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Dancing Through the Intifada: Yasmeen Godder’s “Strawberry Cream and Gunpowder”

Posted on 05 March 2009 by Deborah Friedes Galili

Yasmeen Godder's "Strawberry Cream and Gunpowder"

Yasmeen Godder’s Stawberry Cream and Gunpowder.  Photo by Tamar Lamm.

The cameras in this region frequently capture pictures of destruction and death, of terror and torture, of bombing scenes and blood, of gore and grief.

Working in a different medium, the choreographers in Israel do not often turn their gaze in this direction.  But in 2004, Yasmeen Godder focused her artistic lens squarely on the conflict in her country – and specifically on the tragic images flooding the media – in Strawberry Cream and Gunpowder. Transforming real photographs into surreal scenes, Godder and her Bloody Bench Players exposed the complexities of the situation to the audience and cast its horrors in sharp relief.

I watched Strawberry Cream and Gunpowder on DVD in autumn 2007, and after collecting myself – it’s not an easy work to watch – I spent much of the night writing about this haunting dance.  The result, “Dancing Through the Intifada,” first appeared on my own blog on November 13, 2007.

* * *

I just returned home from watching a DVD of Yasmeen Godder’s haunting Strawberry Cream and Gunpowder (2004), and it’s impossible for me to think of anything else at the moment.  Created a few years into the second intifada, Strawberry Cream and Gunpowder is the first work I have seen which tackles the situation directly, with imagery drawn from media reports of the violence.

If my mind was fresher, perhaps I could write a rich, fuller description of the dance’s action, for indeed there is much that is worthy of comment: prolonged stillnesses which force the viewer to register the horror of these televised, photographed images; the way bodies skilled in release technique, with their loose and reactive limbs, all too believably portray bodies responding to the force of gunshots and physical manipulation; how a context of terror transforms typically normal and even joyous positions and actions; the dressing of the space, with unfixed patches of grass scattered across the stage and an automated gate on stage right; the combination of an original score with the dancers’ piercing emotional cries and occasional bursts of singing; the progression of energy and time, with all hell breaking loose at the end; the curtain call, with two dancers still fully in character during and after the audience applause, finishing moments later as if to emphasize that this is not a fictional scenario limited to the stage time or to the theater’s interior.

Right now, however, my mind is caught up with more philosophical musings and questions.

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