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2014-09-21

echoes _ Hillel Kogan: We love Arabs by Komjáthy Zsuzsanna

Two sides of the coin - Hillel Kogan: We love Arabs

It is amazing how easily and gently Hillel Kogan treats a current and highly controversial political problem on stage: the Israeli - Arabic conflict. It is just as amazing to follow how the performance We love Arabs conceptually evolves and progresses. Think about the title, to start! It is as topical, necessary and gentle as the symbol of peace was in the `60-s, when Gerard Holtom’s sign became internationally well-known. But what is this performance trying to tell us?

Adi and Hillel photo: www.rolandszabo.cz
There is a man (Kogan) standing on the stage, all by himself. He has an impressive presence, full of meaning -- he is standing on only one leg. We could wonder about this single fact, and write full reviews about its importance. But, to cut a long story short, he is standing on one leg, and as Xavier Le Roy or Jochen Roller, he also begins to talk about the process and circumstances of creating his choreography. He says he would like to share some thoughts with us about the challenges of making the performance. It would be  interesting to analyse the meaning of this behaviour at all, as it is always exciting to examine settings of performances when, instead of the finished  product, the focus is on the process of creation itself. But… let us go ahead!

Kogan talks about what goes into making the choreography, and meanwhile, he emphasises his words with his movements. He speculates about space, he explains how his body feels itself in the space, and related to this issue, he begins to talk about the Other. This is not at all surprising: space and the Other are close expressions: the one depends on the other and the other way round. Space is always full both with hospitality and unfamiliarity. What if there is a piece of space outside of me? What if some part of that piece does not belong to me anymore, but it belongs to someone else? Can I name this space? -- Then, in the name of unfamiliarity, an Arabic dancer, Adi Boutrous steps up to the stage, and a wonderful duo begins to evolve.

We won’t draw the whole progress of the performance (quite naturally), but just to sketch some parts: Kogan as the choreographer gives his instructions to Boutrous, who then tries to realise every instruction literally. This scene ends in a funny game with two hams (clowns), which raises  several questions. First of all there is the question of the borders of the identity. What does identity mean, even? Is it just a silly metaphor, for example? Definitely not, but to be obvious, the actors sign each other with a Jewish star and with an Arabic crescent (even if Boutrous is Christian). At this point we have to take a little break, since it is so beautiful, how the sensitive problem of the (non)importance of the nationality becomes visible. But besides the questions of identity, another interesting pattern emerges: the motion of parody.

Parody is a fortunate choice for We love Arabs, because we can not stop laughing at the continuous punchlines (and at ourselves). Since the parody is actually an overdone remembrance, an examination of the deficits of the surface, Kogan’s performance ends in self-pornography. The target of the ridicule is the stupidity of the „extremely serious” classical and contemporary performances. It is unbelievable what the dancers in the duo do with each other! Pathetic, rhapsodic, over-sensitive movement stereotypes change after each other, while the tears are running over the faces of the spectators because of the non-stop laughing.

There is only one pattern left that we have to mention before we finish this review: the significance of the irony in the choreography. Since the political dimension of the performance is way too heavy, it is imperative to counterweight it somehow. Irony is perfect to get through with it, because it can act as a tool. Besides this function, irony also has the mission to emphasise the importance of the same political dimension. Just as the Arabic and the Israeli performers are the two sides of the same coin, so does irony also have binary assignments.
Komjáthy Zsuzsanna - KÖM

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