Energy Unleashed, Oxygen Found: The Dancing of Rotem Tashach

By Iris Dorbian

Published March 21, 2003, issue of March 21, 2003.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Gender politics figure prominently in the post-modern dance work of the stirring young Israeli choreographer Rotem Tashach. In his new piece, “Nekeva” (a derogatory Hebrew slang for female), which opened yesterday at Brooklyn’s Williamsburg Arts Nexus (W.A.X.), where it will be performed through March 23, the fragility of sexual identity is explored amid a multimedia mix of images inspired by childhood memories. The venue — a tiny, decaying hole in the wall with a seating capacity of 70 — is the perfect stark setting for this hour-long journey into a troubled and confusing world that juxtaposes the roughhousing one would find in a playground (until the fun becomes ugly and epithets ensue) with a diverse collection of videos that include trees, empty courtyards, dissident political scholar-linguist Noam Chomsky and notorious Israeli pariah Gila Goldstein, a transsexual icon in her 60s.

Tashach, a 27-year-old Haifa-born Tel Aviv University graduate, told the Forward he chose to feature Goldstein, an avowed prostitute and drug user, because “she is really someone who had to deal with ideologies of gender and gender construction” during a period when Israel was still developing as a nation. Goldstein’s flouting of convention, as well as the unapologetic gusto with which she lives her life, might be serving as a source of inspiration to Tashach, who came out when he was 16 while growing up in military bases throughout Israel, where his father was in the air force — an experience he described as painful and “homophobic.” It was only at 18, when his family moved to the more tolerant metropolis of Tel Aviv, that Tashach said he experienced his “first oxygen breath.”

However, the gasps of emancipation would be short-lived. A traumatic 10-month stint in the Israeli army followed, culminating in Tashach being dismissed for being “mentally unfit.” In a society that prides itself on the rite-of-passage nature of its compulsory service, this can be a serious stigma adversely affecting anyone’s artistic future. Yet Tashach prevailed, studying his craft at a number of illustrious dance schools, among them the Bikurey Haitim Dance Center and Bat Dor studios with Naomi Perlov, and building impressive credits as a dancer at the Tel Aviv Dance Theatre and the Anat Danieli Dance Company. In New York, Tashach has performed in pieces by Fiona Marcotty at Joyce Soho and choreographed his own pieces at W.A.X. and Galapagos.

In “Nekeva,” as Tashach and his crew of seven dancers move, sway and undulate to an eclectic musical blend that runs from velvety crooner Nat King Cole to the pulsating, carnal rhythms of disco, there is a liberating sense of energy unleashed, as if the personal and professional freedom that Tashach craved as a youth has been found here in New York City, where he moved nearly two years ago. The pain of being an outsider, of having to endure a misunderstood youth, drives “Nekeva.” Though the piece starts slowly, it gains a fierce emotional momentum as Tashach’s ensemble, clad in raggedy hand-me-down dresses, cartwheel, taunt and acrobatically field their way through their motions in a manner both raw and intelligent. While one dancer sits downstage, silently and methodically hammering nails into a pile of sliced apples, others play a seemingly innocent game of catch with a headless doll that quickly turns into a disturbing confrontation of sexist insults and name calling.

As the travails of Tashach’s formative years are interwoven into the tapestry of his art, so are the influences of experimental dance pioneer Pina Bausch, European dance theater and such “queer theorists” as the late French philosopher Michel Foucault. The latter is key to the choreographer’s perception of his work, especially in relation to “Nekeva.” For this work, Tashach wants audiences to see how feminist and gender discourse are inherently linked to the political propaganda of the state. “What I’m trying to show,” he said, “is that you can’t really separate those discourses. The state itself has indoctrinational slogans, songs and mechanisms of gender construction that actually help perpetuate those kinds of cliches or biases. So it’s very important to understand that it’s not just people who are to blame for chauvinism and biases: it’s countries; it’s states; it’s culture.” For more information and reservations, please call 212-243-5320.

Iris Dorbian, editor of the theater trade monthly Stage Directions, last appeared in these pages May 3, 2002, reviewing the New York premiere of Jason Sherman’s “Reading Hebron” at the Access Theater.






Find us on Facebook!
  • PHOTOS: Hundreds of protesters marched through lower Manhattan yesterday demanding an end to American support for Israel’s operation in #Gaza.
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.