Dance: A snail’s trail

Tamar Borer presents her new piece ‘Zellem’ in Tel Aviv.

December 1, 2016 16:54
4 minute read.

‘Zellem’. (photo credit: PR)

‘I would like my painting to look as if a human being had passed between them, like a snail leaving its trail of human presence…as a snail leaves its slime.” This quote by Francis Bacon is one of the many twigs that Tamar Borer has assembled to create the nest that is her newest work, Zellem. In many ways, these words perfectly describe the way in which Borer creates and the actions of the piece. Borer takes her time, moving slowly and carefully through her creative life, yet with great courage.

Zellem will return to the stage of Hateiva, following its September premiere. This time, Borer will also host celebrated butoh dance duo Neiro & Mutsumi with Tonight or Never.

Borer is one of the most prominent butoh artists in Israel.

She has gone to Japan many times to study with butoh experts, including the late founder of butoh, Kazuo Ohno. For this work, Borer chose to draw on Ohno’s counterpart in butoh, Tatsumi Hijikata, for inspiration.

“Tatsumi had a very local world view. He represents a very specific point in history. He was the 11th of 17 children. He once said that his mother gave birth like drops of water. He experienced extreme hunger throughout his childhood.

And somehow, it turned him into a surreal artist. I took his words and edited them to allow for a kind of corrective experience. It allowed me to be aware of the part of me that is illuminated in subtle light,” she explains.

In the cave-like space of Hateiva, Borer places low, flat boxes, which are illuminated from within. These platforms serve as land masses between which Borer and dancer Tamar Lamm migrate. In the background, Harold Rubin’s voice recites text written by Hijikata.

“Harold Rubin is an incredibly advanced, developed person.

When I decided that I wanted Tatsumi’s words with us, he came to my mind immediately,” she says.

As in each of her previous works, Borer allows the artistic process to serve as a sieve for her life, letting everything sift through and remaining with a few polished stones at the end. One of these nuggets is a book of paintings by Francis Bacon.

Another is a catalogue from an exhibition at Kibbutz Hazorea’s Wilfred Israel House of Oriental Art and Studies, in which Japanese negative space sculptor Yasuaki Onishi presented a work.

“Onishi’s work deals with something I am working with as well. At many points during the process for Zellem, I had a papiermâché whale hanging from the ceiling. I liked to imagine the space as an oceanic space inside which there is a whale and we are in the stomach of that whale,” she says.

Zellem began over a year ago, born out of a near tragedy.

“I had a physical examination, and the doctors found something that I could not identify when I probed my own body. They were convinced it would kill me. Ten days later, we discovered that they had read the scans incorrectly. In a way, this dance piece became a healing process,” explains Borer.

Borer went through many evolutions of this work – first a trio, then a solo. At some point in the journey, Zellem was a conversation between Borer and longtime collaborator, video artist Tamara Erde.

“The video will be projected on the floor of the stage,” Borer adds.

Ultimately, Zellem became a duet.

“There is something in the communication between myself and Tamar, in the silence between us, that is very rare. I have worked with her for the past five years on many projects, and I can say that our relationship on and off stage is getting better and better. We can sense one another in an amazing way; we never need cues or counts,” she says.

The biggest challenge for Borer was understanding how to end the piece. While in other works, Borer came to a climax or peak in the last moments, in Zellem she leaves the audience with a motionless vignette.

“This is the first time in my life that I am creating a state of stasis. I had to understand that it could be quiet at the end, but it took me the entire process to get there. The ending is very emotional for us,” she says.

Connecting to her inner quiet, to the negative space inside of her, has allowed Borer to connect anew with her audience.

“We, as performers, are the stimuli, the catalysts; we are pulling the strings to help the audience find the big world that is in them, that they are a part of,” she explains.

Tamar Borer will present ‘Zellem’ and ‘Tonight or Never’ on December 7 and 8 at Hateiva in Tel Aviv. For more information, call (03) 682-2403.

Related Content

September 22, 2019
Incitement, a film about Yigal Amir, wins Ophir Award for Best Picture