Tuesday 31st January, remembered as a cold, grey and rainy winter’s day for most of the North of England. However, for one small audience at the Stage@Leeds, the company of Hagit Yakira managed to transport the auditorium to a warm and friendly yet dangerous and exciting playing field. If you know Hagit, follow her work or have ever had the pleasure to work with her, then you’ll know of her deep and intellectual understanding of the body and mind; how she is able to nurture the very best out of her extremely honest, playful and vulnerable dancers. After years of working as a therapist, Hagit has gathered together some stories and this double bill captures those tales in a clear and powerful demonstration. In the 60 minutes duration of this work you will be shifted between the darkness of your greatest anxieties and then humoured by the recovery of it all.
As a spotlight rises centre stage it reveals two dancers facing one another in a close embrace; the audience are instantly lulled into a false sense of security and then taken on a very personal journey of honesty and vulnerability. Introducing the first piece, Air Hunger, the dancers stand locked together by their heads – eyes closed – the rhythm of their synchronised breathing holds the attention of the room, drawing the audience further in. The safety of their embrace is slowly eased as their expanding and contracting movements become more explorative and expansive. Still with eyes closed the dancers demonstrate immense sensitivity to one another and complex improvisation skills. The panic portrayed in the dancer’s breath and movement is a clear and powerful interpretation of an anxiety attack, produced in a very pure, honest and mature way. The music by Sabio Janiak, creates a beautiful canvas for the dancers to draw on, adding sensitivity to the movement. The simple ensemble compliment the movement and allow room for expansion and breath. Air Hunger is a very personal and complex piece that is neither over exaggerated nor understated.
Free falling begins as the audience are engaged in conversation and the house lights are still up. Two dancers enter the stage walking towards the left hand side of the auditorium, capturing the audience’s attention and inducing a rapid silence. A second dancer walks to the right hand side followed by a final dancer who takes centre stage where his solo begins. Unaware of the house lights going down – the dancer’s playful and explorative movements are too captivating – the piece begins. The continued exploration of fall and recovery of the body is now taking space of the stage and starts to introduce voice. The playful and inquisitive tone highlights the intension of the explorative piece whilst another dancer is introduced to catch the back of the soloist’s falling head. After much play all dancers are on stage.
A moment I found particularly beautiful was with the introduction of the music; both arms of the soloist were supported by two dancers, along with the back of the head being held by another. This moment particularly stood out for me as it was the first moment of stillness or a slow suspense and truly symbolised the concept of support to me. It was clear to me that at this point the performers had really found each other on stage. Another moment I want to highlight is a section of simplicity and skill; the dancers were simply running and suspending, switching partners as they ran. This required much teamwork and a great deal of listening from the dancers. Yakira herself even said she should have called the piece listening. From this, they broke into moments of unpredictable unison. Soft and agile movement was demonstrated as the dancers moved into and out of the floor as one. Although it was a unison section, there were moments of individuality within the group causing beautiful echoes of movement.
It wasn’t until the music faded that I was conscious of it being there demonstrating how engaging the movement was – I felt the music complimented the piece beautifully. This moment of silence stayed with me as it was a time where neither falling nor recovering occurred; the dancers were just being.
Attention was drawn into every detail in the piece because of the simplicity, functionality, and the practicality; the beauty was in the detail complimented by the space given to the movers by the music. The touch is what really resonated with me – every grip, every grasp, every touch and reach had endless meaning and interpretation. It was so vulnerable and honest. The piece was in the hands of the dancers, each showing their character and honesty.
Choreographer: Hagit Yakira
Music: Sabio Janiak
Costume: Elizabeth Barker and Bettina John
Lighting: Michael Mannion
Dancers: Sophie Arstall, Fernando Balsera, Stephen Moynihan, Verena Schneider