The past year has been an exercise in time for choreographer Doron Raz. At the same time, she was engaged in two extremely different creative processes. The first was as one of five choreographers in Dana Ruttenberg’s Project 48 Dance, two 24-hour rounds of creation. The second was with that Nehara Dance Group and spanned a full year.
“I believe in slow processes. I had the enormous gift of time with Nehara. I couldn’t ask for anything better than to spend a whole year swimming in my creation. What I discovered is that all the things I went through in a year’s time with Shin, the commission I created for Nehara, I also went through in those 48 hours of Project 48. All of the decisions, the choices, the uncertainty… they were all there in both,” says Raz.
Shin premiered in November as part of the Between Heaven and Earth Festival in Jerusalem. Next week, it will be presented at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art.
Raz, 33, was born and raised in Kiryat Bialik. At 17, she left high school to join the Batsheva Ensemble. Working under Ohad Naharin, Raz was one of the first dancers to explore and experiment with the Gaga technique, which she considers a major source for her choreography.
“Gaga is my way to connect to myself. It’s the way I connect my dancers to me, the way I get in touch with my body. It’s the language that is available to me, through which I can bring myself and who I am,” she explains.
With windblown auburn hair and faded red lipstick, Raz has the glamour of a 1940s movie star. Her femininity made her stand out in the Batsheva Ensemble and continues to be a defining factor in her life.
“People have said to me over and over that I am very feminine. About me and my work. I came from a place where that wasn’t necessarily a compliment. In the dance world that I come from, there is a lot of play with gender, a lot of girls with shaved heads… Being feminine is something I have come to accept about myself,” she says.
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Raz’s choreography very much reflects this inner dialogue. Until now, all her works have been on women, many of them mature dancers.
“Even before I was a mother, I was always attracted to dancers who had gone through that amazing thing,” she says.
The meeting with the Nehara Dance Group, an all-female, Orthodox troupe, was an easy fit for Raz.
“Daniella Bloch [founder and artistic director of Nehara] approached me over a year ago. She said that she was interested in my work because of my approach to the female body. She didn’t ask me to create something that dealt with religion, rather to bring what I do to her three incredible dancers. I have always worked with women who I truly loved and respected. This was my first time working with a cast that I did not choose, and it was so wonderful,” she recounts.
In the month leading up to her first rehearsal with Snunit Baraban, Leia Weil and Dalia Peretz, Raz collected material.
“My process is very associative,” she explains. Raz’s life partner, photographer Ascaf Avraham, showed her a piece of text in his native Spanish.
“The text speaks of a woman at a crossroads and who she turns to in herself; the young woman who is boundless, the mother, who nurtures or the wise old lady. I started with that,” she says.
Along the way, the three dancers’ roles meshed and intertwined, taking on hues of natural forces.
“We talked about storms, fires, calm water. Each one of them had each of these things in them. I saw them all as being part of the same woman. Eventually, I came to the Hebrew letter shin, which has these three limbs. In the Kabbala, the letter symbolizes emerging from an inner place to the endless. It so perfectly fit the piece and what we were dealing with, that Shin became the title,” she explains.
The reference to spiritual texts surprised Raz.
“I didn’t set out to relate to religion at all. It happened on its own. Maybe if it was a different group of dancers, it wouldn’t have happened. But I feel that our connection had a high spiritual feel,” she says.
On stage, Raz places interconnecting triangles, another analogy for the three dancers.
“There is an interesting conflict between this very clear geometric construct and the shin, the aspiration for endlessness,” she concludes.‘Shin’ will be performed at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art on January 10 and 11. For more information, visit www.nehara.org.
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