Physical education

A new dance piece set in a high school gym evokes old, often painful, memories.

two dudes dancing  (photo credit: Gadi Dagon)
two dudes dancing
(photo credit: Gadi Dagon)
In the many depictions of childhood trauma, one room seems to appear over and over. This space, while seemingly harmless enough, has left its mark on the nightmares of days past for countless children and grown-ups alike. Why is it that the gym is such a terrifying arena? Is it the horrible uniform, too seldom washed, or the painful ritual of choosing teams that leaves a scar on almost every student who’s ever been picked last?
In their newest work, Alehoum (Gang Up), choreographers Abigail Rubin and Yoav Bartel invite their audience into that emotionally charged space. Set in an actual gym, the premiere of this piece will take place at the Ironi Dalet High School in Tel Aviv later this month.
During the creation process for this piece, Rubin and Bartel drew inspiration from Michael Hanecke’s disturbing film Funny Games. The movie is about the take-over of an Austrian family’s lake house by two devious and cruel teenagers. A harrowing depiction of youthful sadism, Funny Games reminded Rubin of certain traumatic moments in her own youth.
Rubin, along with Ran Brown and Moshe Avshalom Shechter, dances the full-length piece. The work is site-specific, meaning that the gym plays a seminal role in the work. The three dancers are clad in traditional uniforms and interact not only with each other but also with the many props that inhabit the space.
Audience members are invited to sit wherever they like in the room, such as on the pummel horse or the gym mats.
Bartel and Rubin have been a team for several years both in and out of the studio. Bartel’s background is in dance and theater. In addition, he is an advisor for television programs such as A Star Is Born. For the production of Alehoum, Bartel has taken on the role of dramaturge, a growing trend for dance pieces.
Rubin’s training was predominantly in the dance field. She began her career as a dancer in Ido Tadmor’s company and then went on to develop her skills as a choreographer. In 2004 she was awarded the Best New Artist prize from the Ministry of Culture and Sports.
The two seem to have found a happy balance in their working life together and between dance and theater. Last year, they premiered the one-man show Hamarkid, written together and performed by Bartel. Their poignant and insightful piece received the prestigious Kipod Hazahav prize in 2010 in three different categories. Though the work had a strong physical element, it was received as a theater piece. In Alehoum, Bartel has taken a step into the wings, leaving the stage to Rubin and dancers.
Judging from their previous works, Alehoum will undoubtedly leave the audience members with quite a bit to think about after they exit the gym and return to their adult lives.
Alehoum will run at the Ironi Dalet High School, 74 Weizman Street, Tel Aviv, on October 28 at 2:30 p.m. and on October 29 at 9 p.m. For more information, visit