Dancing amid the pandemic at the Israel Festival 2020

In the past months, we became Zoom experts.

YASMEEN GODDER’S ‘Exercising Empathy.’ (photo credit: TAMAR LAM)
YASMEEN GODDER’S ‘Exercising Empathy.’
(photo credit: TAMAR LAM)
Dancing amid the coronavirus feels odd, like being part of a mismatched couple. At this unusual time, we watch helplessly as our society loses its solidarity, realizing that the virus changes our lives in endless ways, forcing us to re-evaluate past convictions, desperately seeking ways to capture our losses and yearning to believe that there is a way out of the darkness.
The Israel Festival 2020 chose to open its rather thin dance section with two new works by Yasmeen Godder that targeted similar aspirations. By chance, both are basically sections of an ongoing project concerning empathy that Godder started to develop over three years ago, before she showcased its first chapter. Simple Action was danced on a bare studio floor in front of a small audience that readily interacted with the dancers. Yet its simplicity, loaded with human compassion, made it unforgettable.
I knew that I must see Exercising Empathy #1, even if only online, and use the option offered to festival audiences at all the performances, partially out of curiosity, and partially since I had no information concerning my health safety.
In the past months, we became Zoom experts and used that technology as an alternative tool for learning, family, work and social gatherings where human contact was not an option.
Dance is probably the least suited art form to watch on Zoom-like options. A screen can give you a basic idea about the dance in terms of movement, composition and rhythms, but less so about its details and nuances that come across from the stage. A screen lacks that spirit.
I am referring to studio-made dance when all venues were shut down. Since there were no other options, studio-made dance was recorded by easily available technology, often with limited budgets and prompted by the need to interact with viewers, even if only through a screen. Contrary to filmed studio dance that is aimed originally for the stage, there are exceptions, for instance, experimental dance made specifically for the camera’s lens that popped in the ‘70s in the USA, or the rise of progressively complex video dance made exclusively for the screen.
The festival ends September 12. Program details can be found at Israel-festival.org.