A string of pearls

Sally Anne Friedland’s ‘Pnina’ premieres in Tel Aviv

Sally Anne Friedland’s ‘Pnina’ (photo credit: GADI DAGON)
Sally Anne Friedland’s ‘Pnina’
(photo credit: GADI DAGON)
On a Friday afternoon earlier this month, a small group of people arranged themselves at the front of a dance studio on Carlebach Street to get a sneak peek at Pnina, Sally Anne Friedland’s newest creation. The gray-floored studio was reminiscent of a dry sauna seconds after the coals are doused with water, the wall-to-wall mirror masked in places by clouds of steam.
The three dancers of Pnina began by inching across the space as a unit, feet and hands in unison as they progressed towards the mirror. Their hand prints lingered long after they peeled themselves away, coming to rest against the back wall. Three heads arched back together for a split second before the organism separated into three distinct entities.
Pnina is the next step in what seems like a new chapter of Friedland’s creative life. Last year, the veteran choreographer revealed Me & Mai, an evening centered on a solo danced by Mai Armon. A lover of props, Friedland managed to strip away extraneous items in order to focus in on Armon’s body, creating a solo that is clean and precise. Me & Mai shed light on a more mature, quieter Friedland, one that had perhaps rediscovered a purist’s love of movement.
With Pnina, Friedland opted to continue down the same road.
Fellow young dancers Roni Chadash and Dana Sapir join Armon. Together, the three complement and strengthen one another. The dancers present a picture of a young female pack, beautiful and strange, if at times hysterical. Individually, each dancer explores her own unique movement.
“I wanted to make something that is pure and strong,” Friedland explained to her guests. “These girls are the story of the evening. Sometimes when you see a person, you see their story. Here, I wanted to present each of them and their stories to the audience.”
Throughout the piece, Armon, Chadash and Sapir are drawn together and pulled apart. In rare unison moments, the three dancers seem to find a home base, one that calms and soothes them. Yet just when they seem to be connecting, the drive to speak out alone takes over, and the group dissipates. Sapir beats her hands on her body, drumming out a rhythm that pulsates from within. Armon takes a long drag on an imaginary cigarette before slinking through the space.
Chadash becomes obsessed with tracing lines across her torso. Pnina is named for a longtime supporter of Friedlander’s. “She is a very dear person to me, and I wanted to dedicate this work to her,” she explained. “I also started to think about what pnina means; the word means ‘pearl.’ A pearl is actually something that begins as an irritation, a bit of dirt that gets stuck in an oyster. Over time, the irritation turns into something beautiful, and eventually the oyster’s body is torn open to retrieve it.”
The soundtrack for Pnina is a veritable mixed tape of tracks found over hours of research. “We took it step by step and found our way,” said Friedland. The score moves from organic instrumentals to pounding electronica. Friedland spliced together songs to add complexity and opted to leave the final moments of the piece in silence, a welcome break after nearly an hour of music.
“I’m still debating about a few of the tracks, but I have to make a decision soon,” she laughed.
A week away from the premiere, Friedland and her dancers seemed thrilled to finally have an audience. “It’s so important to invite people in before the show,” she said. “I really get to see what needs to be done in this next week. It doesn’t matter how much you rehearse, performing gives all new information.”
Pnina will premiere at the Suzanne Dellal Center in Tel Aviv on July 31 at 10 p.m. and on August 8 at 10 p.m.
For more information, visit www.suzannedellal.org.il.