Never too late

After 30 years in local dance community, choreographer Sally Anne Friedland is reinventing herself through latest work, "Human Nitrate."

HUMAN NITRATE 370 (photo credit: Pnina Evan-Tal)
(photo credit: Pnina Evan-Tal)
There are a whole bunch of expressions that start with “it’s never too late to…” It would appear that, as a society, we believe in rebirth, renewal and, above all, change.
And yet, so often, when a person boldly revamps their image, they are met with resistance and judgment.
In the eyes of veteran choreographer Sally Anne Friedland, remaking oneself requires an insane amount of courage.
“I’m quite sure that not everyone will say bravo,” she said in a recent interview with The Jerusalem Post of her upcoming premiere, Human Nitrate. However, for Friedland, this work marks the beginning of a new era, one that she meets with great excitement.
On Saturday night, Friedland will unveil this unusual, evening-length production as part of the Suzanne Dellal Center’s Hot Dance Festival.
Friedland has been part of the local dance community for over three decades. An immigrant from South Africa, she spent the lion’s share of her career in Israel. As a dancer, she was known for her long lines and excellent technique. During her tenure as a Tel Aviv choreographer, she established a consistent approach to dance. As the director of other performers, she leaned on her experience on stage as well as her dancers’ classical training to develop movement.
Three years ago, Friedland premiered Private Collection, a piece that she groups together with the old style she hopes to have moved beyond with Human Nitrate. Private Collection boasted highly stylized set pieces, fancy costumes and a strict, unchanging string of scenes. When she embarked on the journey towards Human Nitrate, she first searched for new tools to use. She challenged herself by breaking down the order and allowing for a little craziness to seep in.
“People knew that when they came to see my work they would receive grand aesthetics and some comedy. I always relied on comedy to shrug off the pains of life. Like in Yiddish theater, it’s like those who are the most in pain are the funniest to watch,” she explained.
Last week, during the Intimadance Festival at Tmuna Theater, Friedland showed the crowd that people can change, and they do. The excerpt from Human Nitrate that she showed was completely and utterly different from any of her previous works.
“There are three stages for choreographers; young, middle and that third part, I don’t know what to call it. Now that I’m in that third part, I found that I needed to continue to develop myself. I’m not new but I have to make myself new, to go ahead as an innovator,” she said.
“It’s like being on a diet,” she said. “You’ve lost a few pounds but there’s still that pull towards the chocolate cake. For the chocolate cake was all of those tools I had always used in the past. It’s very easy to be drawn back to the familiar and ordinary places. It’s easy to remain in one domain of aesthetics, inspiration and choreography. I wanted to change and I didn’t know how.”
Whereas in previous processes Friedland contributed a large portion of the content, she now took a step back, leaving the field open for her three dancers to give their input. “I was more like a director or an author than the choreographer of this piece. I was lucky to find three exceptional people. This piece is really about us, it isn’t about them or me but about the decisions we made while creating the work. I didn’t want to go into a fantasy world with this piece. I wanted for us to use our art, the dignity and prestige of the dance form as a tool to research the depths of our emotions.”
In her dancers, Friedland found the key to updating her style to match the current trends in the international dance community. “There is a generational gap between me and them,” she divulged.
“I got a lot from their vitality and youth, from the way they see and feel things. At times they led me and at times I led them.”
Her musical choices also pushed the piece into the present tense, with a blaring electronic score that both invigorates and jars the audience. “I have a good knowledge of music but, what can I say, I’m not up to date. I went through two composers and a huge library of music and nothing worked.”
Then, during a trip to the gym, Friedland was handed a sample CD of music by Israeli DJ Skazi.
“It just worked. It was exactly what we were looking for,” she said.
The piece offers a type of deconstructed fashion show, during which the three dancers frantically snatch items out of a giant heap of clothing in the middle of the stage and, in their new digs, flaunt their stuff for the audience’s approval. “Clothes say so much about civilization. We have codes for everything, especially dress,” said Friedland.
As the madness picks up in speed, each dancer’s character becomes clear. Robin Kain is the egomaniac, attention-deficit drama king; Omer Astrachan tries with all his might to regain his manly power by stuffing heaps of fabric into her shirt; and Mor Ben- Zakai struggles and strains to find the love she is missing while tied by an extension cord to the back wall of the stage. The piece flows between complete mayhem and strikingly organized vignettes.
For Friedland, giving over some of the influence to other artists has allowed for a kind of freedom she thought impossible. “In chaos there’s freedom and in freedom, chaos,” she smiled.
Human Nitrate will premiere at the Suzanne Dellal Center on July 21 at 9 p.m.. For more info, visit