For the love of the land

Israeli-French choreographer Yuval Pick returns home this week to present ‘Score,’ a work evoking memories of Israel.

Dancers 31 (photo credit: Courtesy of Laurent Philippe)
Dancers 31
(photo credit: Courtesy of Laurent Philippe)
After 16 years in France, Yuval Pick’s Hebrew sounds slightly affected. As director of the Centre Choreographique National de Rillaux- la-Pape in eastern France, most of his business is conducted in French. Though his career has flourished abroad, a piece of his heart remains in Israel. This conflict of nationalities, of sense of belonging, was the inspiration for Score, which Pick will present at the Suzanne Dellal Center next week as part of the Focus France Festival.
Last year, Pick was asked to create a work for the Ca Tchatche series at Les Subsistances: Laboratoire De Creation Artistique in Lyon. The series’ focus is on the languages that make each artist who they are.
For Pick, these languages were French and Hebrew.
“They asked me to do a piece because they knew that I’m a foreign artist,” said Pick in a recent interview with The Jerusalem Post.
“To make a piece about the languages that make me. I don’t deal with language, I deal with dance. So I came to Israel to record the sound of Israel and the vibration of the place.”
In his quest to find indigenous sound, Pick visited parts of Israel he had never been to before. In several days of research, Pick visited Arab, Druse, Beduin and Jewish communities.
“There was a sense that everyone is similar to each other. That people were born in the same place and that they share something essential,” he explained.
Upon returning to his home base, Pick tried to make sense of the myriad sound bites he had collected.
“I took all of that sound and made a soundtrack. I worked with three young dancers whose youth matched the youth of Israel. The piece deals with the relations between Israelis, how we are very close to each other and very open but with certain boundaries,” he said.
“The sound gave the tone of the piece, the sense of emergency. It’s not a political piece, it’s poetic and it’s a bit of a love song to Israel. It does have politics in it, but it is not about politics.”
In Score, as in all of Pick’s pieces, emotions are communicated through movement.
Finding the steps to express his inner world is what makes Pick tick.
“I am trying to preserve or continue making pure dance. I strive to create the expression of the body of movement, to take our feelings and translate them into movement. I try to create pieces that communicate with the audience and that move that audience through dance.”
THE CREATION process for this piece, which required Pick to carefully consider his home country, came in concurrence with an event that would root Pick even more deeply in France. After years of dancing and creating in the country, Pick was selected from a long list of choreographers for the position of artistic director of the CCN in Rillieux-la-Pape.
At the time that Pick received word of his appointment to this prestigious rank, he was considering returning to Israel to create a work for Vertigo Dance Company.
The responsibilities he shouldered when he began to work at the CCN demanded his full attention, thus shelving the possibility that he would fulfill his ambition of making work at home.
“I would very much like to come to Israel to create. I think I will create from a different place. It will give my artistic statement something else. I think I need that. I received this position and I’ve been very invested in it since. First, I need to continue here before I can consider coming back to Israel,” he said.
In fact, Pick’s relocation to France was never intended to be permanent. After dancing for Batsheva Dance Company, Pick joined the Lyon Opera Ballet.
“In order to develop I needed to break out of the boundaries of Israel, both as a dancer and as a choreographer,” he explained.
Finding himself living in France, Pick quickly set about learning the codes of his new surroundings.
“There are positive and negative aspects of being a foreigner in France. France has a lot of history, a lot of nuances, and a lot of codes. Unlike Israel, France is very connected to its past. Israel is the opposite; we are such a new country. The more I spend time in Europe the more I miss the freshness of Israel,” he said.
The sense of being torn between two places is perhaps what gives Pick his edge as a choreographer, and exactly what Score deals with.
“I’m 40 today, and the identity I feel more connected to is the European, international identity. I strove for that. I wanted to have a communication with the world and dance gives me that. Dance gives me a way to understand the world.
However, I will always feel connected, that I belong in Israel. Israel will always be the place I came from.”