YASMEEN GODDER

MONICA GILLETTE


IN COLLABORATION





We spoke to Yasmeen Godder at a time when she was in the midst of putting together a retrospective gala looking back at 20 years of choreography. She has been putting work out there at an impressive pace, year after year, one piece progressing to the next. To us, her work looks like a map that continually leads back to human emotion, the individual body followed by the larger body of society. She creates intimate experiences between performers and audiences, in the community of theatre and in her own studio. Simple Action, Climax, Common Emotions, Practicing Empathy, Demonstrate Restraint and I Am Here are some of the titles - Yasmeen confronts us with the reality of how we truly feel and how to be togther in almost all her work. 


ROOM for Yasmeen focuses on a project that Yasmeen herself describes as a revolutionary moment in her life - when fellow artist, dramaturge and dancer, Monica Gillette proposed the collaboration Störung / Hafra’ah. This creative project was, and still is, bringing scientists, artists and people living with Parkinson's disease together.  Together they are re-examining and experience anew the connection between thought and movement, dance and well being, and art as a transformative force and intelligence in the community. 


Yasmeen has stressed the significance and importance of her collaborators from the moment we met, and her ROOM has come to include Monica Gillette, along with 50 other collaborators that have made her exploration and work possible.  ROOM for Yasmeen Godder has become a ROOM prism reflecting a wide range of people, from artists to scientists and people living with Parkinson's disease.

 

 

YASMEEN GODDER 

CHOREOGRAPHER

Yasmeen Godder (b.1973, Jerusalem) is an Israeli dance choreographer and Director of Yasmeen Godder Company who has been described as “a leading choreographer of the Isareli new wave” (The Guardian). 


Yasmeen’s movement research and creations have revolved around themes of human connection, national identity, empathy, and movement disorders. Since 2014, she has brought together dance professionals and people living with Parkinson's disease through classes at the Yasmeen Godder Studio in Jaffa. Her work “Common Emotions” (2016) was the result of a year-long, collaborative research project on Parkinson’s and dance titled “Störung/Hafraah” (“disorder” in German) with Monica Gillette at Theatre Freiburg. Recently, Yasmeen has been working on “Practicing Empathy,” a long-term movement research project that has engaged with a combination of performances and workshops to examine empathy and what motivates us to identify with others as well as ourselves.


Yasmeen is the 2017 recipient of the Shimon Peres Prize and a grant from The Ted Arison Family Foundation for her MOVING COMMUNITIES conference investigating Parkinson’s disease, creativity, body and community. To date Yasmeen has created 14 evening-length works, including commissions for Petach Tikva Museum of Art, Batsheva Dance Company, Theater Freiburg, and the Candoco Dance Company.

MONICA GILLETTE

CHOREOGRAPHER AND DRAMATURGE

Monica Gillette brings over 20 years experience in performance making, both for stage and film, as well as expertise in artist driven networks, participatory projects and transdisciplinary research. Her recent work includes project dramaturgy for the EU funded projects Migrant Bodies – Moving Borders, Empowering Dance and Dancing Museums. She collaborates with Israeli choreographer Yasmeen Godder on her ongoing research and performance project, titled Practicing Empathy. Monica is currently co-leading Anatomy of Togetherness, a digital workshop series with collaborator Gary Joplin and supported by the Boulevard and What You See Festivals in Holland, dealing with the topic of Gender Identity. Since 2009 she h's been living and working in Freiburg, Germany.


Monica's first encounter with Yasmeen Godder was as an audience member in 2006 in NYC. She saw her ground-breaking work "Strawberry Cream and Gunpowder" and was forever altered in how she thought about making dance. In 2011 she travelled to Israel to meet Yasmeen in person. Since then Monica has been a creating performer in her work (Ghost Exercise – 2013), co-artistic director of Störung/Hafraah (2015-16), and now dramaturg for Yasmeen's Practicing Empathy project (2019-2021).


In Monica's own words: "I anticipate our friendship and collaboration to grow and transform for many years to come."

STÖRUNG/HAFRA'AH

WORDS BY MONICA GILLETTE

Störung/Hafra’ah involved 12 dancers and choreographers, 16 young researchers from backgrounds such as microtechnology, motor control, neuroscience, philosophy, psychology, medicine and mathematics, as well as around 30 people living with Parkinson’s in both Germany and Israel.


