Frid­man pushes dance form with new free­dom

The Georgia Straight - - Arts -

> BY JANET SMITH

Con­tact im­pro­vi­sa­tion has been around since the early ’70s, but no one in the world uses it quite like Is­raeli-born dance artist Sharon Frid­man.

The form has al­ways been about phys­i­cal touch trig­ger­ing move­ment, and bod­ies sup­port­ing each other. But the now Madrid-based chore­og­ra­pher—part of an ex­cit­ing new gen­er­a­tion of dance tal­ent com­ing out of Is­rael—gives it a breath­less phys­i­cal ath­leti­cism, emo­tional in­ten­sity, and liq­uid-limbed loose­ness that looks one-of-a-kind.

“I go to con­tact fes­ti­vals all around the world,” the well-trav­elled artist tells the Straight over the phone from Hal­i­fax, where his Com­pagñía Sharon Frid­man is per­form­ing be­fore head­ing to Van­cou­ver’s Dance Cen­tre. “But I re­mem­ber ask­ing, ‘What more can we do? Un­til where can we take it? How much is it pos­si­ble to in­ves­ti­gate?’ So all my works are deal­ing with this now.

“I call it ‘free­dom within the knot’,” he con­tin­ues. “We as a so­ci­ety have a lot of knots, so we go with the sys­tem but also want to feel unique. So I imag­ine my­self mov­ing with a mil­lion peo­ple around me but feel­ing to­tally free. It’s be­ing sen­si­tive to the touch of oth­ers around you, not want­ing to cause them pain.”

Clearly, for Frid­man, con­tact im­pro­vi­sa­tion has come to sym­bol­ize some­thing much deeper and richer than just dance. It’s a feel­ing that plays out on-stage—and in the much larger, site­spe­cific works he’s put on in Europe, some for as many as 70 per­form­ers. But to fully un­der­stand what Frid­man is do­ing, it’s im­por­tant to un­der­stand where he comes from.

He traces his pas­sion back to child­hood, when he avidly pur­sued folk danc­ing in his home coun­try. “I lived in this lit­tle village where noth­ing was hap­pen­ing—my timetable was to­tally busy from six years old,” he says with a laugh. “Ev­ery day I was danc­ing.”

Frid­man would go on to per­form with ac­claimed troupes like Kib­butz Con­tem­po­rary Dance, even­tu­ally tour­ing to Spain, fall­ing in love, and then, more than a decade ago, es­tab­lish­ing his own com­pany there.

But there’s also a deeply per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence that in­forms all his move­ment. While he was liv­ing at home, Frid­man’s mother suf­fered a med­i­cal con­di­tion that threw off her bal­ance and caused her to fall fre­quently. As a boy, Frid­man was of­ten the one who was there to catch her or help her up.

“I lived with her in a kind of con­tact for years,” he re­flects. “Some­times I look at my work and I see it ex­actly— fall­ing into the arms of an­other, try­ing to sus­pend my­self in space, try­ing to find a bal­ance in the body.”

When Van­cou­verites watch two of his works here, they will see that in­flu­ence too—a driv­ing hu­man re­solve to sup­port each other. In his duet Hasta dónde, two male dancers try to get along, strug­gling yet de­pend­ing on each other through a driv­ing, non­stop flow of tum­bling and lifts. In his seven-per­son All Ways, a group finds shift­ing rhythms; fig­ures en­tan­gle, cir­cle one an­other, get hoisted in the air, and crash down—all in a swirling tableau.

The work pushes to phys­i­cal ex­tremes. Frid­man, ever ques­tion­ing, has re­cently come to terms with the strength, en­durance, and, as he puts it, “to­tal­ity” he de­mands of his de­voted artists.

“To­day, I was hav­ing a very nice con­ver­sa­tion with one of my dancers, and I said, ‘I don’t like push­ing you to places you don’t want to go,’ ” he ex­plains. “But he said, ‘No, you don’t have to worry: we want to go there.’ These dancers are in­cred­i­ble; they’re al­ways look­ing for ‘Where can we go in the lim­its we have?’ We are cre­at­ing a new map each time we make a work.”

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