Revealing gender and generosity

Fresco Dance Group presents a new work, ‘Genderosity’, by artistic director Yoram Karmi.

Fresco Dance Group presents a new work, ‘Genderosity’ (photo credit: ELI KATZ)
Fresco Dance Group presents a new work, ‘Genderosity’
(photo credit: ELI KATZ)
Have you ever been to a gender revealing party? This American tradition of unveiling the gender of an unborn child may seem quaint or sweet to some, to others it is downright weird. In many such parties, the expecting couple gather friends and family together around a cardboard box. Cake and coffee are served. And then, during the big moment, a pink or blue balloon is released from the box to the delight of all. It was these events that sparked the creative process for Fresco Dance Group’s new work, Genderosity, choreographed by Artistic Director Yoram Karmi.
“It started with me finding out about this American thing called the gender revealing party, which is just so weird. It kind of doesn’t matter what you have, boy or girl, the party is the same. The preparation is different, though,” says Karmi over the phone. Running between stage rehearsals and preparing his company for a heavy roster of summer performances, Karmi takes a moment to reflect upon the journey to Genderosity.
From this seemingly harmless ceremony, Karmi was catapulted into thoughts about the significance of gender, the role is plays in our lives and society and the violence it can incite. “I started to think about violence against transgenders, discrimination against gays and gay families,” he says. However, Karmi had no intention of creating a dance manifesto. “I decided the piece is not going to be an ‘oy, yoy, yoy, nununu’ kind of piece. From some real anger came something very funny and sexy.”
Fresco Dance Group presents a new work, ‘Genderosity’ (Credit: ELI KATZ)Fresco Dance Group presents a new work, ‘Genderosity’ (Credit: ELI KATZ)
During the development of the piece, Karmi and his dancers shared experiences of playing with gender notions. They spoke of trying on their mother’s clothing, of questioning their sexuality, of imagining what it would be like to live on the other side of the gender divide and so on and so forth. This freedom to divulge their curiosities surrounding the topic fed into the work, which is at times poignant and at others hysterical.
“We were tapping into our inner female and inner male,” Karmi said. “We worked with reflection; with what we see in other people, what we see in the mirror. When we’re growing up, we see if we’re developing late or early, if we have chest hair or boobs. We reflect on ourselves. We try a lot of things in privacy, a lot of people are wondering what it would be like, even if they’re at peace with their gender.”
The piece begins with a dancer hobbling on stage with blue and pink balloons between her legs. Another dancer weeds out the unwanted balloons, choosing the gender of the baby to be born. Later, the dancers move with balloons chasing them, attached to them as a shadow. At first, these figures are ominous, hanging just above their heads. Later, the dancers wield the balloons as rattles, companions and extensions of themselves. Genderosity is rife with such imagery.
Fresco Dance Group presents a new work, ‘Genderosity’ (Credit: ELI KATZ)Fresco Dance Group presents a new work, ‘Genderosity’ (Credit: ELI KATZ)
Another element that emerges when speaking of gender is love, who we love, how we love and in what circumstances. “There is a kissing scene with men and women kissing each other, women kissing women, men kissing men and in groups,” Karmi adds. “Polyamory is something that we’re starting to talk about more. I’m reflecting and challenging that there’s all kinds of relationships and all kinds of love.”
With all this play on gender comes a message that, while delivered gently, is as urgent as any in Karmi’s eyes. In fact, a portion of the ticket profits of the first six performances of Genderosity were donated to Maavarim (Transitions), a nonprofit that supports transgender individuals. “We need to give freedom to the people that have the need and bravery to make these kinds of changes. As a society we talk a big talk, ‘love yourself, accept changes.’ If you want to change yourself, you can do it with collagen, Botox, plastic surgery… We are constantly obsessed with bettering ourselves and with making ourselves right. But when someone is really in a dilemma about how to live, who they are, we don’t show the same compassion. I think the gender binary is changing. And even if it isn’t, the people who choose to change it should be able to do so safely. My message is be generous, not just politically correct.”
Genderosity will be performed on June 24 and 25 at the Suzanne Dellal Center. For more information, visit www.fresco.org.il.