"Do I dare disturb the universe?"
~T.S. Eliot

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Batsheva workshop, traveling, Pesach in Israel

I haven't written in a while, because I've been so busy but some good things have happened.  We had an all-day workshop on Sunday with Batsheva Ensemble member Lotem Regev, and from the moment I stood to wake up my body in the Gaga warmup, I remembered how much I enjoy Gaga; I loved every moment of floating, shaking, quaking, and "connecting to the passion and pleasure" of moving.  As opposed to when I lived in Tel Aviv three years ago, and the Gaga-Dancers classes hadn't been built up as a program yet (I was taking Gaga-People classes, which was open to the general public/non-dancers as well), this class was designed for us--for dancers.  I have loved all the general Gaga classes I have taken, and I'm grateful I've have a solid base of pure Gaga before mixing it with plies and tendus. However, there was something that felt so good about this Gaga/modern/contact hybrid class, and I felt more awake and alive than in quite a while.

We did a bit of partner-work in the beginning part of the class, and Lotem was the closest person to me, so we grabbed each other as partners.  Normally I would be nervous to be the one to work with the teacher, but he put me at ease, and I felt I was working with a peer.  The work we did was like a mini-massage, which felt amazing...really, just what I needed right now with my body feeling so tired.

After Gaga, we had two long classes of learning Batsheva first.  First we learned the unison section from Kamuyot; it is a beautiful section of slow but precise movement interrupted by pauses every four counts or so.  I felt that the choreography was so simple in some ways, but very beautiful in its clarity and energy.  During the holds, (there was a musical cue to go on to the next movement) it was interesting for me to practice having a line of energy and still feeling the movement as alive, even in what seems to be a static pose.

The second bit of rep we learned was from MAX, and it was....crazy.  It look us over an hour to learn the first 4 counts of eight!  This section is a type of language he devised so that each count represents a movement (more like large gestures).  We learned three sections (each 4 counts of eight); In each section each block of 8 counts we would either perform the corresponding movement, or hold.  Each count of eight there were different counts that were either emphasized or held, so it was so difficult to remember what we were doing for each of the four sets of eight.  Anyway, it was really intense learning, but we were also laughing through it all.  None of us were geniuses at it, but it renewed my appreciation for the genius of Batsheva dancers for being able to master this!

Stream in the Judean Desert
Hmmm well I know that many things have happened since I last wrote....we had a trip earlier in the month to the south of Israel, where we did a workshop with Kamea Dance Company in Beersheva, at the famous Bat-Dor school, hiked in the Judean desert, climbed down (and partway up) Masada, swam twice in the Dead Sea, and spent a beautiful evening at wonderful Bedouin accommodations.  Everything was invigorating and the weather was excellent.  I was especially amazed with the Bedouin rest spot.  In contrast to the place we went on Birthright (which was beautiful, but just one big tent with mattresses all around), this was more like a whole campsite.  We had tents for about 5 people each that were more like cozy cabins with bunk beds and hammocks outside.  It was amazing, and the food (sweet tea, pita, hummus, tahini, many kinds of vegetables, and chicken) was delicious.

Bedouin tent

Last week, my brother Jason came to visit!  He squeezed Israel into the middle of a Europe trip, so he was only here less than three days, but we had a really awesome time.  He came to classes with me, and I was actually surprised he seemed really interested in watching what we were doing.  We took an evening adventure to Haifa, where we saw the Bahai temple/gardens and had an amazing pita/hummus/pasta/cheesy dinner.  It was so awesome to spend time with him here, I feel like it's so hard to describe this life I live here, so you really just need to come and see it to understand.  Also, I realized that I live in such a rural, woodsy, green place, whereas he lives in the financial district of Manhattan.  Pretty much polar opposites.  I know I explained the nature of where I live, being on the outskirts of the country, but I think it still surprised him--the first thing he said to me was "Wow, you REALLY live in the middle of nowhere!"  :-) It's also funny, in a good way though, seeing people from home here.  It's like two worlds of mine collided...
Bahai garden/temple in Haifa

Last night marked the beginning of Pesach, or Passover here.  We were all placed with host-families with whom to celebrate a seder and traditional dinner.  A number of us went to the neighboring kibbutz of Yehiam.  We met at a family's house (Brazilian/Israeli dad, Tunisian/Israeli mom, son who is an Army officer, and musician daughter) and then went to the community dinner in the big kibbutz dining hall.  (This was the first time I really felt the community spirit of a kibbutz, in this large festive seder--What used to be the community's large dining hall on Ga'aton is now our dance studio...I know they have another one somewhere, but I've never been there.) I mostly loved singing "Echad Mi Yodea" with a huge group of people...each table was assigned a number, and we stood up and twirled napkins when we got to our turn (ugh, I only wish we could have learned the Batsheva choreography during our workshop!).  The haggadah was all in Hebrew, but I was able to generally follow along, and I was explaining the story along the way to one of my fellow non-Jewish dancers sitting next to me.

