Taking it all off

Causing a stir in Tel Aviv due to its nudity, Maya Levy’s new piece ‘Renaissance’ delves into what happens to the body when it is released from clothing.

June 30, 2013 21:25
4 minute read.
Maya Levy's new dance piece 'Renaissance.'

Man in pink underwear370. (photo credit: Ascaf)

When in the grips of crippling stage fright, performers are often encouraged to envision the entire audience in their underwear.

Imagining their onlookers in a vulnerable state often provides the reassurance needed to step into the limelight. However, for the dancers of Maya Levy and Hannan Anando Mars’ new production Renaissance, this trick may not do the trick. The evening-length performance, which will premier tonight in Jerusalem, is danced completely in the nude.

For Levy and Mars, this work continues a chain of experiments on movement and the body that have each led to a live production. First, Levy and Mars changed the notion of gravity by placing their two dancers on a trampoline in Net Work. Then, they examined the concept of the time a performance takes with a 48-hour extravaganza. In the creative process for Renaissance, Levy and Mars looked into what happens to the body when it is released from clothing.

The artist Marina Abramovic once said that to be an artist one must be erotic. This sentence became the jumping-off point for Levy and Mars’ research. Though the end result, in Levy’s eyes at least, is far from erotic, their initial goal was to delve into the connection between eroticism and choreography.

Levy and Mars assembled a cast of six dancers, each hailing from different walks of life. Two of their dancers are foreigners who are new in Israel. Three are male and three are female. There are large age differences between them.

“I think that everyone knew, I know, that everyone knew what they were getting into,” explained Levy in a recent interview with The Jerusalem Post. “The idea was there before we ever got into the studio.

Everyone knew that nudity was part of the research. Anando and I were divided about the way it had to happen. I was interested in the gap between the way the body moves with clothes and without so I was much more technical. I wanted to create material and then see how it looked when the dancers were undressed.

“Anando wanted the process to be a kind of peeling, that the research would naturally lead to the removal of clothes, that it wouldn’t be technical or mechanical. In the end we came one day and said ‘let’s do it.’ The most interesting thing was that the dancers asked us if we were going to stay dressed. So we were also naked for most of the research period.”

Immediately, Levy noticed that the women had a harder time taking off their clothes than the men.

“The women are much more vulnerable.

I feel that the responses from the families of the women have been more difficult,” she said.

“There were harder and easier moments. There were moments where we crossed boundaries, when it becomes pornographic, when it crosses a line and when someone stops and says I won’t do that and why. Now that it’s going out, we are dealing with how it will be received, how to protect or preserve it. We don’t want it to be cheap.”

When Levy and Mars began advertising their performances (with a poster featuring their cast photographed from behind in the nude), they were quickly reminded of the friction nudity can awaken.

“Within less than an hour of putting up the posters in Tel Aviv, the municipality got a bunch of calls complaining. We were asked to take them down immediately,” said Levy.

They scrambled to add a censor strip to the poster. After all, audiences need to be reached and tickets need to be sold.

“If I could I would not advertise at all. I would let the show run for a while and slowly let the word get out. But we have to fill seats,” lamented Levy. “Maybe our months in the studio have blurred our vision. Maybe it isn’t such a simple subject for the crowd. In a normal show we use our dancers to do public relations and to distribute flyers and such. In this production the dancers really need discretion. It’s such a small community so there is a lot of debate around the piece.

Nudity is an issue here, not because we are provincial or not advanced but because we are in a religious community, the subconscious is religious here, Judaism is a major force in us and it is difficult to get around. The piece isn’t provocative for us of for our dancers, it’s poetic.”

Renaissance will be performed at the Masie House Theater Center in Jerusalem on July 2 at 9 p.m.(www.psik.org.il), at Mahsan 2 in the Jaffa Port on July 4, 5 and 6 (www.choreographers.org.il) and at the Suzanne Dellal Center on July 8 (www.suzannedellal.org.il).

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