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Acrobatics and Adama

June 8, 2012

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On Thursday, May 24, Dance Jerusalem rode to Mizpe Ramon
to the middle of Israel’s Negev Desert to visit Hangar Adama.

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From my journal:

We had found ourselves in the desert, with the freedom to take whichever classes we wanted … Acrobalance abounded, and though muscular in nature, a heavy emphasis was put on trust … We slept collectively in one of the studios, but many other convention goers slept in tents under the stars … Everyone was friendly and willing to share knowledge, or a nice back massage … Balance, balance, acrobalance, balance … Muscles, joints, quiet…

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Hangar Adama. Approximately two days in the desert. Shoes optional.

We visited during the Second Annual Israel Acrobatics Convention. I felt like I had run away to join the circus. I took workshops in yoga, gymnastics, aerial silk, juggling (…twice), acrobalance, and “flying yoga.” Here is a video of an Acrobalance performance by Jason Nemer and Lux Sternstein. They are modestly prominent figures in the Acro Yoga scene and taught some of the Acrobalance classes.

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Aside from the circus festivities (I really can’t get over being able to say that), we also got into the real feeling of Adama. The company performed for the entire festival. Enjoy this short clip of their newest piece, Up Chi Down Chi.

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Imagine escaping to the desert, away from the bustle of the city and the complication that fills it. Imagine relaxing your eyebrows and other face muscles, and being able to close your eyes to find inner peace. Imagine your body completely relaxed too. This holistic feeling is Adama’s approach to dance. (To be honest, I can imagine my peers’ skepticism to this approach, but I digress for now.)

One of the company members led us to see the Ramon Crater, early one morning, and in almost complete silence. It was an incredibly meditative experience to be surrounded by so much quiet, to feel the sun rising on your skin, and to swim in your thoughts.

Dance Jerusalem also took a choreography class with Nir Ben Gal. His class was simple and lighthearted. He encouraged calmness by leading us with a soft tone of voice through an activity with closed eyes, and later assigning choreographic tasks to be completed without the exchange of words. The workshop opened my mind to a mode of visual communication in which listening with your eyes is key, and agreement comes easily.

Click here to listen to Deborah Friedes-Galili’s interview with Nir Ben Gal of Adama.

In this podcast interview I mentioned above, Nir Ben Gal talks about meditation through movement, among other things. He speaks of his disagreement with dancers’ obsession with classical technique. (Listen to the podcast for details.) And although I might give a heretical impression by doing so, I have to agree.

Before coming to study dance at Mason Gross, I was training in a modality in which strength, endurance, and accuracy were the primary values. I carried these values into university dance, and softened around the edges as I gained awareness of my body with more research. But still, curricula in pre-professional programs are rigorous, and if you’re not mindful, you can lose touch with what your body may need. You may even come to surround yourself with judgment, bureaucracy, drama, and lose yourself in hyperactive emotions. It’s what leads to stress, depression, low self esteem, and injury.

And besides, as Barak Marshall had once said in general reference to American contemporary choreography, “I don’t think there’s a difference between movement you see in a class and the movement you see on stage.” Between Ben Gal claiming we’re too obsessed with technique, and Marshall making a point about creating a unique language for choreography, I think we’re on to something here.

I’m not by any means saying that attending ballet or modern technique classes will lead all dance students to a fate similar to that of Nina in Black Swan. But perhaps our fullest potential isn’t solely found in relentless technical training. Perhaps we should broaden our attention to all the tools available to us in approaching our art form.

Let’s meditate on that.

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