Efrat Rubin’s duality of birds

Dancer, choreographer and video artist combines her loves in ‘Black Bird’.

EFRAT RUBIN and Yehu Yaron in ‘Crows.’ (photo credit: Courtesy)
EFRAT RUBIN and Yehu Yaron in ‘Crows.’
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Like so many great artistic collaborations, choreographer Efrat Rubin and musician Yehu Yaron’s relationship began in fragmented conversations held while waiting for the children to exit kindergarten.
“Yehu and I have kids in the same school,” explained Rubin over coffee in Masaryk Square in Tel Aviv.
“He invited me to a performance of his at Tmuna Theater in the A-Genre Festival. I loved his songs, lyrics and him as a performer.”
In her work as a dancer, choreographer and video artist, Rubin is guided by intuition and her intuition told her that a project needed to come together. That project, a rock concert/dance performance entitled “Black Bird,” will be revealed this weekend at the Tmuna Theater.
“It was four months after the birth of my second child, Natalie.
I called Yehu and said, ‘I want you to play music and I’ll dance with a crow mask.’ He loved it,” smiled Rubin.
Birds are a returning theme in Rubin’s work. In her video installation, Crows, the dancers turn into birds. “In that piece, I was influenced by Hitchcock. I loved the duality of the birds... the fantasy and the danger that they represent.
With this project, I knew I wanted to take it to a more extreme place.
I wanted to really dance with the mask and see where that would lead me,” she said.
Perhaps it was because she was drawn to the image or perhaps it was because Rubin had not set foot on stage for several years, but the partial disguise of a giant bird mask allowed her a certain, elusive freedom.
“I started to try it out in the studio.
I did a lot of improvisation at first. I chose songs from different albums of Yehu’s and moved around to them, read their lyrics, got to know them. I discovered that I couldn’t breathe in the mask I had, so I started to look into other options.”
Rubin came upon a historical artifact known as the Plague Mask. “It looks very scary, like a bird, but not natural. It has these large eyes and a beak,” she explained. This mask, along with the original crow, joined a large black wig to make up Rubin’s avian alter ego.
“The bird took many forms in the piece. I continued to search for the movement that would suit what these songs communicated to me. There is one song called “Soul (Nefesh).” I felt that I wanted to dance with a long black wig that would cover my face. I found it was very fun to dance that way. On one hand, I can’t see very well, but on the other, it forces me to sense the space around me in a different way.”
Rubin adds that under the strands of black hair she makes a host of strange faces while she dances.
Aside from her talents on stage, Rubin is also a skilled visual artist.
Throughout the process, she accompanied her work in the studio with sketches kept in a neat, beige notebook. “Black Bird” took the shape of a large closet in which different compartments held different pieces of life. In one, clothing hang. In another, a delicate, crumbling city stands. This closet, which started as pen on paper, comes to life in “Black Bird” as an ominous backdrop to the piece.
Animation by Jonathan Katzman, Rubin’s life partner, will fill one of the sections.
As this is Rubin’s first foray into a rock concert/dance performance, she called on Lilach Dekel-Avneri to act as her dramaturg.
“I found that it’s better for me to work with theater vocabulary.
Instead of talking about the movements themselves, Lilach and I talked about emotional states and actions. There are many places in the piece where I know the feeling or sensation, but I don’t know exactly what movement it will evoke. So, there is room for play in the choreography,” she explained.
“We are treating each performance as an exploration.”
“Black Bird” will be performed on September 20 and 21 at Tmuna Theater. For more information, visit www.tmu-na.org.il