In step with the rhythms of life

American choreographer Daniel Esralow recognizes the extraordinary in the ordinary.

dance 224-88 (photo credit: Guido Harari)
dance 224-88
(photo credit: Guido Harari)
For choreographer Daniel Esralow, dance "is everywhere and in everything: the streets of a busy city… a crowd at a rock concert, the everyday rhythms and detailed action of life. We all move, and every possible motion in life can be considered a dance of its own." It is no surprise, then, that for the 30 years or so that Esralow has been making choreographies for his own companies, for movies, for luminaries such as U2 and David Bowie, a recurring theme in his work is "a clear individual voice, something that many people search for and hope to find." The individual voice has reached a particular flowering in his newest work Why Be Extraordinary When You Can Be Yourself, which premiered in April in Italy, has gone on tour and comes to the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center on September 25 & 26. A person's individual self is, by definition, extraordinary because it is unique. "People need to be and listen to themselves to be any kind of artist and human being," he said in a previous interview. The colorful, electrically energetic Why evolved from work that Esralow was doing with Amici, a popular Italian TV reality show that is constructed around an actual performing arts school. Youth from all over Italy audition to be among those who spend nine months at the school where their classes their exams, and of course, their lives are on camera. In the 2006/07 season, Esralow was invited to be on the show as guest and teacher. During that tenure he decided to create his own piece with some of the Amici kids - three of whom are now in his company - "to create with them my particular version of the world." Esralow, who no longer dances, works in Italy a lot. He first went there in 1979 as a dancer in Paul Taylor's company, but his involvement dates from 1983 when he went with Momix, the company he co-founded with Moses Pendleton after both left Pilobolus. The Italians are born with the joy of life, he has said. It's "in their DNA, and Italy has allowed the clown in me to explore." He spends part of every year in Italy, dividing his time between projects there and work in his native Los Angeles. Esralow's (born 1957) Israeli mother emigrated to California "10 years before I was born," he relates and, no, he does not speak Hebrew. He has many Israeli relatives, but since he established his own family - he has a six-year-old son - he has less time to visit. However, from 1985 - 1990, when Ohad Naharin became its artistic director, Esralow worked frequently with Batsheva Dance. Dance and Esralow came together when he was a pre-med student at Berkeley and saw a dance class listed on the curriculum. At first, for the former high school athlete, "It was a good replacement for sports. Then I realized I could also communicate a great deal of emotion, joy and spirit through the expression of the body. Choreography was a natural step for me as a modern dancer… Then I became intensely excited about the opportunity to inspire people and make dances." His choreographies run the gamut from stage to TV and film. He won an Emmy as performer in and creator of Episodes, a TV special on the ISO (I'm So Optimistic) dance company, which he co-founded. More recently, he created the choreography for Spiderman, which will make its Broadway debut next year. Esralow works closely with and encourages collaboration among his dancers. He likes them "to feel responsible for the work they will perform. The dance is here," he tells them in the studio on the first day of rehearsal. "It's just for us to find it…we're all going to find it together." A new creation, he likes to think "is always here, existing in a place unseen or as yet unthought of in our everyday busy lives. Each time it is for us to give of our time and sensitivity to listen and hear what needs to happen."