We went back to our host-family's for tea afterwards, which was amaaaazing.  Oh my gosh.  I love tea, but I need to learn how to make it like this.  It was three herbs combined--"Nana," which is Mediterranean mint, which is very poplar here, plus "Louisa" and "Melissa," neither of which I was familiar with.  It was minty and naturally very sweet and refreshing.  We listened to the daughter of the family sing and her boyfriend play guitar.  After a couple hours of this very chill and wonderful time, we went to the pub to ring in Passover.  L'chaim!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Inspiration in Tel Aviv, fatigue, and emotions

Two days ago, we had day-trip to Tel Aviv, which was amazing--It was wonderful to get out of the kibbutz for a bit, wander the streets of the city I love so much, and experience the sights, sounds, and smells of Shuk HaCarmel again (the main market).  We came primarily for a MASA event that evening, which was an "arts and culture" night.  We got to pick one of three activities to attend; (one of which was seeing KCDC perform "Transform."  I've already seen the 2nd Company perform this twice though, so I chose a different activity) I decided to see a duo performance of novelist Eshkol Nevo and musician Shlomi Shaban.  They were fantastic--both of them being talented artists, it was inspiring to be surrounded by fresh art.  Eshkol read sections from one of his novels and also some short stories, mainly regarding youth, moving to a new home, and rekindling friendship.  Shlomi Shaban, who I had only vaguely heard of before, is a really talented, classically-trained pianist turned....I don't know, rock/jazz/singer-songwriter.  I'm definitely going to look up his music on itunes now.  His songs (though in Hebrew, so I had to extrapolate from the brief English introductions he'd give us) seemed also to often be about the challenges and excitements of starting a new life, family, and separating from/reuniting with friends.  Since I am lucky enough to be able to hear a lot of live music at home, and haven't as much here, it was really nice to see this live performance.  During the question and answer section, they spoke about the importance of keeping art alive, staying inspired, and allowing your changing surroundings to inform your creativity.

The only downside of all this was, we got back to the kibbutz at half past midnight, and had a full day of classes the next day.  Our classes were pushed back a bit later, but I still didn't sleep very well.  The next day I was exhausted and felt like I really might not be able to physically or mentally muster the energy I needed.  In Rep with Mika, we needed to run a bunch of sections we've learned, all quite physically demanding.  But more than that, it was mentally challenging for me, because these were all sections we learned a mostly while ago, and I've been going over, but was not quite confident with all of them.  After only a brief review of each segment, we needed to split into small groups and run it.  I felt so much pressure, like it was an audition (and in a way I think it might have been a bit like that, because they are going to have to delegate parts at some point...), and the exhaustion was weighing on me.  I conjured every ounce of energy and adrenaline (and had some coffee/tons of water/fruit/protein) I had, and focused harder than ever before.  And somehow, I got through....and I think I did pretty good considering how exhausted I was!  By the time our lunch break came, I felt like I was about to crash.  Too bad I still had ballet and rehearsal that evening....

I guess I learned that just as important eating and drinking well is will power.  I could not have gotten through that day without the pure will to go on, and the desire to dance as well as I could.

A couple days before all of this, most of us got together and talked about how we are feeling about the program thus far.  Surprisingly (to me), there were quite a few people with strong emotions...homesickness, overall fatigue/exhaustion, feeling stuck (rather than liberated) in the kibbutz....I am lucky--I don't really feel it like this.  While I got teary-eyed too, talking about my family and our parting two months ago (and confessing to everyone what a wreck I was when I got on that plane!), I'm actually really savoring my time here and am appreciating (or trying my best to) every moment.  As I said before, I'm clearly so exhausted and pushed to my limits too.  I get stressed easily and sometimes I feel really anxious as well, but this program is also clearly good for me mentally too, to put out of my mind anxieties about what I could be doing, or fears about the future....I just try to remind myself every day how awesome it is to be dancing this much again every day, taking part in so many workshops and master classes, and living here with these beautiful surroundings!