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Updated: March 28, 2013 19:40 IST

Questions and colours

Nita Vidyarthi
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Idan Cohen. Photo: Nita Vidyarthi
The Hindu
Idan Cohen. Photo: Nita Vidyarthi

Idan Cohen, dancer and choreographer from Israel, on his Indo-Israeli collaboration

Idan Cohen is a young choreographer from Israel who electrified the contemporary dance world with his interpretation of the classic “Swan Lake”, his personal tribute with few elements that boast of his experience and competence distinctly sharpened by acquaintance with choreographic technique and solid training. Born and raised in Israel, kibbutz Mirza, the kibbutz (a socialist community) life has had a major effect on his artistic career. He received a scholarship to study theatre and fine arts at the “Art Colony” in Israel’s Negev (desert), and danced with the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company (founder Yehudit Arnon) and since 2003, he is creating, performing, teaching successfully as an award winning choreographer. A psychological sensibility, a keen sense of musicality, and a profound understanding of the cultural context make Idan’s work a rare combination of analysis and compassion. His most acclaimed productions are ‘Brazil”, “Mad Siren” “Fishbone in cup of tea” and the prize-winning video-dance “My Sweet Little fur”. The latest international collaboration in Kolkata, “Holi” with the city-based Contemporary Dance organisation Sapphire Creations, was an Indo-Israel dance-theatre performance that celebrates the festival of colour.

Here Idan discusses his choice of content, movement and the process...

Why did you choose Holi?

The idea of colour fascinated me. In Hindu mythology, it’s said that the dark-skinned Krishna was jealous of the fair-skinned Radha and pestered his mother Yashodha, who suggested that he could change Radha’s skin by sprinkling colours on her. The piece presents a research of different cultural aesthetics and ideas. From a fresh and edgy point of view, it looks at different rituals and cultural acts and tries to draw a line between the personal and social differences and similarities between the two cultures. I tried to highlight cultural borders and expose possibilities and limits of the culture, language and body. When I arrive at the threshold of a different culture, I do not intend to question or criticise.

You were here for a residency...

Yes. I had two dancers from Israel, Ran Ben Dror and Noah Shiloh together with the Sapphire ones. I toured the city and began with a workshop where the dancers were asked what characters they wished to be as children.

These ideas were then strung together with inputs by the dancers with monologues to create a piece about dissatisfaction and failure.

Since I am trained in the Western discipline, the movements weld a range of techniques, Ballet, Contemporary, floor work with Indian traditions, especially the mudras, hand movements.

Kaushik is trained in Kathak and Ankita an Odissi dancer.

So Ankita puts in some Odissi and I have used a lot of Kathak movements. The dancers from Kolkata are ready and very good at adapting movements.

What was your starting point.

I begin by asking them to walk, very, very gently and get to know them. Who they are, what they want, their inspirations. So I always start a creative process by asking questions, being very careful not to give answers, and see what comes. Of course the dancers have a certain idea who I am. They have watched my work, know some of my creations, because today you have the YouTube, the website, so they can see what I have done in the past. But I really wanted to also clean their minds of what they think and what I expect from them. Just to bring what they feel. After that we go deeper into the creation process. And then may be I’d ask them to do certain things or may be we follow a dialogue that means that both sides are going in different parts researching for our different ways to go in. I also want to bring this production to Israel in summer which would be very exciting. I would really acknowledge the support of the Israel Embassy which brought us here and the Stritsky Foundation which supports our collaboration to bring the piece to India.

How do you assess your work?

The language of my movements is inspired by the ideas that have been embedded in me, which I transform into dance movements. The choreography may surprise, shock, revolt, provoke the audience into questioning the realities of beauty, frailty, truth, instinct, relationships in our lives and the real relevance of classics like “Swan Lake” to our existence. Beyond story, myth and metaphor, the performance is entertaining!

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