In 1861, in the wake of Prince Albert’s death, a new trend came into fashion. Widows and grieving family members would wear rings and bracelets woven from the hair of their deceased loved one or carry a tress of their hair in a locket.
In 2015, upon losing a close friend and mentor, Adelle Archer founded the company Eterneva, which specializes in creating ash diamonds out of human or animal remains. In the Eterneva process, ashes of the deceased are combined with organic matter and pressed into gems, which are then set into jewelry pieces that can be passed down as heirlooms for generations to come.
Nearly seven years ago, dancer Tomer Giat lost his teenage sister. He spent many years contemplating and processing her absence, thoughts that he has compressed into a different kind of diamond, a dance piece. Next weekend, Giat will premiere Missing, his inaugural creation, as part of Tmuna Theater’s Intimadance Festival.
What is Missing, the new dance creation of Israel's Tomer Giat?
“The piece combines my personal story of losing my sister with an exploration of the phenomenon of missing,” he says over coffee at Edmund Café in south Tel Aviv. Giat is one of Israel’s most in-demand dancers. He has been seen and has stood out in works by choreographers such as Idan Cohen, Or Marin, Roy Assaf and Rachel Erdos. All of these successes occurred alongside Giat’s journey to cope with a family tragedy.
“Missing isn’t a phase of grieving. There are the five stages, which are defined by time. In each one there are clear guidelines for what you will feel. Since my sister committed suicide six and a half years ago, missing took on a new meaning for me. I think a lot about the things you miss. I have thought about what missing is and if it’s seen as positive or negative to miss. But one thing is for certain, that feeling is always there.”
For Giat, the missing was both limiting and activating. During the process, which began several months ago, Giat focused on using the time in the studio and on stage to bring his sister closer to him. “My sister was very talented. She wrote and composed songs. I wanted to bring her art to life. I played her songs in the studio. Lots of times I couldn’t dance because the missing paralyzed me. But sometimes, if I couldn’t move, I could sing along. I found I had all these feelings, not just sadness,” he says.
The idea of bringing someone or something closer turned into a physical language, which Giat unfurls throughout the solo. He also speaks with his sister, teaching her how to bake the brownies that she loved. “I wanted to refer to memories that we had together, to remember more than the bitter end. I imagine that we are speaking on the phone, that I’m trying to help her with something. It feels good to bring her closer.”
Giat’s costume also serves as a way to be closer to his sister. Designed in collaboration with graphic designer Shani Ben Haim and costume designer Veronika Szor, Giat’s pants and shirt are covered in Retama flowers. On Giat’s arm is a large but delicate tattoo of the blossom. “My sister’s name was Rotem. I wanted to wrap myself in this beautiful and wildflower. We chose two fabrics, one purple and one white, and printed Shani’s rendering of the flower on them. It is another way for me to feel her presence.”
Giat isn’t alone in grieving his sister’s loss. To make the solo, he called on his family members to contribute to the process. “My brother did the sound editing,” he explains. The process also allowed Giat to delve into details of his sister’s death in a way he hadn’t previously. “Through the solo I could research everything. I read the [Magen David Adom] report from that day and the police report. It was extremely difficult,” he says but goes on to add that he felt it was necessary.
Though his family members have yet to see the work, Giat has prepared them for the premiere. “This piece is another step for me in making peace with the loss.”
Missing will be presented in Program A of Intimadance together with three other short solos by Tal Adler Arieli, Shay Persil and Anat Grigorio. Other artists premiering new works in this year’s festival are Gon Biran, Hani Sirkis, Michal Meskin, Rotem Elroy and Matan Preminger, Kazuyo Shionoiri and Dror Liberman, Ilana Sarah Claire Bellahsen, Inbal Aloni, Eirad Ben Gal and Rom Sheraztky.
The Intimadance program, curated by artistic directors Niv Shenfeld and Oren Laor, also includes a bingo night, a lip-sync extravaganza and a showcase of works by dance students.
Intimadance will take place on June 15-17. For more information visit www.tmu-na.org.il.