In Germany, the dancers and choreographers led the scientists in their own dance workshops, where they could physicalise the topics and themes we were researching. In Israel, the dancers and scientists partnered to co-create dance workshops on a monthly basis.

The words Störung in German and Hafra’ah in Hebrew hold multiple meanings that can be translated from both languages as disorder, disruption or disturbance.


They can be used to describe a disorder or disruption in one’s body due to an ailment or disease, as well as a societal disturbance, political act or protest – a disruption in daily life. In addition to these multiple meanings, we used the words as a reminder that we were gathering from our various backgrounds to shake up our ways of knowing, beliefs and perceptions. We were all moving out of our artistic, scientific or social bubbles to challenge our ways of seeing, thinking and feeling and to discover the stamina to be comfortable in unknown and unstable situations.




Taking away the familiar doctor/patient roles and asking everyone to be dancers with their own bodies as their research instruments and orienting the studio as our laboratories, was an invaluable game changer.


Towards the end of the project, one researcher in the field of neuroscience realized that "where he used to see data, he now sees people."


After a few months of working with people who have Parkinson’s, I realised I was most busy with a singular question: How do you bring someone into movement? Dealing with this question began from the very specific situation of trying to bypass two of the Parkinson’s symptoms: freezing and slowness. For these symptoms, Parkinson’s has so deeply interrupted the communication between the thought to move and the movement itself, that the body completely stops or becomes very slowed down. My task was to create movement proposals that would hopefully ‘jump’ the participants over their blockages. 


New approaches require new conditions for effective interdisciplinary and inter-population collaboration.


It was important for us to be non- hierarchal and to view all participants as collaborators with equal levels of expertise. For this reason, the word ‘patient’ was banned. It allowed us to put scientific knowledge, a dancer’s knowledge and the knowledge gained from the lived experience of Parkinson’s all on an equal playing field.


Extract from Monica Gillette's notebook, Störung/Hafraah.


Monica Gillette working with participants of Störung/Hafraah.


List of words from Störung/Hafra'ah. These defenition of the words were agreed on between all participants and were posted on the studio wall during the process.

Intention - If we do not move randomly, then somehow an intention is involved. Does this intention precede the movement? Or do we only know afterwards what we actually intended? Can we measure intentions? Is there a definable starting point of an intention? Can we identify the neuronal correlates? For dancers, reflection of intentions is essential due to their need to develop and control their movements and to select and begin their movements while focusing on a certain goal. Dancers also speak about their intentions in order to find a language to communicate about them. For Parkinson's, the connection between intention and a desired movement is deeply disturbed. Since dancers are experts at listening to and analyzing their intentions, the tools they have developed can greatly enhance the movements and research of diseases which cause movement disorders.


Interactivity – For people with Parkinson's, they alone have to carry the disease in their bodies and the disease manifests differently from person to person, yet most of the characteristics of the disease affects how they interact with others. If their facial muscles are effected, they can no longer communicate their emotions in a way that others are used to reading them. If their gate is effected, they can give the impression that they are drunk. Their physical appearance challenges the habitual perception of others and these very misperceptions of others can cause additional pain on top of the already existing symptoms. In dance, the sophisticated development of non-verbal physical languages aspire to develop a communication with the public. If the Parkinson's disease damages the interactions with others, can the tools of physical communication developed in dance improve the ability of people with Parkinson's to interact with others? Can a desired movement be improved or better accomplished when instigated through an agency of communication? Is there a difference in the success of a movement when the thought is to communicate rather than to accomplish a certain movement task?

Embodiment – If we understand brains as embodied, then it is our bodily experiences and our movements that affect and form our brain activity and shape our minds, respectively. One way to understand our brain functions is to understand how brain and body interact and to comprehend how our movements are connected to the activities in our motor cortex. Dancers approach embodiment as a physical travel through textures, senses and thoughts to arrive at an as fluid and multifaceted body as possible. Their movement research is also a constantly evolving process to better understand and then manipulate for a desired outcome the embodiment of their thoughts and expressions. If one doesn't look at the brain in an isolated way, but rather as embodied, then when looking at a disease in the brain that effects the body, the disease can be better understood through a deeper research of the mind and body connection that has been developed through dance.

