Feature: Creating Clarity - Emanuel Gat Dance

Tuesday 27 September 2011

Emanuel Gat As well as making work for his own company, choreographer Emanuel Gat (born in Israel, now based in France) has been a guest choreographer with Paris Opera Ballet, Ballet de Geneve, Sydney Dance Company and London based Candoco Dance Company – amongst others.

First seen at Sadler’s Wells in 2008 & 2010, Gat returns with his own company and a brand new work for this year’s Dance Umbrella festival, based on the work of jazz musician Thelonius Monk.
Donald Hutera finds out more…

Emanuel Gat Dance 'Brilliant Corners' 10-11 Oct, Sadler's Wells Some people just fall into dance. In his youth Emanuel Gat had no particular interest in it as a career. He studied music at the Tel Aviv Academy, his dream to become a conductor. A dance workshop for amateurs soon put paid to that idea. Three months later Gat joined a company, and within two years he was making his own dances.

“It happened almost accidentally,”
claims the Israeli-born choreographer, now in his early forties_.” And it was too clear to ignore. Suddenly you feel so comfortable doing something you just do it.”_

Despite the early career-switch, Gat says, musical thinking is central to his art. “I tend to ‘listen to choreography more than I look at it. The musical aspects of a choreographic structure are as revealing as its spatial ones, although not in the sense that the dance must follow the beat of the music.”

It’s the music of the piano-playing jazz genius Thelonious Monk that underpins *Brilliant Corners*, Gat’s new work for ten dancers. Co-commissioned by Dance Umbrella, La Biennale di Venezia (where it premiered in June), Stockholm’s Dansens Hus as part of ENPARTS (European Network for Performing Arts), it follows on from his company’s previous two visits to Sadler’s Wells in 2008 and 2010.

“He is unbelievable,”
Gat enthuses about Monk, whose 1957 album of the same name gives the dance its title. “But just to be clear about this: the piece is not about Monk or his music, or jazz, or music.” Indeed, it’s Gat himself who is composing the score. And yet, although we won’t hear a single note of the marvellous Monk, many aspects of his multi-layered, syncopated rhythms are present in the dance. “Although the piece contains no direct reference to his music,” explains Gat, “it shares with it a certain understanding about transforming concrete artistic matters – sounds and musical composition or, in my case, dancers, movement and choreography – into environments where artists and audiences are offered a somewhat clearer glance at life.”

Gat places a high value on this shared clarity of vision. It permeates everything he does, from the way he functions in the rehearsal studio with his dancers (“I’m constantly asking for clarity from them,” he says, adding, “It’s the key to the way the work will develop afterwards“) to the response that his dance will, ideally, engender in spectators. “What I aim for is to create a choreographic event which is solid, clear and open enough to be fertile ground for insights and a sort of understanding. I don’t have a list of these insights; I guess there are as many as there are people in the audience.”

What such a non-dictatorial approach to creation demands, Gat says, is a more active form of listening or, in dance terms, watching on our part. “It sounds a bit mystical, I know, but it’s actually very simple. It’s about artists building structures in such a way that they allow an audience this clarity. They create a concentration and transparency, both emotional and intellectual, which drives us in the same direction. It’s easier for most of us to accept this state of mind when we listen to music. We’re much less confident of our abilities to experience other mediums in this way.”

Emanuel Gat Dance 'Brilliant Corners' Speaking with four months to go before the first public showing, Gat is unable – and happily unwilling – to pin down just how Brilliant Corners will look and sound. “I have no wish to control or plan that. I’m concentrating on understanding the forces that generate form, actions, dynamics, rhythms and textures. It’s more about discovering the way it will eventually look and sound rather than trying to imagine it beforehand.”

Choreography is such an organic, detailed, complex, ephemeral and, to Gat, even fragile undertaking that it’s no surprise that he doesn’t talk a lot to his dancers during the creation period. “Basically I switch the machine ON and wait for it to do its thing,” he says, smiling. “It sounds like a way to create without working at all. But really it’s about understanding the delicate balance between discovering and inventing, and how structures which are the result of a discovery process hold much more than the ones we invent.”

Asked how he regards his role vis a vis the dancers, Gat says, “It mostly has to do with raising their level of awareness.” This becomes crucial in the second phase of a given work, once most of it’s been made and, as he elaborates, “we can start to really look at it and try to figure it out. Then I talk in order to point their attention to what I see as important for their understanding of what they’re doing.” Gat obliges when gently pressed to reveal what sort of things he might actually say. “It usually sounds like this: ‘Open your eyes! Look around you. Take your time. Listen! Be clear. Don’t dance alone!’ And there’s one phrase that keeps coming back to the point that it became a joke in the studio: ‘It’s not clear…” Or, better “It’s not clearrrr! !! !! !! !! ‘”

What, I venture, has thus far become clearer to Gat in the making of Brilliant Corners? “The answer to that question is the 22 pages of text on my website!” And with this the brilliant, sometimes elusive dance-maker brings our conversation to a close.

© Donald Hutera, 2011

Part of Dance Umbrella 2011
Emanuel Gat Dance
Brilliant Corners
_*_Sadler’s Wells*
Mon 10 & Tues 11 October
Tickets from £10 **”www.sadlerswells.com“:http://www.sadlerswells.com/show/Emanuel-Gat-Dance-Brilliant-Corners

This article also appears on the Dance Umbrella website

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