Four men, one mind

Oded Graf and Yossi Berg bring their world-renowned performance home.

Four Men 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Four Men 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
‘We don’t talk about how to work together, we just do it,” said choreographer Yossi Berg. He was referring to his decade-long partnership with fellow choreographer Oded Graf. “If Oded has something he wants to show me, he shows me,” Berg said.
“We built a non-written system of how to work together,” added Graf.
“It just works,” Berg went on.
Sitting at a coffee shop in central Tel Aviv, the duo were the perfect picture of a happy communion.
This Saturday night, Graf and Berg once again present Four Men, Alice, Bach and the Deer at the Inbal Theater.
The performance is part of the Suzanne Dellal Dance Center’s Hot Dance Festival. The two choreographers have just returned from a long tour abroad, where they showcased the fruits of their harmonious collaboration to audiences from Germany to San Francisco.
A large part of Berg and Graf’s time is spent abroad.
“We get invited at least once a year to create pieces for other companies abroad,” explained Graf. “This year we made a piece for the Staatstheater Kassel in Germany.”
The two recently finished a new work for six dancers in Denmark, which they intend to bring to Israel in the coming months. In 2009, Berg and Graf spent two months in Germany, developing the first draft of Four Men. They premiered the piece abroad in June and returned home.
“We wanted to show the piece on a regular basis, which meant bringing it back to Israel,” said Graf. The original cast included the two choreographers and two established European dancers. Upon returning to Tel Aviv, Graf and Berg sought replacements for the other two dancers.
“We needed people with very strong theatrical skills,” said Graf.
“It’s not enough to be a good dancer. Technique is great, but there is a lot beyond technique that we look for. What’s interesting about a dancer is the essence of his or her stage presence,” explained Berg.
After not too much thought, Berg and Graf approached dancers Hillel Kogan and Irad Mazliach. “Both Hillel and Irad were people we thought of immediately.” The result is a dream cast, of which each of the four performers shines while contributing to a rock solid ensemble.
Four Men is a narrative piece, which is at both times humorous and horrifying. The piece begins with four men, as the title would suggest, dressed in suits and superhero masks, doing a slow cha-cha on stage.
Kogan begins to tell the tale of these four men, who “live in a big house, with big rooms and a refrigerator full of beer and meat.”
As this satirical representation of all things male develops, Graf, Berg and Mazliach join in for what the choreographers refer to as “the musical section.” All the while, a large fake deer lies in the corner of the stage.
During the course of the show, the audience could easily be mistaken at times for the chuckling supporters of a brilliant stand-up comedian. The subject matter of this piece, however, is anything but funny.
Among other things, Four Men presents the viewer with conflict, rape and slaughter.
“Of course the audience laughs when we didn’t mean for them to,” explained Berg. “That’s what is interesting. A lot of people have told us that it was very funny but where everyone laughed wasn’t funny at all.
That’s the place in the work that has a duality. The place of being uncomfortable or not knowing how to take it that causes laughter. Those are the hardest moments of the piece.”
“I think that we tried to attack this subject from many angles,” said Graf.
“Humor is part of us so it was very natural to add it into the work.”
“Humor is something you either have or you don’t,” added Berg. “You can try to force it but it will always feel fake.”
Four Men, Alice, Bach and The Deer will run at Teatron Inbal on July 17.
Tickets cost 90 NIS. For tickets call (03) 510-5656.