Fridman pushes dance form with new freedom
> 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.”