Honking his own horn

As part of the Shades of Dance festival in TA this week, choreographer Omer Uziel presents ‘Charlie,’ his duet with a large stuffed unicorn.

CHOREOGRAPHER OMER UZIEL and ‘Charlie.’ 370 (photo credit: Gadi Dagon)
(photo credit: Gadi Dagon)
It was a balmy, early summer night. Rookie choreographer Omer Uziel was taking a walk down Shenkin Street to contemplate his proposal for the upcoming Shades of Dance Choreography Competition. He knew that he wanted his inaugural choreographic venture, a solo, to include an animal reference.
He also knew that he wanted it to deal with the loss of childhood naivety. However, what animal and how he would convey his attempts to grapple with maturing were as yet unclear.
And then he saw Charlie, or rather, the stuffed animal that would come to be known as Charlie and would eventually give his name to Uziel’s first solo. “I was walking down the street at midnight and I just saw him there,” Uziel said of the large stuffed unicorn. “He was thrown out on the sidewalk, dejected, lonely. He was looking at me and I was looking at him. So I grabbed him and took him home with me on my bike.”
That would be Charlie and Uziel’s first joint venture. Two months later, Uziel sees Charlie as a fellow performer, a mascot and symbol of the solo/duet that he will present later this month during the Shades of Dance Choreography Competition at the Suzanne Dellal Center.
Uziel is a tall fellow with a thin frame and kind eyes. He began his career in the professional training program of Dede Dance Company.
For the past several years he has worked as a freelancer in Tel Aviv, dancing in works by Maya Brinner, Yuval Goldstein and Dana Ruttenberg while moonlighting as a bartender.
Taking the leap into choreography has proved surprising for Uziel. “I feel that this experience has brought out a type of split personality in me,” he laughed. “I am the producer, the choreographer and the dancer all at the same time.
Sometimes I will wake up in the morning and the choreographer in me will want to run out the door to the studio. But then I stop and think, ‘no, Omer, your dancer needs breakfast so that he can work,’ so I eat something. Then, in rehearsal, the dancer and the choreographer are totally engaged but the producer needs to kick them out because our time is up for the day. At the end, it’s all powered by the same engine and when that engine putters out, it all stops. I’ve had to work on balancing the roles out.”
Shades of Dance is under the artistic directorship of Clipa Theater founder Idit Herman. She was appointed prior to the last competition, in 2011, and was invited back to select and mentor the emerging choreographers of Shades of Dance. Over the past several months, Herman has conducted workshops, meetings and showings with the six chosen choreographers.
To begin, Herman presented the artists with a theme: the 100th anniversary of the premier of Les Ballets Russes’ production of Stravinsky’s Right Of Spring. In the century since, many choreographers, among them Pina Bausch, Lester Horton, Mary Wigman and Maurice Bejart, have reinterpreted this seminal work.
“When I heard that the theme was Rite Of Spring, I immediately knew that I wanted to create something about the transition from being young to being an adult, “ explained Uziel. “I just turned 30 this year and I felt that is was both a crisis and a revelation. In my piece, I investigate the ritual of transitioning into a new phase. The piece exists in a dream that I created in which I deal with my lost childhood dreams and fantasies. This dream world is very fantastic. It is plasticky and electronic and more than a bit cynical.
“I wanted to preserve a kind of carelessness in this piece. There is a certain freedom you have when you are young, knowing that everything is open, that the possibilities are endless. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, but I will never be 20 again. The things I could do at 20 I can’t do anymore.”
Uziel and Herman met two years ago, during the previous Shades of Dance. “I was dancing in a piece by Yuval Goldstein then, so I got to meet her in the studio several times. In this process, Idit has been very supportive of me.
We have a very open dialogue. She has become the unofficial dramaturge of the piece. She asks important questions that help me to clarify my intentions. Idit really believes in connecting with the audience. My hope is to give the audience something very clear and accessible with this piece and I believe she’s helped me to do that.”
Musician Naduve, whose electronic beats draw the piece further into the dream world of Uziel’s vision, will join Uziel and Charlie the unicorn on stage. “Naduve uses a lot of bird calls and forest sounds. He distorts them to make them sound fake, which connects for me with the loss of childish illusions.”
Shades of Dance will take place from August 28- 31 at the Suzanne Dellal Center. For more information, visit www.suzannedellal.org.il.