Modular dance works

“Finding dancers is very intuitive, it’s a yes or no. I see someone and something happens to me, I want to work with them or not."

‘Works’ (photo credit: JULIA GAT)
(photo credit: JULIA GAT)
In every creative process, there comes a point where deadlines creep up, time runs short and decisions must be made. At that point, the proverbial hair spray comes out, affixing the sequences and happenings that constitute a dance work. No matter how free or improvised the time in the studio had been, most dances are eventually set. Chance occurrence and experimentation take a back seat to further the comfort and knowledge of the performing team.
In his creation Works, choreographer Emanuel Gat conceived of a different way. Instead of composing a sequence of phrases and movements, Gat opted to incorporate a modular approach to his creation. “The idea was to make an evening that wasn’t set,” he explained over the phone. “Since we premiered it changes all the time. After a while, always, the work changes and lives and you want to continue and change and this format allows for that. It’s an ongoing process.”
Gat, 50, was on his way to board a train in Paris. Born and raised in Israel, Gat has been living and working in France since 2007. Since relocating to Europe, a definitive moment in his career, Gat has presented work all over the world, racking up a long list of awards. His visits to Israel have been numbered and have been met with great interest and enthusiasm. In October, he will return to Tel Aviv after a six-year hiatus to present a double bill including the Bessie Award-winning Sacre and Works. The performances are part of the Suzanne Dellal Center’s International Season, celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of the local dance hub.
“We don’t usually present these two works together,” Gat said. “But Yair Vardi (director of the Suzanne Dellal Center) wanted us to perform Sacre, so we decided to show both pieces in a longer program.”
SACRE PREMIERED while Gat was still living in Israel. The work disassembles the beats and steps of Cuban salsa, breaking them down into component parts that are then fitted together to create a new, dynamic whole. An interpretation of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, Gat’s Sacre is danced by three women and two men and is lively, joyful and intense.
Works presents a completely different side of his dancers. This work shines light on each performer as a dazzling individual. Of the aesthetic dissimilarities between the pieces, Gat said, “My process changes all the time. It changed a lot since I began creating. In a lot of ways that is the subject for my work. I don’t look for a subject and then create. My subject is the creative process. I keep checking and exploring what that means, how it happens, how there is suddenly choreography, how ideas arise, what is the interaction with dancers. That is what I work with.”
The dancers are incredibly important to Gat, not just as executors of his vision but as travelers on the same journey. Though he has lived away from Israel for years, Gat naturally gravitates toward dancers who have knowledge of or experience with Israeli dance. Local audiences may even be able to recognize a few performers from works by Batsheva Ensemble or Yasmeen Godder.
“Finding dancers is very intuitive, it’s a yes or no. I see someone and something happens to me, I want to work with them or not. It’s not something I can break down. Like falling in love with someone before you know them. There’s a click.”
Together, Gat and his dancers delve into various explorations. The time in the studio is more than a means to an end, it is the essence of their experience. In fact, Gat revealed that the real challenge in creating dance is bringing the magic of the studio to the audience.
“It’s always somewhere in the background, how to cover the gap between where I am with my dancers in the process and exploration and the audience. We are doing all this for them but we have to constantly understand how we can share this process with them when what they see is just an outcome of that process. How can we not lose the audience by doing something that only we understand while not making our process less layered? That is the biggest challenge.”
And while the job may come with its difficulties, Gat finds moments of joy in seeing his dancers happy. “The best thing is when the dancers enjoy the work,” he said.
Emanuel Gat will present Sacre/Works on October 4 and 5 at the Suzanne Dellal Center. For more information, visit