Ezralow helps dance find its funny bone

Whether he’s stag­ing Grammy Awards, Broad­way shows, or con­tem­po­rary work, the Amer­i­can chore­og­ra­pher aims for en­joy­ment

The Georgia Straight - - Chutzpah Festival -

Daniel Ezralow has chore­ographed the Sochi Win­ter Olympics open­ing cer­e­mony, the Grammy Awards, Broad­way shows, Cirque du Soleil, David Bowie and St­ing con­certs, and the hu­mour-spiked works he mounts with his own com­pany, L.a.–based Ezralow Dance.

The for­mer Paul Tay­lor and MOMIX dancer has had an in­cred­i­bly wild and di­verse four-decade ca­reer. But there’s some­thing that all his shows have in com­mon—from epic cer­e­monies to in­ti­mate dance pro­duc­tions like the one his troupe is set to bring here for the Chutz­pah Fes­ti­val. Brace for it.

“I make dance ac­ces­si­ble,” the af­fa­ble Ezralow says, own­ing the A word that so many dance artists avoid like the flu. He’s speak­ing to the Straight over the phone while he en­joys lunch with his dancers at a tour stop in Austin, Texas. “Air is ac­ces­si­ble, life is ac­ces­si­ble, and there shouldn’t be any rea­son we shouldn’t make our work ac­ces­si­ble. Peo­ple pay hard-earned money to see my shows. I want them to feel good when they come out.

“I’m very point­edly di­rect­ing this show to get peo­ple who don’t love dance to en­joy,” he adds of the episodic Open, a Cana­dian pre­miere when it plays here. “My in­ten­tion is to get ev­ery­one there. I want peo­ple who like foot­ball to like it.”

Among the brisk and play­ful vi­gnettes au­di­ences will see when his com­pany hits town: a wed­ding scene that turns into a box­ing match; an ode to Car­men with fin­ger pup­pets; a weary, over­worked man who finds a mer­maid wrapped in kelp. Ex­pect chore­og­ra­phy with the phys­i­cal­ity of gym­nas­tics, lots of video-pro­jec­tion eye candy, and clas­si­cal mu­sic by com­posers like Frédéric Chopin and Jo­hann Se­bas­tian Bach back­ing it all up. But most of all, you will find laugh­ter—not a re­ac­tion you nor­mally as­so­ciate with a con­tem­po­rary-dance per­for­mance.

“Hu­mour—it’s so im­por­tant!” Ezralow says. “If you look at Char­lie Chap­lin or Buster Keaton or Jim Car­rey, the way they move their body. In dance we have con­di­tioned our­selves to be se­ri­ous about it.… It’s ac­tu­ally very hard to give peo­ple hu­mour and light­ness. We’re all so heavy, it’s a very easy thing to be heavy and to see tragedy. It’s very hard to see things as good. Dance should have joy and irony.”

That same kind of joy seems to be what drives Ezralow, a fa­ther of three, on a life­long ad­ven­ture that reg­u­larly takes him around the world, from stag­ing epic pro­duc­tions in China to, as he did ear­lier this week, judg­ing an Ital­ian TV dance show. What keeps his ex­cite­ment and cre­ative juices flow­ing af­ter all these years?

“I’m pas­sion­ate, but it’s more com­pli­cated than that,” he of­fers thought­fully. “I’m re­ally cu­ri­ous about life. I kind of feel like a kid ev­ery time. I know I’m not—my body doesn’t feel like a kid’s any­more!”

Ezralow re­flects on where it all started, when he first took dance classes at Berke­ley while study­ing for all his premed cour­ses. Dance car­ried him away from his in­tended ca­reer as a doc­tor, and he’s never looked back.

“There are no an­swers along the way—only the an­swers I cre­ated for my­self,” he con­cludes. “There’s no man­ual or book about how to do it. The only tes­ta­ment you have is to be sen­si­tive to ev­ery­thing you do—to be­come more sen­si­tive to the per­form­ers and the peo­ple you col­lab­o­rate with, and to the au­di­ences.

“So stay awake. And stay sen­si­tive.”

Open

Full of comedic touches and a gym­nas­tic­s­like ath­leti­cism, Ezralow Dance’s play­ful is launch­ing the Chutz­pah Fes­ti­val. An­gelo Redaelli photo.

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