In 1891, when Herman Melville passed away, he was certain that Moby Dick was a failure. The book, which Melville wrote when he was in his early thirties drawing on his experiences working as a commercial sailor, did not find an audience. By the time Melville died, the book had faded to obscurity and was out of print. It was only three decades later that Moby Dick began to receive critical acclaim, eventually being canonized as one of the greatest pieces of American literature of all time.
“Many people know what Moby Dick is but haven’t read the book or, if they tried to read it, didn’t finish it,” says Avshalom Pollak. “It is a book with lots of enigmas in and around it. Something about it got stuck with me. It interested, challenged and intrigued me and made me think a lot, not only about the book itself but about its history.”
This month, Pollak will unveil a new production titled Mobi D., which was created as a collaboration between Avshalom Pollak Dance Theatre, artists Michael Faust and David Polonsky. The performance will premiere as part of the new dance series at Zucker Hall in Tel Aviv’s Charles Bronfman Auditorium.
Pollak has been a longtime member of Israel’s cultural elite. In 1993, he and Inbal Pinto founded their company. Since 2018, Pollak has been the sole artistic director and has created a host of works including Slug, Krump and Space Invaders. He has been seen in television and films, most recently in the leading role of Nadav Lapid’s Ahed’s Knee.
About the show
“The book is not a point of origin, rather a main element in the show,” says Pollak. It is early morning and Pollak sits on a bench in a small park in central Tel Aviv. Pollak speaks of the team that came together to create Mobi D. with great admiration.
“I knew Michael and David before this. We are friends. David and I had talked about working together ages ago, but it just didn’t happen until now. It was a very special experience working with people with very different experiences and very big talents. We shared a process that was different from what we had done before.”
Faust and Polonsky, both formidable visual artists, are responsible for the visual side of Ari Folman’s Waltz with Bashir. To Mobi D. they brought their trademark aesthetic intuition.
One of the things that most captured Pollak in Melville’s watery opus was its simplicity. Together with Faust and Polonsky, Pollak boiled the plot down to its most elemental form, a set of hieroglyph-like characters that spell out the narrative. This alphabet is at the heart of the deeply structural movement material, which, Pollak says, took many months to decipher. “The hieroglyph is a symbol that becomes the body,” he says. “It is a type of drawn writing, a recording that predates words.”
“The book is not a point of origin, rather a main element in the show.”Avshalom Pollak
In creating the work, the collaborators strove to find a harmonious balance between the many elements in the mix. “Each of these things is a single note and there are spaces between them. There are movements, visual images and texts that have to come together to achieve the right weight for the piece. This is of great importance in the process of creation.”
Pollak has an additional premiere at the end of the month, a video series that will be exhibited at the Petah Tikva Museum. Titled Liquid Season, the series includes 12 videos created in collaboration with Japanese musician Umitaro Abe, who previously collaborated with Pinto and Pollak on Wallflower as well as other projects. Liquid Season was created during the COVID period and was made for Abe’s album Le Plus Beau Livre du Monde.
Mobi D. will be performed by Avshalom Pollak Dance Theater on June 29, 30 and July 1 at Zucker Hall. For more information, visit www.avshalompollak.com.