For the last show of the season, Hagit Yakira Dance Company came to Bristol to present “Free Falling” after touring around England. The performance was an exploration of different anxieties based on the autobiographic experience of the choreographer, Hagit Yakira, as dance movement therapist.
The show began in silence. The two dancers on the scene started moving around, always connected, in a circle of movement without direction. Air Hunger, the opening section, was an exploration of an anxiety attack and how our body reacts to it. The absence of music amplified the sense of isolation and suffocating lack of air, the dizzying feeling of spinning around, being stuck in a cycle of confusion.
After the interval, all four of the dancers were on the scene. Even in the distance, the dancers were always connected to each other as they moved through space. Free Fallinginvestigated the fear of falling. This is a feeling that all of us have experienced at some time, as it is deeply connected with our everyday ambitions and challenges. It is a psychological fear, which in some scenarios can prevent people from moving forward, as any steps they attempt to make could result in a fatal fall without chance of recovery.
Both sections were characterized by repeated portrayals of the idea of falling and being rescued. This theme evolved throughout the show and the feeling of not seeing a way out developed, which intimately resonated with the audience. However, it is the redundancy of the very act of falling that can open up the possibility of a way out. We are constantly afraid of falling, and indeed of failure, but it is often this fear that allows us to appreciate the presence of those around us. The performance closed with a single performer who stopped dancing and walked away off the stage. The others followed behind him, leaving him the space to find his own path to recovery.
The exploration of these anxieties came from the choreographer’s experience as a dance movement therapist. Since she founded her company in 2007, Hagit Yakira has always focused her studies on autobiographic research, working on communicating the emotional aspects of the kinds of experiences that everyone can empathize with. The stories she illustrated to us deeply touched her as a human being. According to her philosophy, she mixed choreography with improvisation leaving the dancers free to choose how to interact with each other following her directions and produce physical displays of emotions and feelings natural for them. The freedom she left to her dancers has been also left to the audience. The structure of the choreography offered a key to empathize with your own sensibility and create your personal story, without being driven by an “easy interpretation” because of the nature of her experience.
“Free Falling’ will be again on tour in Autumn 2017. In the meantime, I had interviewed Hagit to know about her performance and work.
1 – The core of your work with your Dance Company is focused on sharing autobiographic stories and on the physical exploration of emotions and feelings. What inspired you to research and work in this direction?
The autobiographical aspects are there as a source for creating relationships between the dancers and me during the process. They are there to create a bond between the dancers and me, and build a trust – mental and physical trust, and in order to give the work the depth it needs, the honesty it needs, and the rawness. I truly believe that this kind of work, process and journey create depth, connection and ownership; it creates a real sense of care, thus the dancers care about the subject matter as much as I do, it makes the process about the dancers as much as it is about me or my ideas of the subject matter; it makes it about us, about our meeting points, our connections and affect on one another. What I mean is, is not that the work is about us, there is something bigger than that in the work, but the process is about the moment – or moments we meet – and how we meet and how we develop together – and this gives the work a real depth. This belief or even insight and understanding comes from my background as a therapist I think. I want to note that what we share in the studio stays in the studio. I don’t add it in the choreography itself, what we hear in the studio is not something the audience will hear, in that way it isn’t about sharing those personal stories on stage, not at all, but actually about something more abstract and poetic.
I am a great believer in emotions and feelings. The idea of what affects us sensually, physically, mentally. Our relationships with others, and how these relationships affect us and transform us as human being. I understand the world through my emotions, through my feelings. I first feel. And this is why my work is also and always about emotional journeys. My work is an extension of the woman I am.
2 –Free Falling particularly reflects your philosophy as choreographer and teacher. It is based on your memories, on your individual experience as a dance therapist. Because of this intimate connection, how did you feel working on this show? Has it been different comparing with your preview works?
My work is always personal and always emotional. I see emotions and the idea of creating an affective experience for the audience and the dancers as a concept, an intellectual concept and a sensual one, and this is something I always explore through the different subjects I look at in my choreographies. What is different in this work is the fact that I feel more secure in my practice, and therefore can take more risks and stretch my comfort zone, and the comfort zone of those who collaborate with me. I feel I can go deeper in my practice, go more into details, make it more profound and articulated.
3 – During the show, often the dancers helped each other using their bodies or using the clothes to suggest the right movement. How much your job as therapist influenced the quality of movement you have been worked on with your dancers?
It is more the way I wish to see the world, or the beauty I can sometimes see in the world – support, help, relationships, connections. This is something that the choreographer in me and the therapeutic interest I have mingled together. The movement quality is what interests me as a choreographer and not so much as a therapist. The therapeutic side in what convey the subject matter, the empathy, the emotional journey I want to choreograph. The movement material, quality and structure are my choreographic choices.
4 – The experience you had as a therapist is unique for you, and your dancers come from a different background. How have you worked together to translate your memories into dance and built a choreography readable by anyone?
I have to say that I am or at least I was a dancer/performer my self and I work as a dance teacher as well, in that way my dancers and myself have also a lot in common. My experience as a dance movement therapist was fairly short – and even though it does (and very much so) influence my work and the way I see the world, relationships, art, it isn’t the only thing that shape my work as a choreographer. On the contrary – my experience as a dancer/performer and my experience as a teacher have a very big impact as well.
I never wanted my dancers to translate my memories – not at all! I wanted them to find their own sense of falling and recovering. I wanted to see where the subject matter meets them. Their physical and mental interpretations of the subject was much more important to me than my memories or their understanding of them.
As for my memories, I think I can answer it in this way: I wanted my choreography to convey something I find very humane: it is the subtlety in emotions, the complexity of feelings, and the way I perceive the notion of recovery: slow, detailed, comforting, supportive as well as chaotic, scary and desperate.
5 – Free Falling will be on tour again in Autumn 2017. There is anything you would like to change or investigate more deeply until then?
The evening keeps changing all the time. I have already changed the costume, I took the sounds away in Air Hunger, I changed the timing of the interval; it all happened during the tour.
I believe there will be more changes. I want to see how I feel when I see the piece again in the autumn; we are taking a short break now, and will be back to tour the piece in the autumn. I want to see how the works – the choreography ‘meets’ me and the dancers after that break; how I feel when I see the work again after the break. I think only then I’ll know what needs to be changed and rework. In that way it is a never ending story of choreographing; as long as I develop and change throughout the tour, so does the work…