Review of Hagit Yakira Dance’s double bill Free Falling written by Maria Kristina Klungnes Berg

Hagit Yakira’s double bill Free Falling was presented the 31st January 2017, on a rainy Tuesday at stage@Leeds. This evening consisted of the shorter piece Air Hunger and the longer piece Free Falling. The way the works were crafted made it possible for the audience to relate to the falls and recoveries of the dancers, whilst also observing live decision making. The movement was delivered with a great sense of risk, but it never abandoned the humanity it carried. However, what was presented this evening, was only possible due to the investment and passion Hagit Yakira has put into her long research process. By being functional yet complex, she manages to move an audience by bringing total attention to detail, time and touch.
The first piece Air Hunger looks at anxiety attacks without portraying it as a story about anxiety. Based on Hagit Yakira’s own experiences, the choreographer uses the physical impacts experienced during panic, as a way to communicate an abstracted physical expression. The piece consists of two female dancers, and they start the work by standing center stage, facing each other. The women are almost still, almost touching, only lit by a spotlight. They are only moved by their own and each others breath, creating a sense of intimacy. As time passes, the use of breath develops gradually and the movement builds with it. The light opens up the room as seamlessly as the movement grows. The dancers move as two cells in relation to each other, filling up more of the space as music starts playing. The movement becomes more rigorous, forcing the dancers to hunger for air. As the movement transfers between set patterns and structured improvisation, the relationship between the two women becomes more aggressive and builds into a fight. The two women are clear individuals, but they still carry similarities. These similarities make me question wether the fight is between them or within themselves. There is a sense of inward expression throughout the piece, and it is clear that this is something they are experiencing from the inside out. However rigid their movement seems at times, sensitivity is still never lost. As the piece draws to an end, I am wondering; why is it stopping? How the piece is structured, forces me to want more. More of the dancers, more of the choreography and in general an opportunity to watch it for longer.

The second piece Free Falling starts with four dancers walking onto stage whilst the whole room is lit up. They welcome the audience with their presence, and whilst one male dancer remains on stage, the three other people place themselves on the outside. From the beginning, you are drawn into the piece and become part of it. As the man standing on stage looks out at the audience, he starts falling. It looks quite enjoyable to begin with, but as the dancer keeps falling, it becomes more and more uncomfortable. Each fall is different, and they are real; without added smooth landings. When the second male runs on stage to catch the person falling, the audience’s light starts fading out. The light changes so slowly it is hardly noticeable. The last two dancers also enter one by one, each of them trying to catch the falls of the first person. It is only when the last dancer enters the stage, the music starts playing. Sometimes it does not look like the person falling wants to be helped, but as the piece goes on, you can no longer tell who is helping who. The dancers weave in and out of each other, and the sudden moments of unison gives a sense of unity. Even though their falls are somehow independent, they are also falling together. This is clearly expressed when one of the female dancers throws herself at one dancer at the time, whilst they slowly lower her down. How this is done with such delicacy and grace, gives a real sense of suspension. Special for this piece is how the hands are used in catching and recovering each other. In moments where the performers catch each other, they do not attend to the most complex solution, but they catch each other in a functional, human way. As the female dancer is lowered with such care; only holding on to the clothes, you witness a series of magical moments. The hands are the first to catch, but the last to let go. A fall can be painful, but for a moment you fly. You fly for a split second, and in that split second it is enjoyable. The fine line between the vulnerability and the slight sense of enjoyment we as humans can experience whilst falling, is in this piece portrayed with a perfect balance. Free Falling also builds very nicely. The work becomes more intense as the performers continue making decisions in the moment and fall freely. They are tired of falling, but nevertheless completely awake in the moment. What is specifically exceptional about this piece, is the performers abilities to listen to each other and how Hagit Yakira has crafted this maturity within the piece. As the work draws towards the final fall, one of the male performers transforms into an old man. The room falls quiet as I have never seen a walk this powerful before. It is slow, incredibly slow, but my attention is completely drawn to the moment.

If you watch work by Hagit Yakira, you will never experience the same performance twice. The work is incredibly true to the process, but still unique to the moment in which it is presented. No moment can ever be experienced twice. However, this is a moment you can bring with you home. Everything is not perfect, but it is imperfectly beautiful. This is what makes Hagit Yakira’s work so magnificent. As humans we fumble and we fall, we are after all humans; not perfect. We try to help, but we are not always able to. We have to let go of what was, but still be open to what comes. We have to trust what lies within ourselves. We have to remind ourselves how we meet each other in the moment. Yakira does this. She reminds us, and it is a personal reminding; a reminding we can relate to. Her works are layered and it requires us to listen and breath with the dancers. Therefore, if you ever get the chance to watch her work, I would highly recommend you to do so. The experience cannot be explained with words, it can only be lived in the moment.

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