Opposite three rows of long benches positioned in Noa Dar’s studio is a large, similarly elongated mirror. The linoleum floor fills the space between the two, and three transparent light fixtures hang from above, resembling plastic sheets, which echo the large mirror. Asked to remove their shoes upon entering the studio, audience members are confronted with their own reflection in the mirror and so become implicated in the show. Shown as part of the Diver Festival, “NoaNoa” is a very personal work by the choreographer. She returns here to the stage (or, more precisely, the studio), after years of concentrating entirely on creation.
Dar is not the first to perform her work in a studio setting, but I can’t recall a case in which the choreographer chose to leave the studio mirror exposed. This is a significant decision and is reflected as it were in the program, in which the title of the piece appears in mirror writing (“Noaaon”). The opening of the dance also calls attention to the set design, as Dar begins by moving her hands across the mirror, playing with her own reflection and in so doing effectively generating two figures from the very start. This doubling of the dancer allows Dar to examine not only the dancer she is today, but also the one she used to be, and to conduct an exploratory dialogue between the two. At the same time, very much like dancers, viewers find themselves in the position of most who have ever taken a dance class ‒ facing the mirror. This setup reminds us that although dancers rehearse to perform in front of an audience, they are always their own, preliminary viewers.
Dar’s choreography makes extensive use of weight transfer ‒ shifting from leg to leg, hand to hand, side to side, front to back. This resonates with the heartbeat, serving as a subterranean pulse for the work as whole. Hands are interlaced and then unravel, clenching to fists as they hit the air only to instantly open up and then guide the movement gently. While her latest pieces did not shy away from exposing the full extent of the body’s pain, here Dar makes a lot of room for the softness, compassion, passion and ease all associated with the very act of moving. At the same time she shows how the most gentle and simple of movements harbor an almost violent potential ‒ intensifying to the point that the body can no longer contain them, becoming crude and ugly.
No music accompanies the choreography, but from time to time screeches and similar sounds of friction are made. Initially these sounds result from Dar’s path along the mirror, as though commenting on the divide between the expectation that the movement be clean and effortless as opposed to the real difficulty the dancing body must negotiate. Dar wishes to observe “the body as an archive containing everything it has experienced” and in so doing foreground the history of this effort, in a world where norms purport to hide it. Dar’s performance reflects a desire not to hide the signs of the aging body: Her grey hair is not dyed, and her body, which executes a demanding 50-minute solo, is present at full intensity ‒ in the sweat, breath and limbs that are hurled to the floor.
It seems that Dar has something to say not only about the body at large but about the female body in particular, which is expected in our culture to mask the signs of aging. This is not to say that Noa Dar makes any bombastic political declarations; on the contrary, this work is so modest and personal that it manages to show just how much the personal is political without the need for slogans and signs.
It is for this reason ‒ and because one may have very well forgotten what a wonderful dancer Dar is ‒ that this work is a must-see.
– Tal Levin, “Haaretz”
Noa Dar stages a new solo in her studio in central Tel Aviv. The name of the dance is identical to the title of a book written by painter Paul Gauguin, and what the two share perhaps is a reflection on life’s course ‒ occasions for the artists to review their body of work. Assuming that Dar indeed considers the present moment a potentially meaningful one, her work is likely to run forward and back in time, reflecting the emotional state that such introspection might surface.
Dar’s studio is wide enough to establish distance between the performance space and the three rows of benches close to the wall, situated opposite a long mirror. Dar leans against this mirror as she enters, looking at it and through it. Her body hovers over the surface as she silently moves along its length.
In the space between Dar and viewers ‒ the “stage” ‒ are several light fixtures, designed by Omer Sheizaf. Rectangular and transparent, they hang from the ceiling at different levels. This refined, minimalist touch creates a particular atmosphere ‒ an exemplary product of the present moment. This is the most implicit barrier I can recall erected by a dancer who performs a solo with very personal material, establishing an a priori divide between herself and the audience.
Dar’s play between the actual body and its reflection, between engaging in a dialogue and then having it vanish every time she diverts attention away from her image, generate a source of tension that is at once disturbing and fascinating. A highly attentive and experienced performer, even Dar treads hazy territory, unearthing time-bound matter like the body and its physical capacity, needing to prove what still exists and come to terms with what is no longer.
Following a long period of silence, sounds of screeching, rubbing, crushed glass and buzzing can be heard. These represent all that remains unsaid regarding the transience of time, the fear of further wear, a potential breakdown that will necessitate repair.
