(photo credit: GADI DAGON)
Long before she began working on the solo piece Memo, choreographer Anat Grigorio related to her body as a kind of canvas on which memories and sentiments could be imprinted.
With her myriad tattoos and tangle of curls, the 42-year-old performer’s physical presence is distinctly unforgettable.
“My memories of the tattoos are very personal. What is left, what is erased, what goes with you…” says Grigorio.
Last month, she premiered Memo at Warehouse 2 in Jaffa.
Next week she will present the piece at the Tmuna Theater in Tel Aviv.
Grigorio was born and raised in Israel. She began dancing at a young age, exploring various genres before focusing on contemporary dance. She trained with the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company and went on to join the Ido Tadmor Dance Company and later Thierry Moral Physical Theater in France. Since 2003, Grigorio has been presenting her own choreographies in Israel and farther afield. She most recently created the duet On the Edge with dancer Tamar Lamm for the 2014 Curtain Up Festival.
Grigorio is an incredibly charismatic performer. Her honesty, physical strength and sense of humor make her stand out as one of the fiercest female dancers in the local milieu.
“This process started with the end of the last solo, Mr. Nice Guy. In that piece, I worked with text that was very clear. It is a voiceover that is telling me what to do. I presented myself as someone without the ability to choose, a victim who is pushed until she loses her identity. In Memo, I went with the idea of choice. I went with text that isn’t heard, that isn’t spoken, that is in memory. I thought about projecting text, and then I went to my body as a canvas. I wanted to write the text on my body and see how that affected me. I have the place of choice to go with it or to reject it. I wanted the audience to come and write on me and I would be able to choose what I wanted to express from what was written on me,” she says.
In Memo, Grigorio asks the audience to assist her in etching new memories by taking an active part in the performance. Against a backdrop of white paper, Grigorio invites whoever is willing to approach her to write or draw on her mostly nude frame. The dancer gives very little instruction on how the audience is to adorn her body. Rather, she allows each participant to react to his or her own impulses. As one would expect, the task is received by each member of the audience differently – some with trepidation, others with enthusiasm.
“There are people who immediately come and write, to say something to draw something, a heart or a sketch. And there are people who ask what to write. It’s very interesting because there are kids, teens, adults and elderly people. It’s amazing that I’ve performed in front of all the age ranges, and each one has a very different way of approaching. There was a three-year-old boy who was really embarrassed to write, and at first he said he didn’t want to. After a while he loosened up and he couldn’t stop writing. People generally start by being very careful, reluctant to cross the barrier into a personal space, which is body and skin,” she explains.
Though gender is not the main issue of Memo, it is undoubtedly present in the performance. During one performance, which Grigorio remembers very clearly, an audience member wrote the word “gender” on her body.
“I am a woman, and I am offering my female body. I am creating from my place as a woman. The piece doesn’t speak about gender, but the issue does come up. I like to play with gender, to blur the lines between male and female. Because my body is muscular and I don’t have the classical attributes of a woman – thin hips, big breasts – I am able to do that,” she says.
Following the writing phase, Grigorio imprints the ink on the surrounding paper. She then moves in response to what was written on her. Each performance is different as Grigorio attempts to openly and undistractedly take in the content on her body.
“The biggest challenge is to expose the history of the body and to find a way of communicating with the audience in order to foster a shared identity,” she says. “And, of course, the challenge is to find freedom within all of that.”‘Memo’ will be performed on December 24 at the Tmuna Theater in Tel Aviv. For more information, visit www.anatgrigorio.com. For tickets, visit www.tmu-na.org.il.