Feeling without necessarily understanding

Zuk and Fishof are one of the most intriguing couples in the Israeli arts community.

Noa Zuk and Ohad Fishof blend movement  and live music together seamlessly in ‘Raconto Kun’ (photo credit: Courtesy)
Noa Zuk and Ohad Fishof blend movement and live music together seamlessly in ‘Raconto Kun’
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Walking into Noa Zuk and Ohad Fishof’s rehearsal for their new work, Raconto Kun, brings back memories of a similar situation a few years back. In 2016, Zuk and Fishof hunkered down on the top floor of Tel Aviv’s Center for Contemporary Art to make The Burnt Room. Back then, the walls were a few shades lighter gray, but otherwise the set-up was identical. Chairs flanked the four walls of the windowless space. Fishof stood behind a table weighed down with musical instruments and screens. Zuk sat nearby with a hint of a smile on her lips.
But as the rehearsal wears on, the character of this new work reveals itself. “We like creating dance in rooms,” says Fishof. “The Burnt Room was a commission, so the idea wasn’t totally ours. We enjoyed it, and we felt by the end that we had just started the process. We wanted to challenge ourselves to make something completely different in the same set-up.”
Whereas The Burnt Room presented two couples, Zuk and Fishof as well as dancers Kelvin Wu and Carmel Ben Asher, Raconto Kun is a trio, or quintet including the choreographers. Dancers Matan David, Ori Kroll and Hsin-Yi Hsiang fill the space with energy, movement and voice. The addition of one dancer creates a round feeling in this work, which is uplifting.
Just a week away from the premiere, Zuk admits that she is obsessed with making changes. A few days before the rehearsal, the piece rang in at 90 minutes, while it now stands at 70. As they get closer to meeting their audience, Zuk and Fishof come to understand what works and what needs tweaking, and they are not terribly sentimental about canning sections that no longer seem relevant. “There’s so much to work on,” smiles Zuk. “And we’ll only really know the work once it is performed for an audience. Or maybe we’ll never really know it completely.”
Zuk and Fishof are one of the most intriguing couples in the Israeli arts community. Zuk was a longtime and iconic member of the Batsheva Dance Company, the effects of which can be seen in the movement language of her current work, while Fishof is rock star-turned sound and performance artist. The two were introduced more than a decade ago by a mutual friend. They have been collaborating since 2008, and have created works for companies around the world. They are also the parents of two children.
As in their previous works, Fishof and Zuk blend movement and live music together seamlessly in Raconto Kun. Fishof plays tracks from his computer, playing along with a variety of handheld instruments and singing. Zuk often joins in the song. “We want to develop and research that the music and the movement come from the same place, that they emerge from the same heart at the same time,” explains Zuk.
“There is a common denominator between them. The starting point is rhythm. We work with rhythmic phrases, which can be expressed in music and in movement. There is a range of relationships between sound and movement in this work,” adds Fishof.
The text of Raconto Kun, be it spoken or sung, is Esperanto. An internationally spoken auxiliary language constructed by L.L. Zamenhof in the 19th century, Esperanto rings familiarly while remaining at a distance. Few audience members will understand the content of what is being spoken but, Zuk believes, they will be able to feel the energy. “I like the idea of using a language that is not understood,” she says, “that the audience can get the feeling of what is happening without understanding everything. It creates an unusual atmosphere that we like.”
In addition to premiering Raconto Kun, Zuk and Fishof will present five public events and will show several of their video works over the course of a month-long engagement at the Center for Contemporary Art.
Raconto Kun will run at the CCA from November 6-December 7. For more information, go to cca.org.il.