Oryan Yohanan’s five separate sides

Celebrated choreographer premieres her first ensemble work ‘Home (?)’

By ORI J. LENKINSKI
September 1, 2019 12:39
3 minute read.
Oryan Yohanan’s five separate sides

ORYAN YOCHANAN premieres her first ensemble work, titled ‘Home' . (photo credit: Courtesy)

Have you ever talked to someone but had the feeling that they weren’t listening? That instead of conducting an open exchange, you were actually performing parallel monologues? In a world filled to the brim with voices, where every opinion, thought or image can find a happy home on social media, individuals experience unprecedented rates of depression and loneliness. In our attempt to reach out to others, we may actually be creating a one-way thread going nowhere, inundating one another with a wash of irrelevant material.

Oryan Yohanan is used to feeling alone in her career. From the beginning of her illustrious career as a dance, Yohanan stood out like a sore, virtuosic thumb. She magnetized attention in every company or ensemble she was part of, from the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company to the Israel Opera’s Project to creations by leading independent choreographers. While being noticed is every dancer’s dream, Yohanan’s abilities often set her apart from her peers.

As a choreographer, Yohanan found solace in solitude. Many of her works, such as Plot of Body and I Dare U. are solos in which Yohanan processes through many issues that trouble her. In fact, while sitting with her, the sentence, “if you’re not angry you’re not paying attention” came to mind. Yohanan is acutely aware of injustices surrounding her, both on a professional and a national level. Sexism, violence and abuse are some of themes grappled with in her work.

“The challenge is doing everything alone. I do the public relations, the design, the marketing, the choreography…” she explains in Tel Aviv. Yohanan, 33, made her way from her home in Givatayim. Originally from Jerusalem, she has lived in various locations throughout Israel. She sits at the bar, an iced coffee to her right and a large backpack to her left. It appears that Yohanan has an entire world inside the bag and, at various points in the meeting, extracts select items such as a carefully curated pencil case and a Muji notebook, souvenirs from various tours abroad. Her high cheekbones are accented by dark lipstick, giving her a severe look.

“Courage is my default. Our lives force us out of our comfort zone all the time. Otherwise, we would constantly be kneading the same material.”

In a few days, Yohanan will premiere her first ensemble work titled Home (?). This is also the first work that she will not perform in. In this work, Yochanan present five independent bodies, “telling their stories” in concert but not in collaboration with one another. These individuals remain apart, isolated in the same space.

“The piece is comprised of five actions by characters; three women and two men,” she says. In fact, Yochanan not only refers to her performers as characters, she has given each of them names. The cast goes as follows: Shay Partush as “Wet Man”, Gabrielle Neuhaus as “Moon Woman”, Dana Zeharia as “Ground Woman”, Ido Grinberg as “Beat Man”, and Shully Tseiger as “Wind Woman”.

The choice of performers was of great importance to Yohanan. Each one would have to be responsible for their own path through the work, without the comfort of leaning on one another. “I thought of how to find individuals who are mature, with inner worlds and voices. I wasn’t looking for unison or homogeny rather people that could tell their own stories,” she explains.

“I did a one-on-one process with each one of them. Then I put these five actions in the same space to see what the sixth action or progression would be. I wanted to ask questions about how I could break the build of a dance piece. How could I decontextualize the jive or a neoclassical adagio? I wanted to experience things I haven’t experienced before.”

The title of the piece, Home (?), touches on Yohanan’s desire to question all that is taken for granted. “Can we afford ourselves a home today? Will it last another twenty years? Can we let our guard down? The product of our search is a situation in which each audience member will see the piece differently. I am not saying, ‘this is a story and you have to look at it one way.’ I’m proposing five actions and you can choose what to look at and what’s important.”

Following the three-day premiere at Inbal Theater, which has been supported by the National Lottery, Yohanan will begin preparing for a semester abroad as part of the Schusterman Visiting Israeli Artists Program. Yohanan will set sail come spring for California Institute of the Arts, where she will teach movement to the theater students.

Yochanan will premiere Home (?) at Inbal Theater on September 5, 6, and 7.


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