Context Notes: Political Oscillations of Arkadi Zaides

Political Oscillations of Arkadi Zaides

Whether you like it or not,
your genes have a political past,
your skin, a political cast,
your eyes, a political slant.

Whatever you say reverberates,
whatever you don’t say speaks for itself.
So either way you’re talking politics.

— excerpt from Children of the Age, a poem by Wislawa Szymborska,
translated by Stanisław Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh

Meet Arkadi Zaides. Originally from the former Russian Republic of Belarus, and immigrating to Israel with his family as a child, he considers Tel Aviv to be his home base – most of the time. Though a fresh face within the context of the New York dance scene (save for a brief stint at the Israeli Dance Week as part of La Mama Moves two years ago), Zaides has been a prolific dance maker in his own right for nearly a decade, and prior to that, affiliated as a dancer with many choreographers and dance companies known to New York dance audiences, including the Batsheva Dance Company, Mats Ek and Yasmeen Godder.

Having grown up and continuing to work in a state of flux, Zaides’ condition of geographic, political, and personal condition has been inherently reflected upon his choreographic process. While initially perceived as a disadvantage, growing up in a family of Jewish heritage in the former Soviet Union, and subsequently, as a Russian Jew in Israel has afforded him the privilege of being the outsider – one that is constantly endowed with an observer’s perspective. Having moved and worked around the world throughout his career, these migratory transitions – rather than one country or another – is what Zaides grew to equate with his identity. “When I spend too much time in one place”, he says, “it does not feel natural.”

Moving to Israel, age 11, has had pivotal importance to Zaides’ future as a dance maker. Landing in a historically controversial geo-political region, the bulk of Zaides’ choreographic oeuvre has been consumed in an ongoing effort to understand Israel’s complexities, which seem unsolvable. He compares his adoptive homeland’s state of constant flux as being on a ship that is always traversing stormy waters – as a traveler, one can never rest on the deck, having to be mindful of incoming waves at all times. Whether one likes it (or thinks about it) or not, creating in this state inherently endows one’s work with a political significance.

In this evening’s presentation, Zaides shares the stage with a string quartet (Quator Leonis), presenting a work he created in response to Julia Wolfe’s music. The impetus for this work came by the virtue of his being invited to participate in the annual Aire de Jeu festival at Les Subsistances, the renowned artist residency and performance center in Lyon, France, during which several choreographers are invited to create dances set to a contemporary composer’s music, accompanied on the stage by live musicians. While working his way through Wolfe’s catalog, Zaides chose her unrelenting 1995 piece, Dig Deep, intrigued by the intense physicality of Wolfe’s work, which immediately engaged his choreographic imagination. While envisioning the extraordinary effort required by the musicians (in speaking with Zaides later on, Wolfe admitted that of all her works, Dig Deep was the most difficult to perform), the choreographer responded in kind with his own body. The oscillating movement that grew out of the music, I believe, embodies the metaphor of his personal in-betweenness, a permanent state of impermanence, always moving from one point to another.

– Ivan Talijancic
Ivan Talijancic is a multidisciplinary artist: director, choreographer, visual and graphic designer, video- and film-maker, curator and journalist. Along with Erika Latta, he is the co-founder of WaxFactory. Some of his WaxFactory directing credits include BLIND.NESS, …SHE SAID, QUARTET v4.0, X, and LADYFROMTHESEA, a site specific installation/performance staged at the Old American Can Factory in Brooklyn (“most inovative production of the year”, 2001 Worldwide Critics Survey, Ballet-Tanz International magazine.) Ivan has received his MFA in Directing from Columbia University, he is an alumnus of the Lincoln Center Theater Directors Lab, a Usual Suspect at the New York Theatre Workshop, and a former fellow at the Akademie Schloss Solitude (Germany.) His work has been presented at numerous international venues and festivals such as the ICA/Institute of Contemporary Arts (London), Centre Pompidou (Paris), Gulbenkian Museum (Lisbon), SommerSzene (Salzburg, Austria), OLTRE90 (Milan, Italy), Zürcher Theater Spektakel (Zurich, Switzerland), FIT/Festival Internacional de Teatro (Caracas, Venezuela), MESS (Sarajevo, Bosnia) and Cankarjev Dom (Ljubljana, Slovenia), among others. His current work, 416 MINUTES, is a cross-platform project which is simultaneously being developed as a feature film and a live performance. He is a 2013-2015 artist in residence at the Hermitage Artist Retreat (Florida) and a 2014 fellow at the Bogliasco Foundation (Italy).