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

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Dancing in Memoriam

Yesterday was Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel, called Yom Hashoah.  We had a day off of classes, but I woke up in time for the siren that sounds at 10am.  Even though we were up late the previous night in tech for our performance until 11, I wanted to observe the siren properly (i.e. not in bed), since this would probably be my only time to experience something quite like this.

So I walked to the front gate, passing only a few people along the way (though the kibbutzniks that I did pass seemed to be outside their houses or places of work, perhaps also preparing for the siren).  The sound went off just as I was approaching the gate, and I stood for the remaining of the 60 seconds (that represents the 6 million) at the road junction.  It was so strange...I saw nobody, heard nothing but the siren expect for one truck that probably couldn't hear it go off.  After it ended, I heard the echoes of other sirens dying down, the sound slightly distorted, from other towns.  And then--silence--and chirping birds.  Next, I saw a few cars pass that probably had been stopped on the highway where I couldn't see.  And then the day proceeds...

It would have been a totally different experience if I had been in Jerusalem, or some place where traffic comes to a standstill and everyone comes out of their houses/cars and observes that minute.  I was a bit disappointed I couldn't have had this experience, but at the same time, it was special to observe in my own quite kibbutz-like way.  I also reflected, after the 60 seconds, that here in Israel, we always talk about the 6 millions.  I feel like it's crucial to remember that there were 5 million others....gypsies, homosexuals, dark-skinned, handicapped, etc. that were also killed, not for any reason at all, and killed by other humans....ugh...I can learn about it so many times and it never gets any easier.

Then, last night, we also had a performance at the kibbutz called Lochmei Hagetaot, which means "Ghetto Fighters' House."  It is a kibbutz that was founded by Jewish resistance fighters during the war, and every year, there is a large ceremony on Yom Hashoah (perhaps one of the biggest ceremonies, second to in Jerusalem at Yad Vashem).  We performed a section of Aide Memoire, KCDC's famous Holocaust memorial piece by Rami Be'er.  The experience ended up being truly moving for me, one of the most meaningful performances I've ever been a part of.

I admit I was possibly more nervous beforehand that I have ever been in my life, before a show.  There were so many crazy factors to this performance that made it quite...interesting...and the tech the night before a little terrifying.  The stage setup, mostly, is what made it so crazy.  In this piece, a train of walking dancers that we call the "snake" weaves around while highlighted dancers exit out of this snake to dance combinations.  The snake, for this show, was walking on elevated boards, that were at times a bit shaky.  The dance combinations happened off of the planks, on the main stage, which was actually just made out of stone or at times was vaguely gravel-like.  There were also art pieces dotting the stage, constructions of wood that cross liked a twisted cage or something.  We performed in gym shoes so as to not get hurt, and we also had to make numerous last-minute alterations due to the space.  To add on top of this, the lighting was a bit intense, with lots of colors and strobes that were pretty distracting to me.  I asked Mika if she could talk to the lighting people to tone it down, but she said she already did and the lighting cues were programmed to the music and apparently couldn't be changed...

Anyway, I went into the show feeling pretty nervous about how it would all go down (on Israeli national  television).  I also was feeling pretty emotional, in the spirit of the Holocaust--the stage backdrop constructions were all reminiscent of cages and fences--and the screens were displaying scenes of trains to the death camps.  What really hit me was the night before at tech, Mika told us when we run (and there is a lot of running in the piece), to "run like there is no tomorrow, like you are heading to the gas chambers."  I gave an involuntary shudder when she said that, and it really drew home the meaning of the piece for me.  In fact, Mika is generally full of inspirational quotes that I attempt to remember.  Right before going on, she said, "There are a lot of young people in the audience, they are the next generation that needs to remember what happened.  Everyone is speaking with their words, but we are speaking with our bodies....showing that we are here and we are here to stay."

I didn't even have to try to channel all this emotion into my dancing.  It was already there.

Many of us ran off stage feeling that we messed up, lost the counts, or were thrown off by other unexpected occurrences (a man walking on stage and reading a speech in the middle of our dance while our audio was turned down...).  Most of us felt like it was a "big balagan" (big mess)....But when we saw the video, we realized how together it actually was, and how, despite technical issues, we really were feeling each other in the spirit and in the movements.  I really feel honored to have been a part of something so special and important, in Israel.

Here is the video (sorry, poor resolution)...

"I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides."
~Elie Wiesel

No comments:

Post a Comment