A slam dunk by Annabelle Dvir

Performance artist presents her latest work as part of Jerusalem International Dance Week.

ANNABELLE DVIR’s newest creation, ‘Work of Flesh – Soundtrack for Five Slammed Bodies.’  (photo credit: DAVID KAPLAN)
ANNABELLE DVIR’s newest creation, ‘Work of Flesh – Soundtrack for Five Slammed Bodies.’
(photo credit: DAVID KAPLAN)
Annabelle Dvir isn’t one to shout her own praises. She doesn’t self-promote or posture about her practice or her methods. You won’t catch her mingling with the crowd after her performances. In fact, for a performance artist, Dvir is quite the introvert. But put her on the stage and a whole other animal emerges, one that is confident, clear, brave and out there. She is a dark horse in the Israeli contemporary dance community, playing by her own rules, keeping her head and doing the work it takes to get her artistic vision out there.
Next week, Dvir, 28, will present her newest creation, Work of Flesh – Soundtrack for Five Slammed Bodies as part of Machol Shalem Dance House’s Jerusalem International Dance Week. The event will host over 100 dance presenters and curators from major dance centers around the world, all visiting Jerusalem to see what local artists have come with over the last year. The hope is that some or all of the participating performances will receive invitations to tour abroad. And while Dvir may not be ready to schmooze the guests, her work will undoubtedly grab their attention.
Work of Flesh – Soundtrack for Five Slammed Bodies premiered earlier in the year as part of Tmuna Theater’s Intimadance Festival. Danced by five women, the work stays close to the floor, with bodies slamming into the ground and recovering from it. As they perform this ongoing grind, their voices clear the space, at times in near-song at others in beleaguered grunts. The piece puts the audience on edge, unsure if the performers are crossing the border between reasonable pain and inflicting harm upon themselves.
“We are in a gray area. The audience can’t decide what it is,” explains Dvir over the phone. It is mid-afternoon and Dvir is speaking from her car, on the way to teach for the remainder of the day. She is resolute and deliberate in her explanation of the process that brought her to this work.
“It was a long journey that I went on. The movement material and work with the floor started in previous works. In Instrumental Bodies, which premiered at the Between Heaven and Earth Festival 2017, I worked with music by Led Zeppelin. I was looking for the balance in the slamming action, between one that is painful and produces a specific sound, and the other that finds groove in itself, a strong sense of beat, and feels good; one between tiredness on the one hand and enjoying the exhaustion on the other. There was a section where we used our vocals, which I really liked and wanted to keep exploring it.”
Dvir was accepted to participate in Intimadance just a few weeks before the start of her DanceWeb Scholarship, an elite residency that brings 65 selected dance artists from around the world to Vienna for the entirety of the Impulstanz Vienna International Dance Festival. There is no doubt that the workshops and performances Dvir attended there largely influenced her process.
Upon returning to Israel, Dvir came to understand what she was looking for in this new piece, not without a fair share of difficulty.
“It was really hard for me to admit that what I was looking for was this place that was painful but also pleasurable simultaneously. I was also afraid to go to a place that was just the body with no music and objects, that served me in earlier processes.”
With the support of Intimadance artistic directors Anat Katz and Erez Maayan, Dvir made the bold decision to eliminate all outside elements. There would be no music, no props or elaborate costumes. The lighting would be minimal. What was left was a herd of women chucking their weight into the floor.
“The range of this movement grew because there wasn’t music, because we were the soundtrack, the sound of our voices and the sound of our weight on the floor,” she adds.
Dvir chose women because, in order to accomplish the nerve-wracking task she had taken upon herself, Dvir wanted to feel as comfortable as possible.
“I looked for people that were interested in my idea. I worked with men and women at first. I realized that I just wanted to work with women in the studio. I had a lot more confidence working with women. Because of my background with violence at home, I felt that the man presence in the process may block me.”
The cast, which includes Talya Shalom, Layil Goren, Dana Naim Hafouta, Shaked Mochiach and Dvir, commit to the movement at hand with full force. There is no hesitation, limited thought of self-preservation, just bones and skin hitting the hard surface over and again. And strangely, something in this approach, in watching this flock of nihilist birds perform their painful ritual is hopeful, uplifting even.
Following this performance, Dvir will return to the studio to expand this work to a full evening, supported by a grant from the National Lottery. 
Annabelle Dvir will present Work of Flesh – Soundtrack for Five Slammed Bodies on December 2 at 3 PM. For more information, visit www.macholshalem.org.il.