The essence of Eshkol

An homage to influential choreographer Noa Eshkol is presented in "Variations Theme."

Dancers 311 (photo credit: Dee Conway)
Dancers 311
(photo credit: Dee Conway)
When people feel proud, they puff up their chest.
That sounds about right, no? According to the late choreographer and revolutionary movement analyst Noa Eshkol, it’s the other way around. A person puffs up his chest and feels proud as a result of the movement. This theory falls perfectly in line with Eshkol’s belief that movement evokes emotion, which was the basis for her life’s work in the dance field. Next weekend, an homage to Eshkol’s work will be presented in Studio Varda at the Suzanne Dellal Center.
Variations Theme, which will be danced by five performers, is comprised of excerpts from Eshkol’s dance suites. A meeting with the dancers will follow each performance.
The performance will be a cappella, so to speak, as Eshkol believed that movement alone could touch the audience without the need for music, props or costumes. Thus the five performers will wear plain black clothes and will be forced to find rhythms within themselves. It was Eshkol’s belief that in this way the spectator is afforded the purest experience of dance.
Eshkol was born in Kvutzat Degania B in 1924. She received her training in Israel and London and went on to found the Noa Eshkol Chamber Group. Her unconventional approach to dance found expression in choreographies that were performed around the country by the rotating cast of her company. Eshkol passed away five years ago, leaving behind a wealth of text and a massive body of students and admirers. Many choreographers have been influenced by her work. Today, a number of dance practitioners continue to study and develop the methods outlined by Eshkol in her movement notation. The performers in this evening are comprised of longtime members of the Noa Eshkol Chamber Group, as well as dancers who have joined in the past several years.
Today, if you walk into a dance company’s studio anywhere in the world, you will most likely find a video camera. Ask any choreographer, and he or she will tell you that one of the best ways to capture and preserve movement during a creative process is by recording it. And while nowadays recording has become easily accessible, such was not always the case. For decades, dancers and choreographers faced the challenge of recording their movements in a legible, clear way.
To answer this need, several movement notation methods were developed such as the Kinetography Laban system and Benesh Movement Notation.
Around the same time that these methods were being put to the test in Europe and the US, Eshkol hunkered down in Israel to decipher and map out the exact way that each joint of the body functions. Unlike her peers, Eshkol’s approach to movement was not limited to dance or even humans but could also be applied to any type of living creature. When the Eshkol-Wachman Movement Notation was first published in 1958, it was received with wonderment and awe. Eshkol and Wachman immediately became recognized as pioneers in the movement notation field.
The Batsheva Dance Company will present this production.
Among those touched by Eshkol’s work is legendary choreographer Ohad Naharin. As Naharin wrote in the program of his most recent work Sadeh21, “It would be true if I wrote that all my pieces were dedicated to Noa Eshkol.”
Eshkol’s work is currently being featured in two exhibitions. An exploration of her work is being presented at the Center for Contemporary Art in Tel Aviv. The exhibition includes open classes, discussions and video excerpts of Eshkol’s company. And the Israel Museum is showing an exhibition by American artist Sharon Lockhart, which is centered on Eshkol’s dances.
Variations Theme will be presented at Studio Varda on February 3 at 2:30 p.m. and February 4 at 8 p.m.. For tickets, call (03) 517-1471.