Dancing Differently: New Works by Lazaro Godoy and Dana Ruttenberg

Posted on 27 March 2009 by Deborah Friedes Galili

Lazaro Godoy in "Zero-Z-One"

Lazaro Godoy in Zero-Z-One.

March has been a particularly rich month for dance in Tel Aviv, with both Shades of Dance (Gvanim) at Suzanne Dellal and Home Port in Jaffa.  But two of this month’s more unique offerings – Lazaro Godoy’s Zero-Z-One and Dana Ruttenberg’s NABA – premiered outside of these festivals.

In background and approach, these two artists are themselves unique.  Cuban-born and Juilliard-trained, Lazaro Godoy performed in Switzerland before landing in Israel last year; since his arrival, he has caught my eye in dances by Inbal Pinto and Avshalom Pollak, Sahar Azimi, and Maya Levy.  Dana Ruttenberg, an Israeli native, also made her way to Manhattan.  After receiving her undergraduate degree from Columbia University, she showed her choreography throughout New York before returning to her native country.

Both Lazaro and Dana cast away the conventions of dance concerts in their latest works.  With Zero-Z-One, Lazaro trades the proscenium theater for an open plaza and multi-room gallery in old Jaffa, where he dances a response to visual artist Ayal Shifron’s exhibit Positioning.  Meanwhile, Dana’s NABA stays on the stage but abandons a traditional sound score.  Instead of piping music into the theater, Dana provides audience members with headsets and audio guides like those used in museums.

Dana Rottenberg's "NABA"

Dana Ruttenberg’s NABA.  Photograph by Ascaf.

Although these artists’ aesthetics are different, the end result of their innovative choreography is similar.  Audience members at Zero-Z-One and NABA do not passively watch the performers but actively experience the dances by moving through a series of choices.  As Lazaro travels from space to space in his solo, spectators decide where to situate themselves; when he approaches and occasionally touches them, they can respond and affect his actions.  With layered visual stimulation from the paintings and movement combined with evocative music, physical contact, and even fragrant spices, Lazaro awakens nearly all of the viewers’ senses over the course of Zero-Z-One.

While audience members stay in one place during NABA, they are no less active.   Throughout the performance, viewers are asked to make choices about which audio track they want to hear.  The dance onstage is set, but each attendee has a hand in directing their experience by selecting the sound; indeed, the audience members’ decisions shape their perceptions of the four performers in Dana’s choreography.

Though I have seen a lot of good dance in recent weeks, both Zero-Z-One and NABA stood out and made me reconsider performance norms anew.  It’s not often that I see such adventurous work, and to have two bold challenges to traditional concert structure in one month was extraordinary.

Those of you in town have a few more chances to experience these works for yourselves.  Lazaro Godoy presents Zero-Z-One at the Shifron Gallery in Jaffa on April 4th, and Dana Ruttenberg’s NABA continues at the Inbal Dance Theater in the Suzanne Dellal Center on March 28th.   An excerpt from NABA will also be at the Home Port festival on April 4th.  Visit the Dance In Israel Events page for more details.

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