Identity - During our lives, we change who we are, yet we stay the same person. The Parkinson's disease is an unchosen alteration of identity where the body begins to become the foreign enemy. One's self perception splits between 'before' and 'after' and movements and impulses become harder and harder to execute and control. As physical attributes shrink from the disease (walking, the voice, handwriting), so do the physical attributes one used to identify with as parts of their personality and understanding of oneself. People with Parkinson's often describe their 'true selves' being caught in a cage, yet when they dance, they can feel closer to their previously understood self. Through artistic creation and performance, dancers search for, embody and transform themselves through different identities based on an active physical research. They question what it means to perform an identity while searching for where identify lies in the body. If identity is informed through our movements, then through a physical research using the tools developed in various forms of contemporary dance, one can observe and examine their own identity via new pathways of movement and a discovery of potential borders and better understand the physical elements which inform our identities.

Balance – Movement 'in balance' refers to a state of equilibrium, or an equal distribution of weight. The accomplishment of balance, whether physically or emotionally, is a state often pursued by many members of society.  Achieving movement in balance when one is confronted by a movement disorder becomes increasingly challenging, and is often measured by doctors as an assessment for the level of a disease. Balance between the structural and emotional is often seen as an essence of beauty, yet many themes in contemporary dance work with off-balance and chaotic movements. How can balance be improved through dynamic movement and through reflection on how we measure and value something that is 'in balance'?


Unison – Movement performed in synchronicity with more than one body is a common choreographic tool, creating an increased visual impact and agreements in execution by the dancers involved. When people with Parkinson's execute movement in unison, they are able to accomplish more when they are in a group than when they move alone. Entrainment, in the biological sense, refers to the synchronization of an organism to an external rhythm.  What is occurring in the body and mind when this 'togetherness' is accomplished and what neurological benefits transpire when movement is achieved in unison?


Freedom – The concept of freedom needs to be understood through an opposition. Freedom, in relationship to the body, exists as a counterpoint to the body or mind being blocked or restricted. Many people with Parkinson's describe dancing as a freedom from the disease. For others, movement can offer a pathway to a freedom of thought, a dislodging of preconceptions or fixed ideas. If quality of life is the aim of scientific research for the treatment of the Parkinson's disease, then what can we learn from dancing to better understand the aims of the research?

YASMEEN GODDER



COMMON EMOTIONS


Yasmeen's work Common Emotions grew from the research of “Störung/Hafra’ah” and was created in collaboration with Theater Freiburg. The project ment opening the doors of her studio to new groups of participants and used dance as a means of coming together in a common space. This kind of intimate meeting between different communities – through the body and through different methodologies of movement and improvisation – created a desire to also offer this experience to audeinces in a theatrical setting. 


What makes us participate? How do we enter an unknown emotional world? How does the performance, as a social ceremony, impact the way we relate to each other? What determines our involvement in it and what control do we have over our emotional self during this act? In Common Emotions Godder is tapping into theses questions in relation to how we connect to each other in groups, and how the common emotions which arise out of this interaction, infiltrate our individuality.

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Common Emotions, 2016.  Photos 1+2 Maurice Korbel 3 by Gadi Dagon. 

ROOM REFLECTION



Words by Yasmeen Godder


In the process that Stacey Gill and Maria Nilsson Waller proposed for Room and in the time I’ve spent looking and contemplating my own processes and development as an artist, I am finding that the essence of my inspiration comes from the collaborators with whom I worked over the years. This period of Covid 19 and the shut down which has occured as a result, invited for more reflection time, delving into 20 years of notebooks, of themes and quests risen throughout the years and variety of outcomes and concepts evolving to where I am today.


Given all of these, I want to give ROOM to the immense and wide community of artists, collaborators, curators and friends who have become part of my life’s process as an artist and human being. People who have inspired, challenged and provoked my way of thinking and my way of engaging within the artistic context. People who have joined me on unknown journeys into both common as well as estranged sometimes uncomfortable grounds,  sharing together adventures, emotions, passions, challenges and ultimately ourselves.


As I look at this big list of wonderful people, I am moved by how much each and every one has impacted my artistic journey and where I am today. I appreciate and am energized by the idea of using this unique context to give exposure to this fascinating spectrum of artists and to promote more exchange and witnessing from within out and from outside back in .



And two longtime continuous and supporting collaborative curators who’s presence and belief in my my work allows me to continue developing and finding new ventures and experiments with dialogue and support:


Roberto Casarotto

Bettina Masush


Dancer , choreographer and photographer documenting my work since 1999:


Tamar Lamm




Dramaturge, Curator , Actor Mover , Game Changer and lifetime Partner:

Itzik Giuli 

Light and visual artist who's been a collaborator since 2010:


Omer Sheizaf








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