Sharon Eyal
Photo by Eyal Nevo

Sharon Eyal: “The story comes from inside the body”

Short Profile

Name: Sharon Eyal
DOB: 1971
Place of birth: Jerusalem, Israel
Occupation: Dance choreographer

Ms. Eyal, why do you dislike the term choreographer?

Well, I’m doing what I love to do, and for me it’s like I’m making a dream. I’m dreaming and then I’m putting it out. Of course it’s my work, but it doesn’t matter how you call it — it’s something that was always there for me.

Do you find it limiting?

Choreography has become just about one thing, just about doing a dance piece for example. But for me, it’s a lot about the atmosphere, the emotions — there are a lot of elements together. It’s a bit less dualistic. It’s just creating what I love: I love to dance and I love to create.

So you are not interested in creating a narrative for a dance piece?

I think it’s not that I’m not creating a character, and not making a story —because there is story and character in everything! Even if you didn’t mean it, it’s just there. It already exists.

“I believe in the story that comes from inside the body.”

And the audience projects their own interpretation on top of that story anyway.

Right, and in fact, a lot of times when I’m creating something, it’s only after that I see the story, or realize what I wanted to say. And then I see very clearly why I did it! It’s not because I meant it, but rather because I went along with my feeling. It’s a long process and I think it comes from somewhere else, from my subconscious. But at the same time, the dots are also never really connecting because the process continues and I’m always learning inside the process.

You also once described your process of movement creation as “searching inside the body.”

Yes, I believe in the story that comes from inside the body. My dancers always say that this style is really hard, both physically and emotionally. But the more extreme it is on the body, the more the emotion comes out! My dancers sometimes cannot breathe, or sometimes they cannot sleep for a couple of days because it’s so demanding on the body and the mind.

It’s like running a marathon. 

It is, because of the physical and emotional aspect! I think it’s also in connection to the total feeling that I’m looking for.

House (2013) choreographed by Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar

What do you mean?

I think that you can only do these pieces when it’s total. It cannot work if it’s not. You need to find the maximum in a minimal way, because you can discover so many extremes in places that you didn’t see yet. This way, even if you stand it can be heavy work! Even if you breathe it can be heavy work! But I do think it’s always about balance — it’s always interesting to see how it can balance.

Does the idea of totality also include being in touch with the past and the present of your dance career?

Well, when I was very, very young, I wanted to be a classical ballerina: I broke all my pointe shoes, I used to look at ballet videos from morning until evening. But I always felt a bit different. Then I changed a bit; I was in the Batsheva Dance Company for a long time and I started to dance and choreograph Gaga, a new movement language created by Batsheva’s Director, Ohad Naharin. And later I found myself in L-E-V, my own dance company, with my own dance style. But I feel something from this past of mine, and I think this combination from my past and my present enabled something else for me. With L-E-V, for example, I always feel that it’s very, very old school what we’re doing, but in a new sensation.

William Forsythe said that in order to show that dance is relevant, you have to express through the work why it needs to be here now.

Absolutely. When you look at our dance performances, the structure is almost old-fashioned — but inside there’s very new material. It’s about how you approach ideas and movement and what you want to say. Because, anyway, everything has already been done before, you know? (Laughs)

“It will come. I think it’s never about trying to do something different, it’s about doing and about being.”

And once you accept that, you can focus on just doing your own thing.

Right, and I’m very lucky because I had this freedom to share my ideas and to realize them. For instance, the Gaga contemporary style of dancing is amazing and it gave me a lot of freedom to be who I am. It gave me the direction that I wanted to go in and that’s the most important to me. I could go my own way! When I create a new work for L-E-V, I like to improvise to music while my dancers film me. Then I watch the video and I start to cut, move, group or repeat movements. The next thing is composition, where I am building layers, and inside the layers I am again editing and cutting. I’m always doing my own movement.

Would you say that was a rebellion against your classical ballet past?

In the end maybe it came like that, but it wasn’t meant to be like that. I don’t know how to do it different — it’s not as if I was thinking of how to do it different, I just know how to do it my way! For example, my partner in L-E-V, Gai Behar, is always bringing a different view because he came to dance completely fresh. So he can approach it completely differently — whereas I cannot, because I have the history and I have the technique and I have my own thing. I actually don’t plan so much, it’s coming from me, as I said, like in a dream. It will come. I think it’s never about trying to do something different, it’s about doing and about being!