Mixing art, dance and life

A long-time collaboration raises modern dance to a whole new level in 'Yesterday'.

‘I think that real art is the one that mixes all [the disciplines],” declares Guy Bar-Amotz. This belief – and a singular talent for fusing art forms – has made the England-based Bar-Amotz a prominent figure in Israeli and international art circles. Bar-Amotz is best known for innovative sound installations, and he has also experimented with dance performances in museums. His current project, which is scheduled for a solo show in Tel Aviv at Rothschild 69 next year, centers on three talking robots who follow a theatrical script written by the artist himself.
But on this trip to Israel, Bar-Amotz is not exhibiting his own work. Instead, he’s here as the associate director and dramaturge for the Jasmin Vardimon Company, which is bringing the dance production Yesterday to Herzliya, Jerusalem and Haifa.
Bar-Amotz and Jasmin Vardimon have been collaborating for well over a decade since he was a student at Bezalel and she was an emerging choreographer in Israel. Moving abroad in the mid-1990s, Bar-Amotz studied for his master’s of fine art, and Vardimon established her company in England in 1997. As Vardimon honed her highly physical and deeply psychological style, she became one of the leading choreographers in England. And with Bar-Amotz by her side, she has developed one of the most visually striking, cutting-edge aesthetics in the world.
Asked about the nature of their collaboration, Bar-Amotz laughs, “Basically, we live together, so it’s naturally a mixture of everything –  life mixed with art!” Sometimes, he notes, “Jasmin is working with me, advising me or doing some movement sequences or choreography for performances that I’m doing inside my own installation.”
But when it comes to their work for the company, Bar-Amotz says it is Vardimon who comes up with the vision. “My role is basically to do the artistic advising and to do the sets and to think about things that I don’t know how to do,” he remarks.
As a dramaturge, Bar-Amotz brings his background in the fine arts to his discussions with Vardimon and other designers involved in each project. His finely trained critical eye comes in handy for observing rehearsals and offering constructive feedback that pushes the work to the next level.
“I see myself as the first audience,” Bar-Amotz explains. “We think when you’re making art – and this is also with my own practice – I don’t want to see the viewer as less than me. I treat them as if they are me and above... So I’m the viewer, basically, for Jasmin. And we’re doing the work for someone like me and better than me.”
While Bar-Amotz’s constant dialogue with Vardimon may help shape her choreography, it is his extraordinary set designs that are most clearly visible in her productions. “With the set,” he clarifies, “I’m trying to build a system, a technological and conceptual systematic arrangement, that’s not like making a decoration for the stage. It’s more like a tool; it’s more like a machine that the choreographer can use.”
In Yesterday, Vardimon uses Bar-Amotz’s inventive machine to stunning effect. A backdrop shredded into vertical strips allows dancers to enter and exit the space and also doubles as a screen for real-time projections of the dancers, captured by cameras placed strategically on stage.
Live media and previously filmed footage abound in the production, which was premiered for the company’s 10th anniversary and contains excerpts from several works in Vardimon’s rich repertoire. Both the existing movement and video art have been creatively remixed, and the result, Bar-Amotz asserts, is that Yesterday “is really becoming a new piece.”
Since this is the company’s first tour in Israel, all the recombined material in Yesterday will be brand new to Israeli audiences. And while Bar-Amotz notes that Vardimon’s work is quite different from most Israeli dance, he thinks local crowds will love it. “When we tour in Germany and France, we can’t leave the stage,” he marvels. “I’m sure it will be the same with Israel.”
The Jasmin Vardimon Company performs Yesterday at the Herzliya Performing Arts Center on March 2-4; at the Haifa Auditorium on March 6; and at the Jerusalem Theater on March 7. Tickets range from NIS 169 to NIS 269 and are available at 1-700-70-29-29 (Herzliya); (04) 841-8411 (Haifa); and (02) 560-5755 (Jerusalem).