance artist and choreographer Marten Spangberg.
Later this year, Stuart’s longtime collaborator Phillip Gehmacher will become
the third artist to accept Arkadi’s invitation. Gehmacher was meant to visit
last year however he canceled due to political tensions.
“I had some
hesitation about visiting because of the situation here. I was performing in
Beirut last May, which was the first time I had presented my work in the Middle
East. But recently, in Europe, I have met so many Israeli dancers. I was
teaching a workshop and I think eight out of the 20 participants were from
“So I started to feel like there was something going on here. The
Israeli dancers I have met have been very well trained, interesting and
interested individuals. I decided that I wanted to give support to the community
Aside from the laughter session, Stuart taught a three-day
improvisation workshop hosted by Kelim Choreography in Bat Yam during her stay.
When word got out that the workshop was meant to happen, dancers and
choreographers frantically signed up. The list of attendees had to be closed
nearly the same day it was opened due to the high demand, leaving many names on
the waiting list.
“It’s a big deal for me to teach. I don’t teach a lot
these days but I learn a lot from teaching. I like teaching because it gives me
an opportunity to see what’s going on with the dancers and to share the
principles of my work. It’s a more first-hand experience of my work than when I
perform,” she explained.
To finish off her premier visit to Tel Aviv,
Stuart performed at Mahsan 2 in Jaffa on Friday night. The program, An Evening
Of Solos, was a combination of excerpts from Stuart’s rich repertoire and new
sections that Stuart is currently developing.
“There is a solo in the
evening that I made in 1995 but there are also completely new bits. It’s really
special for me to show a work in progress here in Israel. I am making a solo
right now that will premier in March,” Stuart explained.
“When I started
I asked myself a lot of questions. ‘What’s left in my container? What’s
essential to me now?’ I would love to come back to Israel to show the full piece
once it’s made or to present a group work.”For more information about
Moves Without Borders, visit www.arkadizaides.com