Even Ophelia

For this production, Schenfeld called upon her company of dancers to bolster Ophelia’s path to freedom. “The company is like a Greek chorus or like something breathing in nature,” she says.

 (photo credit: ANASTASIA SHMUELOV)
(photo credit: ANASTASIA SHMUELOV)
While many accept the fate of the character Ophelia, albeit tragically, Rina Schenfeld refuses to accept the hand the dealt to the scorned young woman by Shakespeare.
“I want to set her free,” says Schenfeld over the phone.
In her new evening, Ophelia Aphilu, Schenfeld is continuing her entanglement with the character. Just a few months ago, she presented Ophelia together with Canadian opera star Barbara Hannigan. But, as she discovered upon completing the creative process, one exploration was not enough for her.
“Now that Barbara and the musicians are gone, I felt the need to complete the work,” she says.
Schenfeld, 80, speaks quickly and with great enthusiasm. It seems her passion for dance is only growing in ferocity, propelling her to create one work after the other with little pause between. While we discussed Ophelia Aphilu, Schenfeld dropped hints about her next two productions, then quickly reminded herself to stay in the present and leave surprises along the future path.
“Dance comes to me, whether I want it to or not,” she sighs.
For this production, Schenfeld called upon her company of dancers to bolster Ophelia’s path to freedom. “The company is like a Greek chorus or like something breathing in nature,” she says.
Her company functions differently than a conventional dance troupe. Schenfeld’s dancers are all employed in other fields and make time to meet their passion twice a week in her studio. Some of these individuals have been with Schenfeld for nearly two decades. They range in age, background and technique greatly, which allows for real life to seep onto the stage in Schenfeld’s eyes.
“They are choreographers. I don’t make their movements; I compose but they are collaborators,” Schenfeld explains. “They are different dancers. They don’t dance every day for eight hours. We don’t have a budget for that, and I wouldn’t want it. We work twice a week, happily, in a different way. I want to put real people on stage. They talk, they sing, they dance. We, together, are creating a language which is different.”
Some of the singers are in theirs 50s and 60s, according to Schenfeld.
“I don’t really care about age. I don’t want a company where everyone is young and muscular and beautiful,” she says. “I like to mix ages. There is a very smart quote that says that in order to bring life to the stage, we must put performers of all ages on stage. My language is about human beings. It’s not about virtuosity – our virtuosity is different. It’s that they can speak, sing, dance, move, create, make magic on stage.”
Schenfeld references the recent Tel Aviv performances of Tanztheater Wuppertal, whose legendary choreographer Pina Bausch was one of her friends and colleagues. In fact, Bausch often comes up when speaking to Schenfeld.
“We studied together in Juilliard. She went on to Limon and me to Graham. She’s German, I’m Israeli. She’s a genius, I’m not. That’s clear. But we are of the same generation that managed to change something in dance, we’re of the same line. Like Pina said, ‘I don’t care how you move but what moves you.’”
Ophelia Aphilu is comprised of poems by Leonard Cohen (translated to Hebrew) and Shlomo Artzi. As in many of her previous works, Schenfeld used the text as a canvas onto which she paints her choreography.
“There are seven songs and each one expresses something else. I’m giving Ophelia a second chapter. I want to take her out of her context to the shores of forgiveness,” Schenfeld quotes a poem by Leah Goldberg, which is also in the piece. “I want to wake her up.”
Rina Schenfeld will present Ophelia Aphilu on November 28 and December 12 at the Suzanne Dellal Center. For more information, visit www.suzannedellal.org.il.