Foreseeing the future in Israeli dance

Israeli choreographer Ronit Ziv finally incorporates a male element into her new rendition of ‘Cassandra.’

RONIT ZIV’S ‘Cassandra’ (photo credit: Courtesy)
RONIT ZIV’S ‘Cassandra’
(photo credit: Courtesy)
‘Everyone has those moments when they see the truth and no one believes them,” says choreographer Ronit Ziv. “When Cassandra is brought back to Troy by King Agamemnon, she looks at the castle but all she sees is blood. Her curse is that she can see the future but no one will believe her.”
The story of Cassandra has intrigued Ziv for many years. Five years ago she presented the first version of Cassandra, a duet for two female dancers. The work went on to be performed around Israel and abroad and enjoyed several different casts.
“Before I started the duet with the women, I wanted to use two men but the timing wasn’t right,” says Ziv.
Now, Ziv has returned to Cassandra with two men, Or Elgarisi and Geva Zaibert.
This past week, Ziv unveiled the new rendition of Cassandra together with another new duet, Say it One Time Only and Never Twice. She will show this program once again on Sunday night at Tmuna Theater.
Elgarisi and Zaibert stand at the back of the stage in Tmuna’s Amphitheater, preparing to begin a run of the 12-minute duet. They are bare-backed and barefoot, in high-wasted pants. Their torsos are adorned with a long strip of black duct tape.
“I spent some time in Athens,” explains Ziv as the dancers stretch their feet and get in place. “At the entrance to the temple in the Acropolis, there are these enormous statues. I noticed how their torsos were their prominent feature. I wanted to accent the dancers’ backs so I asked them if they could have open backs. For the women, that meant foregoing a bra.
I suggested the duct tape as a solution and the dancers, Sofia Krantz and Geffen Lieberman, immediately agreed. I find that when dancers are enthusiastic about a choice, it’s usually a key decision. With the boys, there was a question of whether to use it, because it isn’t completely necessary.”
Here, Elgarisi intervenes.
“I saw the piece five years ago and I said right away that I wanted to perform it and that I wanted to wear that duct tape.”
The impact goes far beyond the aesthetic, pointing directly at the dissonance the switch between a female and male dancers fosters.
“We really looked at how to transfer the feminine moments to men,” says Ziv.
“When a woman stabs another woman, it is entirely different than when a man does it to another man. It brings up completely different connotations.”
Though short, Cassandra is physically demanding. Set to Johannes Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 1 in D Minor, the duet is non-stop movement from the first note.
Concise, expressive and harmonious, Cassandra allows for each dancer’s personality to shine through.
The second premiere of the evening, Say It One Time Only and Never Twice, locks dancers Julie Zaoui and Lior Tavori into a tightly entangled and dysfunctional relationship.
“I think we enter relationships with a lot of preconceived notions about what love is and what it looks like,” explains Ziv. “It [Say it One Time Only and Never Twice] starts with him asking her, ‘can I film you?’ There is the contrast between the documentation of life and the reality and it’s painful.”
“I started this duet not really knowing anything about what I would do, which is very unusual for me. I knew there would be a man and a woman and that’s it.
We work with video, with graphics that spread through the space as the piece progresses and with this relationship that is trying to look like what we expect relationships to look like.”
Both pieces will be performed in Tmuna’s Parking Lot Theater, a wide-open space with a corrugated tin ceiling and wooden bleachers.
“I like the Parking Lot because it isn’t really a theater, it’s a room that someone decided would be a performance space. There’s something very open about that.”
Cassandra and Say It One Time Only and Never Twice will be performed on Sunday, July 30 at 8 p.m. For more information, visit