Avignon Festival’s “Story Water” a pretentious dance performance about Arab-Israeli politics

By Lucy Komisar

The place is elegant, the courtyard of the Palace of the Popes, where Popes of the Catholic church held court. The surrounding six-story palace walls are beige brick with Roman arches and a rose window. An amazing venue. The state took it over after the 19th century Napoleonic revolution, and later it became a state museum. The huge courtyard reminds one of a Greek outdoor theater. So, for that reason alone, one goes to any event the Avignon Festival holds there.

width=250But this promotion by Israeli Emanuel Gat working with the Modern Ensemble of Frankfort claims an advantage it doesn‘t deserve.

The music is atonal, the style is avant garde. The dancers are divided into two groups, and a large digital clock appears to keep time. But it goes backward and then forward.

width=250The dancers do angular kicking jumping movements, stretching falling twisting. Then they are frenetic, animalistic. Suddenly they all arrive onstage in their underwear, then frantically twisting, falling, leaping. I assume there is a reason for the underwear, but I don‘t get it. It doesn‘t add to the art. And the movement are repetitive and ultimately uninteresting.

width=250Then the dance performance becomes political. Not just a politics expressed in movement, but clearly in words. The story is labeled Gaza, and titles declare that 2 million people are living inside the Gaza Strip, 71% under 30, 49% unemployed. The music is a mélange of Arab and Israeli.

The Palace of the Popes was the venue for high, tough politics, conflicts between the church and state, between factions of the church. So, the place is still a venue for politics. Plus §a change, they would say in French. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

But alas, that doesn‘t make this presentation art.

“Story Water.” Emanuel Gat Dance, l‘Ensemble Moderne and the Frankfurt LAB. Choreography, set and lighting by Emanuel Gat. Cour d‘honneur du Palais des Papes. Festival d‘Avignon, 19 to 23 July 2018.

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