Every Step You Take, They’ll Be Watching You

Every Step You Take, They’ll Be Watching You

Sandee is the arts and culture editor at the Jewish Week.

The eight dancers in ZviDance’s “Surveillance” are being electronically monitored. Sometimes they take their turn at a stage camera, to track the others. Animation, pre-recorded video and live projections appear on a screen behind them.

“The piece is a reflection on surveillance technology and the ways it’s embedded in our lives now,” Zvi Gotheiner, the Israeli-born artistic director and founder of the company, told The Jewish Week. He was speaking at a rehearsal last week while the work was still in process. “Surveillance” has its world premiere on June 11 (and runs through June 14) at New York Live Arts (219 W. 19th St.)

The sequence of movements raises questions about what’s seen and unseen, public and private, as information about each of us continues to pile up. The original score by Scott Killian mixes rhythmic music with recordings of audience footsteps, conversations and the dancers’ breath.

“This is a world of electronic buzz, with networks of knowledge floating around that we don’t see,” says Gotheiner, who cut his dance teeth with the acclaimed Bat Sheva Dance Company, Israel’s leading modern dance troupe. He adds, “I hope [the piece] breathes humanity, even as people are consenting to this eye watching them.”

The dancers move with high energy and precision, sometimes in their own orbits, other times tangling with each other. Sometimes they seem as if they’ve been drawn inward; at other times their movements radiate out, creating patterns and shadows on the stage. Now and then, the projections resemble a surveillance monitor.

In one sequence, a colorful grid of words is projected onto the screen, and the dancers glide forward to form a line, calling out words to the audience, at first a single word and then several strung together. Then they are speaking at once, while at the same time, sharing another language, that of their movements. Gotheiner likens this sequence to data sorting.

In another sequence, a backpack is left on the stage, and the dancers move it around. Gotheiner admits that in Israel, a left package like this would cause a lot of commotion, but in America, few pay attention.

“In Israel, you accept search and surveillance as part of the norm. Here it’s disguised further; Americans have an idea of individuality and privacy, but it’s being invaded.”

A choreographer at home in the world of ideas, Gotheiner, who formed ZviDance in 1989, feels strongly about his collaborations with dancers and with sound, lighting and visual designers.

“It’s miraculous in any artistic process,” he says. “I initiate something and the dancers embody it in their body and soul, bringing to life something that I could not even imagine.” He speaks of a cycle of ideas and initiation and fulfillment. In the end, he says, he never knows who did what.

He admits that his own interest in collaboration and indeed his preference for working with others might be an outgrowth of his early years spent on Kibbutz Messilot in northern Israel. “It’s imprinted on me,” he says.

Since moving into choreography, Gotheiner no longer dances. “I need to be on the outside, to see the reality, not the way I feel viscerally. It’s not an easy transition. Only on occasion, when I’m making a phrase with a dancer, I get into it with my body and I remember how amazing that is.”

On June 12, ZviDance, with the support of the Israeli Consulate’s cultural affairs office, and in partnership with the America-Israel Cultural Foundation and Isramerica, is hosting a special evening of dance and culture, with a reception following the performance. For ticket information, go to http://newyorklivearts.org/event/surveillance.

read more: