“A rhizome has no beginning or end; it is always in the middle, between things, inter-being, ‘intermezzo’. The planar movement of the rhizome resists chronology and organization, instead favoring a nomadic system of growth and propagation” wrote the philosophers Deleuze and Guattari, appropriating the term from botany. “Rizoma” is also the name chosen by Sharon Fridman and company for their itinerant dance project. It has been recently been transplanted here to Bassano thanks to the piece “In Memoriam. After the end” (July 2015), dedicated to the first world war. Inspired by the adaptability and multiplicity of an organic rhizome, “In Memoriam. After the end” is a site-specific version of the original performance, being intentionally conceived to be transformed according to the location in which it is performed.
Both meanings of rhizome, philosophical and botanical, might well fully describe Sharon Fridman’s choreography, aiming as it does to combine; abstract concepts with everyday life, artificial and urban areas with natural and organic inferences, the individual with groups, folk dance with contemporary dance, etc.
We met Sharon Fridman during his workshop in Bassano del Grappa in March 2015. He told us about the site-specific piece “In Memoriam” for the “Rizoma Project” and about his artistic and personal story. Here is the interview.
I didn’t just come here this week to work with children. Rather I came to do some research on how we might be able to connect “Rizoma”, which is a social project (for which I have over 200 participants) with the commemorations marking the hundredth anniversary of the outbreak of world war one. Bassano del Grappa and the Venice Biennale asked me to think how I might go about presenting it. So then I had the idea of working with 100 women in order to speak about the condition of women during the first world war, what happened to them, the waiting and other consequences. Obviously there was pain and there were losses but I’m also sure that there were occasional celebrations too because the war was so drawn-out. So, there was all the life inside. I like to work with local people and with actual family memories, to try and create a composition around “Rizoma”. “Rizoma” is very much a social project and I have always changed the context. In this case, it is going to be with 100 women, aiming at conveying the life of the female population during the first world war. Furthermore, we are going to have 300 singers, male and an older generation, specialising in typical Italian folk songs from the time of the period in question. They are going to sing for us: 300 people coming from very far afield, into the women’s composition. There will also be children around which is the natural connection between men and women. Children are part of this large composition and they’re going to dance with both young and older people, all together. Children are part of a group of 100. This assembly will be composed of three generations: older women, younger women and children.
Because, as you know, all my life I’ve been a dancer and a choreographer and …at a certain point I stopped to question myself: “Why am I doing this? Why me?” I mean, there are so many people doing choreography and dance but what can I actually add to dance…
As I told you before I’d like to dance with my mother because she’s the centre of my work. My mother had a very interesting illness that frequently made her fall, so my life was spent next to her, ready to support her when she fell. When I stopped dancing I tried to connect it to my life. “Why am I dancing?” I answered: “I’m dancing with my mother”. This is the focus of my dance. I started to work through that idea about contact and contiguity through support. And then I worked for so many years pursuing this notion. I felt I went so far that perhaps no one could understand me anymore. That’s what happens to people that go to a single idea and that idea dissipates and they remain with something much deeper, something underneath the surface. People are not able to understand, see or get through to the idea. And I think this is happening generally in the contemporary dance scene too. There are a lot of ideas presented but the public stays away from engaging with these concepts. My aim was to present the public with dance from real life. I didn’t want to go crazy, so I needed to develop it in relation to society, with the natural necessity of people to move.
And I have to explain it to myself every time, from the beginning, what I’m doing and what’s the connection of it to society. This was keeping me from going totally insane, this was keeping me connected to life, to people and to the necessity of movement and not so much about trends in choreography and each time going further and further.
So, I feel my dance falls somewhere between concept and everyday life and the actual space of the dance itself. I work with people that want to move and not with dancers that have the skills to move, but not exclusively, so I have some balance.
When did you start dancing?
I started dancing when I was 8 years old, in a folk dance group. I actually entered the dance group not because I wanted to dance but because they told me that this folk dance group travels around the world, for members that have reached a certain age, on exchange visits with other folk companies from everywhere. So we used to go to another country and stay there for a couple of weeks and later they would come to our home in Israel. I had a dream of seeing the world and how life is in other countries, because I come from a very poor family and the notion of travelling was really beyond our means. As a child I yearned to know about other countries and what is one culture and what is another. Then they told me this group was doing precisely that and I said: “I’m joining this group!”. So, I started to dance there and after less that one year I’d fallen in love with dance and I gave it everything I had. Since then I haven’t stopped dancing, actually. Well, only for that one year, when I questioned myself, an obligation. But I’ve never really stopped dancing. All my childhood…! It was my whole life. You know, I didn’t have anything else. This was my core. This was my passion. A great one.
How did folk dance affect your way of dancing?
Obviously I believe it influenced me and it’s still influencing me, because there is something in general about folk traditions and togetherness and in being a collective… This is something that is at the centre of my choreography today: always being connected to people. It’s always about contact and body and it is always travelling from one limit to another, hoping that there is somebody to catch or to support you.
So, I think it has impacted on me a lot, my spirit and my collective ideas as well as its simplicity and connection to everyday life. Finally, we hone in on everyday life and we dance a natural dance: this is folk after all! Nobody asks why they dance folk or just why they dance. They dance to celebrate the unity amongst people. So, I think this is a great concept for us, to develop it into contemporary dance too. They don’t want to be asked about why they do what they do. It’s about the union between people and the connections between energies.
Interview by Anna Trevisan
Watch the video of In Memoriam
Watch the Profile of an artist | Sharon Fridman
Watch the photo-gallery of In Memoriam
Watch the photo-gallery of the rehearsal