Weighing in

Yael Flexer discusses her piece ‘Weightless,’ featured in the Hot Dance Festival

"Weightless", part of the annual Hot Dance Festival (photo credit: Chris Nash)
"Weightless", part of the annual Hot Dance Festival
(photo credit: Chris Nash)
"Stability isn’t something I strive for, but I have a negotiation with it,” says Brighton-based choreographer Yael Flexer. Sitting in a Tel Aviv cafe with her partner in work and life, Nic Sandiland, their five-year-old daughter and two-year-old son, Flexer thinks about the milestone she recently reached. The company she founded, Yael Flexer, Nic Sandiland/Dance and Digital Works (formerly Bedlam Dance), is celebrating its 20th anniversary. Next week, the duo will present their newest work, Weightless, as part of the annual Hot Dance Festival.
Flexer moved to London from Israel on a whim.
“It all happened by chance,” she says. “In 1993, I went to London to take classes. I was 18. I decided to do a one-year certificate program at The Place, at the end of which I made a piece. I was invited to teach it to the London Contemporary Dance Theater, and then many opportunities came up. In 2003, I had a road accident and came back to Israel to recover. Nic followed me here, brought me back to England and made an honest woman of me,” she laughs.
From London, the two relocated to Brighton.
“There’s a great dance scene in Brighton, and it’s near the sea. It’s the closest you can get to Tel Aviv in England,” she says.
Apart from their hectic life with the company, the couple teach at universities and work on commission for other ensembles in Europe. Flexer is completing a PhD in choreographic portraiture with a focus on how the body addresses an audience.
The company specializes in a combination of live art and dance. Their performances, be they on stage or installation, feature audience interaction, using dancers and digital elements to engage the crowd. Flexer’s contribution comes by way of movement and text, Sandiland’s with sound, light and video elements.
“We both deal with choreography, be it dancers or pedestrians,” says Sandiland.
“In performance, we are very much ourselves,” says Flexer. “It’s about making every day more special.”
To celebrate the anniversary, the pair decided to create a retrospective piece using an unusual approach.
“There are historic or monumental anniversaries. We didn’t want either,” says Flexer. “We wanted to stretch the idea of history using a form, dance, that is always disappearing. It is an autobiographical work. It’s about me very much. I hate putting myself at the center, but I am that history.”
For Weightless, the two brought in composers Karni Postel and Dougie Evans, as well as movement and theater artist Wendy Houstoun. The title refers to a type of freedom that their accomplishments have allowed them..
Weightless is about having weight. I’m a part-time mother, a part-time academic and a choreographer. Does having a history give you weight? Being older, more subsidized and more established doesn’t mean that you know more or that you are more stable,” she muses. “For me, this piece offered a type of choreographic closure. It is the last chapter of many of my works. We began this by pulling apart previous works of ours. I spent a week watching videos of pieces I made years ago. At 20, you have things to say that you don’t have to say at 40. It’s wonderful. Not better, just different.”
In Weightless, Sandiland visually plays with the notion of nostalgia by turning present instantly into the past.
“We were looking at memory and how it is fragmentary and not continuous. There is a video element that is reminiscent of Polaroids, like shortterm memory. The images takes time to develop as the piece is going on. It’s very low-tech in its aesthetic. It’s a technology that is available to everyone,” he explains.
“We were working with the question of how to make something appear nostalgic. The dancers are dancing, and there are these snapshots that make the present the past. It puts a question mark around history,” says Flexer.
Another element that plays a large role in Weightless is sound.
“We have speakers around the stage. They create a type of disembodied voice, something that is without weight,” says Flexer.“We have people carrying the speakers around like a baby.”
“I wanted to work with sound as something sculptural,” says Sandiland. “So there are multiple sound sources on stage that can move, which is its own kind of choreography.”
Weightless will be performed on July 27 at 9:30 p.m. at the Gerard Behar Center in Jerusalem (for tickets, email [email protected]) and on July 28 at 9 p.m. at the Suzanne Dellal Center in Tel Aviv (www.suzannedellal.org.il).