At a later stage in the piece, Dar makes the decision to come forward, recomposing herself after moments of contemplation, bewilderment and self-reflection. The movement at this point is larger and stronger, more assertive, recalling martial arts, and relates to the result of the movement, not only its creator. Dar conducts an energetic and thorough inventory of limbs alongside an inventory of emotion. But where is the passion?
The exploration of sensations and memories harbored by particular areas of the body yield non-voluntary movements, as though a demon were voicing itself from deep within.
Now, at the right cathartic moment, Dar sits with her legs crossed, her cheek leans against her hand and she takes the time to look at individual members of the audience, in search of touch. She desires a dialogue with the outside and not only with herself or her reflection.
There is a story here, a dynamic process. Something happens to her. From the contemplative-troubled expression that began her journey inward, Dar arrives at a concluding, manipulative effort, which benefits from a flirtatious attempt to draw a few laughs from the audience. Their chuckles are the equivalent of a “like.”
Yes, we love you, Noa. Love is the mark of existence, approval. The ability to contain.
At once able to contain and shaken up, Noa concludes with walking her hands on the mirror as she takes step after step, advancing with her legs across the glass. Fighting, like this; moving forward, like this. Time is on her side.
– Ora Brafman, “DanceTalk”
“And yet it moves” is a phrase attributed to Galileo Galilei who, according to legend, muttered it during his trial by the Roman Catholic Inquisition, in which he was forced to recant several of his scientific claims, including his assertion that the Earth revolves around the sun. Whether or not he ever actually uttered these words, it seems like Noa Dar uses this secular myth to motivate her to step back into the spotlight and stage this bare, dynamic solo; to return to the 54-year-old body after more than a decade of absence from the stage, to move.
It all starts as we sit facing a wide mirror on elongated benches pushed up against the wall. At first we see only our own reflection. And then she enters the studio, moving very close to the mirror, as though her body were scanning the glass surface. Manipulating her reflection, she creates a world of images – as though she had embarked on a journey to reach the originary point of a trace, perhaps in search of that dancer from 20 or even 40 years ago. Shadow, stain, breath, reflection and flutter are elevated here to iconic stature.
There is a lot of movement with the hands. At times they sweep the air or hit it, moving from side to side as the body shifts weight. Other times they are pressed to her temples like a pair of sensors. And then suddenly they grasp the head, to the point where it seems that if she were to turn around we would see the image of Munch’s “The Scream,” in which the expressive figure, standing on a wooden bridge against the background of a fjord in Oslo, shouts out to the viewer.
And there is no music here, only sounds like screeching, scratching, friction with the glass surface, everything together stuttering what can’t be put into words, and endowing a deep sensuality to simple, technical actions. Three sheets of transparent Plexiglass hang from the ceiling at different heights, resembling tablets that were erased, leaving us as viewers and Dar as a dancer, free of any commandments.
Seeing “the body as an archive of its experiences,” Dar hurls her body to the floor. Sweating and panting she goes in search of experiences, physical and emotional, memories of places and scenarios. Instead of arriving to any result she freezes moments along her journey. Until they become the focus, stable stains which are ridden of any injunction to cohere into a larger picture – the making of the picture is the picture itself.
She works with supreme concentration, her attention is entirely directed inward, a kind of self-enamored asceticism. Hermetic, grave and estranged in a way that resembles reality, but which is at the same time entirely different. Her otherness is intimidating.
The work “NoaNoa” also makes reference to “Noa Noa,” a travel journal that Paul Gauguin kept during his time in Tahiti in the years 1891-93, a diary composed of words and images, presenting a wild, unique take on his life that became enmeshed with primitive myths, his undying search for paradise on earth, which would provide him with both visual sustenance and a fountain of joy. Trying to access places within himself which were left unexplored. It’s unclear how much Gauguin recognized that he fulfilled his aims – to create Symbolist art, which would not represent reality but rather stimulate viewers: “I obtain symphonies and harmonies that represent nothing absolutely real in the vulgar sense of the word,” he writes. And it seems to me that Dar is also after this, to ease the strict and stringent occupation with technique and movement language, in favor of an allegorical image of the world, restoring clarity to a primordial state.
Very soon she will start walking on her hands, her feet stepping on the glass, treading a path that crosses the mirror in a kind of reverse evolution. Strong and very far from the “beauty of an invisible leaf that falls silently to the ground.
– Anat Zecharia, "Le Visiteur"