There is the saying that to know someone, you must walk a mile in their shoes. In the dance world, performers who share roles have an intimate connection. Be it in different casts during the same period or at different moments in the life of a creation, whether they met in person or transferred movements via videos of other dancers, dancers executing the same part have walked the same path, performed the same movements and been spirited across the stage by the same music.
Such is true for choreographers and performers Oryan Yohanan and Ilana Sarah Claire Bellahsen. When Yochanan joined the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company, Bellahsen was coming to the end of her time with the troupe. In her last months working in KCDC’s sprawling studios on Kibbutz Ga’aton, Bellahsen taught her roles to Yohanan.
Their time in the studio ended when Bellahsen moved south with visual and performing artist Artour Astman. Yochanan ascended to the highest ranks of KCDC. After Yohanan left the company and moved to Tel Aviv, they began running in the same circles, however, their interactions were few and far between.
Seated at Café Tachtit in central Tel Aviv, Bellahsen and Yohanan make a natural and forceful pair. Their re-meeting brought forth the creation These Two Shall Pass, which will premiere this weekend at the Choreographers Association Studio and is already sold out.
The two are among the most memorable, virtuosic and charismatic performers to grace the Israeli dance world. Both on and off stage, there is a similarity between them, though it is hard to place a finger on exactly what creates this effect.
“We come from the same place,” says Yohanan, referring to KCDC.
“We had this meeting point. Back then, a lot of people said we look alike, like sisters or cousins. I didn’t think much of it at the time. I was finishing eight years with the company and was looking forward to moving on,” says Bellahsen.
Bellahsen, 39, has been seen in creations by Barak Marshall, Inbal Oshman, Sahar Azimi, the former company Maria Kong, Clipa Theater and more. She is the partner of prominent visual and performing artist Artour Astman, with whom she has a nine-year-old son. She began creating work during her time in KCDC.
Yochanan, 36, has worked with the Israeli Opera, Clipa Theater and independent choreographers such as Gili Navot, Dafi Eltabeb, Sahar Azimi and others. As a choreographer, Yochanan has created predominantly solo works that she has performed in which she wields her keen physical prowess into cultural critique.
During the subsequent lockdowns, Bellahsen began to feel a change brewing inside of her.
“I had spent a long time being the partner of, the mother of, a dancer of. I had created work here and there. After COVID-19, I had this vision of creating with someone and it was clear to me that it was Oryan in the vision,” says Bellahsen.
“After years of being a solo artist, I knew I wanted to create in collaboration with someone. And then Ilana called a year ago. We met at the beach. She talked about the things she wanted to make space for in her life and work,” explains Yochanan.
“We barely knew each other but I was able to tell her all of these things that I was going through,” adds Bellahsen.
For the past year, Bellahsen and Yochanan have navigated a most unusual creative process. It is clear that, in their collaboration, each woman found a new sense of freedom and possibility.
“At first, we vomited everything out. We worked with toys, movement, writing, voice,” says Bellahsen. They moved from the studio to public spaces, testing material generated inside on the outside world. “These shifts gave new layers to work with,” says Yohanan.
Along with observing and calling into question their experiences as women, power dynamics, societal expectations and notions of service, Bellahsen and Yochanan strived to make room for playfulness in their process. “One of our main goals was to enjoy! We wanted to enjoy this work ourselves and make something the audience would enjoy. We wanted to laugh and play. We went to the playground and ran around like girls. We permitted ourselves regressions,” Yohanan says.
The end result, which will be presented twice a month at Clipa Theater, is a foray into a new genre for both women. “We begin the piece covered, as objects and slowly the objects are revealed and receive new layers,” explains Bellahsen. “It isn’t dance but all the dance is there in our bodies, all the history of movement.”
These Two Shall Pass will be performed at the Choreographers Association Studio on April 30, May 6 and 19. For tickets, visit www.clipa.co.il