When age happens

Veteran choreographer Sally Anne Friedland is once again putting on her dancing shoes as she performs in ‘Gil.’

November 6, 2014 07:57
4 minute read.
Mai Armon

UPCOMING ISRAELI dancer Mai Armon performs in ‘Me and Mai’. (photo credit: LIOR HADAS)


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In a field as competitive as dance, there are no prizes or fortunes to mark success.

The reward for keeping at it as a choreographer is the luxury of continuing to create, perhaps with a bit of recognition as an aside. As Sally Anne Friedland is discovering, maintaining presence in the arts community means constantly having to reinvent oneself, to open doors that were previously closed and to shift one’s notion of oneself. This realization has driven Friedland to approach dance in a new and fluid way, she explained, which is reflected in her new evening, Gil.

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“Gil,” or age, is at the heart of this program.

“Age is a very frightening thing,” said Friedland with a smile. Poised on a yoga mat in the corner of her rehearsal studio, Friedland’s physicality betrays years of dancing. “It happens to all of us though, to the best and worst of us. Age happens.”

Friedland was born and raised in Capetown, South Africa. She began dancing at a young age and went on to perform in South Africa and around Europe before landing in Israel. She was a member of the Bat Dor Dance Company as well as Batsheva Dance Company. She began choreographing independently in the late 1980s and presented her first evening-length piece, Dov Hoz 19, in 1990. Friedland founded Dance Drama Company 12 years later, for which she has choreographed numerous concert and children’s works.

Until recently, Friedland thought that at 62 years of age, she was done with performing. Having spent the past several years cultivating other dancers, Friedland accepted that her time in the spotlight was finished. It was just as she was hanging up her dance spurs that fellow choreographer Alice Dor Cohen approached Friedland about participating in a new creation.

“Working on Edna made me think about who I am, how I look and what I have left to give,” said Friedland. “It’s like I found a computer chip inside myself that was filled with love, knowledge and creativity.

Despite the age and the years off stage, Edna gave me a chance to reconnect with those feelings,” she said.

When she decided to put together a new program, she knew immediately that Edna had to be part of it.

“This program is about the need to be a warrior, not as in someone who carries a rifle but as in the warrior inside us. It’s about believing in yourself as the axe is coming down, when you’re old, passé, over. As I’ve discovered, there are no red carpets in this country and yet I find myself continuing to create like a cow continues to give milk,” she said.

Gil, which takes place tonight at Warehouse 2 in Jaffa, will begin with a premier called Me and Mai. This work is a combination of Mrs. Icarus, an abstractly narrative dance film in which Friedland moves through time and space in attempts to reach the sun, and Solo, a short work danced by Mai Armon. The third part of the evening is Edna by Alice Dor Cohen, in which Friedland dances alongside three other mature female performers.

“I looked at these three unconnected pieces and I asked myself, ‘what is the connection between them?’ I realized that the link is that they represent a continuation of my path,” she said. “I made Mrs. Icarus last year during a very introverted phase,” explained Friedland. “I was taking a break from making big pieces. I found myself wanting to make something using film.

I can’t really dance anymore so we did a trick. We shot the whole thing in a green room with me lying on the floor. It’s an illusion. I decided to project the video onto a plastic sculpture on stage, which is where Mai emerges from.”

In early summer, having finished her film, Friedland felt ready to embark upon a new creative process. As one of the veterans of Israeli dance, Friedland serves as a mentor in the Maslool Professional Dance Program. It was in this role that she was first introduced to Armon.

“Naomi Perlov, director of the Maslool, is responsible for my meeting Mai. I have her to thank for that. Mai is so young and so filled with potential,” said Friedland.

“She reminds me of everything I was and of Inbal Pinto, who I worked with years ago. I created this solo as a platform for Mai to show who she is.”

After 11 minutes of pure movement, Armon returns to the plastic from which she entered the stage to be replaced in the spotlight by Friedland in the opening solo of Edna.

Finally, the evening will close with an international sensation called No Lights No Lycra. Initiated by a group of Australian dance students, No Lights No Lycra invites participants, in this case audience members, to dance on stage without the stress of being watched. Dim lights and pop music will set the scene for anyone willing to let loose and cut a rug. This will be the first No Lights No Lycra event to take place in Israel.

For more information, visit www.choreographers.org.il.

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