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20 June 2023

by Ran Brown for Haaretz

Original source (hb)

Close to the audience and without spectacular effects. The intimate solo piece Am I by Michael Getman, performed by Talia Paz, raises questions concerning dancing and the consequences of movement in space on our bodies.


Photo by Nadia Perlov

Am I by Michael Getman is an intimate and exquisite solo piece performed by the dancer Talia Paz. In its current version, it is performed in a white box, close to the audience, and without spectacular theatrical effects. Paz, who has an international career of more than 30 years, is an Israeli dance legend: she danced in various companies, including Batsheva, Cullberg Ballet, Scapino Ballet in the Netherlands, and the DV8 company in London, and performed the works of some of the most prominent choreographers in the world, including Ohad Naharin, Jiří Kylián, and Mets Ek. In Am I, she and Getman examine questions related to dancing and performance but also raise broader questions than these: How do our choices shape us? What mark do they leave on our bodies? And who could we have been if we hadn't chosen as we chose?


Getman and Paz take a deconstructive approach toward Paz's physical history, her artistic biography, and, not least, the endless conversation of consciousness. They break down the movement between Israel and Europe and back, between choreographers, body and thought, Dismantling the action itself, the language, and the emerging choreography that loses cohesion.


At the piece's beginning, Getman places a marking tape on the stage, turns off the lights, and returns to the stage to mark its center using the tape he put earlier. Paz's eyes widen; she smiles as if she remembers something and begins to describe her events in the third person - from a so-called objective position, reporting, drama-free. When Paz places her right foot forward, disconnects the heel, and presses the base of the toes against the floor, her knees seem to expand in both directions. Between them opens a riddle, a miraculous, perfect shape, which appears to answer the question: how to thread an elephant through the thread of a needle?


Through this hatch outlined in her body, the creation emerges. Syllables, ends of extensions, fragments of memories, a solid flow of stammers, convulsions, and bodily flutters, words that join sentences, steps, and gestures that are made to familiar quotes, then come back and fall apart, all are anchored in Paz's actual, singular and undeniable body.


Paz, slender and tall as one of Giacometti's elongated female sculptures, recognizes the forms in her body in a way that is both personal and impersonal. On the one hand, she embodies in her body guidelines as if they existed beforehand, not in her memory, but in the space itself, and only when she filled them did they become visible to the eye. On the other hand, only her unique body can realize them in this way, precisely and thoroughly, with emotion and indifference simultaneously. In Am I, Getman manages to capture exactly the "body signature" of Paz, that is, "all those movements, actions, gestures, looks, sounds and voices" which, according to dance researcher Dr. Hodel Ophir, form a "body signature" that is " moments of freedom as an "embodied touch" in history."


During the piece, Paz emits strange syllables and throws out broken gestures; Verbal sayings become comprehensible for one moment and lose meaning the next, getting stuck in her throat. For moments, she succeeds; she instructs herself: "Shine! Small! Sharp!" and following the instructions, she examines her body's qualities of movement against a background of metallic, industrial noise, which reminds her and us that the dancer's work is not only a work of art but also an arduous craft. Suddenly, she shouts, "Don't show!" And a moment later, "Be happy."


Paz does not stop wandering through the memories of her body, tracing the traces they left on her. She doesn't present complete and defined sequences but bits and pieces in which miraculous moments dawn: when she embraces the space with her endless legs; When her arm crowns her head, her palm passes over her face and continues on, or perhaps remains in place while Paz turns into herself, and her other hand is stretched out as if wanting to stay and grasp the world; When she stands wide apart, bends her hips deeply, reaches her hands up, stretches in every possible direction, up and down and to the side, fully present, to the last cells in her body.


For moments when the movement becomes continuous, it is possible to recognize quotes from dance pieces she has danced in the past, pieces of her history as a soloist. The steps are the work of others, but, as every dancer knows, it is her job to make them her own. In Paz's mature performance, it is difficult to separate the dancer from the dancer.

Paz bought her ownership of all the possible pieces by shining within her unique body signature.

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