Music, madness and movement

Idan Cohen’s ‘Mad Sirens’ gives audiences the opportunity to ‘stop and connect to something different’,

Idan Cohen 521 (photo credit: Ben Peter)
Idan Cohen 521
(photo credit: Ben Peter)
‘If I said out loud what was actually going on inside my head right now, you’d think I was mad,” said Idan Cohen over coffee at Loveat in Tel Aviv.
One week away from the premiere of his newest work, Mad Sirens, Cohen is as close to madness as he likes to get. For the past 10 months, the choreographer has slaved away to the tunes of Mozart, music with which he has felt a deep connection since his childhood. This Sunday he will unveil his interpretation of music, madness and movement at the Suzanne Dellal Center in Neveh Tzedek.
Cohen’s point of departure for Mad Sirens was, in fact, his deep love of and connection to music. As a child, Cohen explained, music provided an escape from what he found to be an intolerant community. “I played piano as a kid. I remember that the piano room on the kibbutz was this haven from everything around me: the judgment, the harsh criticism and the world. Music is so separate from all those things.”
He went on to describe the way he saw music affect his grandmother, an escapee from Austria whose life was filled with tragedy. “She was a tough woman, but when she listened to Mozart the atoms of her soul opened.”
Now, using the external resource of Mozart, Cohen began to search for his own internal music. Over months of daily rehearsals, Cohen’s dancers experimented with the thoughts, sounds and songs that were alive inside their heads. Freeing themselves from the preconceived notion of what is acceptable and what is not, the dancers spoke the words they thought and sang the tunes they heard.
“I love to sing,” said Cohen. “I walk a lot. And I love to sing when I walk. But then there is the meeting between the love I have for singing and the world around me. There are ways that are okay to sing in the street and ways that are less so. We were working with these kinds of boundaries,” he explained.
The result is what Cohen compares to “the kind of things you see junkies doing in the street.” He went on to elaborate, “The aesthetic expression of madness looks a lot like the destitute.”
Throughout the creative process for Mad Sirens, Cohen delved not only into the sounds of Mozart but also into the 1700s, to the world of Mozart. “I wanted to look into the ‘dramaturgy of the music’ if I can put it that way. The thoughts that were present during that time period when Mozart was creating.
The principles of that time period as opposed to the ideas we are dealing with in our reality now.”
With Mad Sirens, Cohen offers a break from the daily struggles he and his audience encounter. “We are surrounded by such tough things on a daily basis, no matter where we happen to be. I wanted to make this piece in such a way that the audience would begin with listening to the music and then get sucked in to the music, finally becoming part of it,” explained Cohen.
“I want the audience to feel the compassion I feel. I want them to feel love for this piece, for the music and for the dancers. And I want them to have a moment to enjoy, to stop and to connect to something different.”
Recently back from a residency in rural Germany, Cohen and his five dancers have attempted to keep some of the beautiful scenery alive in their work. Using images drawn from nature, including bird’s nests and feathers, Cohen has created a delicate and precise set for this piece.
Mad Sirens will run at the Suzanne Dellal Center on September 25 and October 3. For more information, visit