Home February 2020 Communicating through Dance

Communicating through Dance

2_STICKY0220_OC_SCHNEIDER_DANCEA quiet child, Rachel Erdos learned to express herself through dance. When a dance company came to her school in Newcastle Upon Tyne, England, she fell in love with the idea of communicating through that art form. Desiring to blend psychology with dance, she received her MA from The Laban Centre London, specializing in choreography.
Erdos decided she “had to choose between Jewish life and the rest of it” and moved to Israel. Acknowledging the hard transition of moving from England to Israel at the beginning, she said, “When you find something fulfilling, it keeps you there.”
Erdos, who has lived and worked in Tel Aviv – “which has one of the best dance companies in the world”—since 2002, believes that both motivation and luck have helped her to win awards and prizes. They include: 2008 First Prize in the AICC International Choreography Competition in Aarhus, Denmark; 2009 City Dance Ensemble’s commissioning project, Washington DC; 2012 Artist of the Year in the Field of Dance by The Ministry of Absorption, Israel; and 2014 NorthWest Dance Project’s Pretty Creative Commission prize, Portland USA. In 2015 she was awarded the prize for Independent Choreographer of the Year by the Ministry of Culture, Israel.

Erdos has been commissioned by various dance companies, and her work has been seen around the world. Through her professional relationship with Ido Tadmor, artistic director of the Israeli Ballet from 2014 to 2016, head of a Tel Aviv-based company and now guest lecturer at Chapman University, she connected with Orange County’s critically acclaimed Backhausdance, formed in 2003 by Jennifer Backhaus and known for its lush movement vocabulary and ensemble aesthetic.

Backhaus, a member of the Chapman faculty who described Tadmor as her mentor, has choreographed “deeply human and emotional creations that are infused with a sense of humor and theatricality” for her dance company. She believes that dance is “an art form to communicate with and connect people.”

Erdos will spend the month of March rehearsing with Backhausdance for a 50-minute performance called “Q&A (The 36 Questions)” that will take place in Orange County the last week in March and then in Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco in April through June. Erdos will “create and teach it, and then it becomes its own performance,” Backhaus said.

“Q&A (The 36 Questions)” refers to a set of 36 questions developed by psychologist Arthur Aron as part of a 1997 study, called “The Experimental Generation of Interpersonal Closeness,” in which pairs of strangers responded to the prompts with each other. Erdos uses these 36 questions as a starting point to inspire movement. The dancers physically respond to some of the questions, prompting the audience to think about answers. While Aron’s study was primarily on building intimacy, Q&A shifts the lens slightly to consider the broader theme of human connection. Just as the questions were meant to create closeness between two people, with the added possibility of making those two people fall in love, the concept has the potential to create closeness between the audience and performers.

“Q&A (The 36 Questions)” starts with questions asked in turn by one of the four dancers through a microphone and continues with dance movements in solos, duets, trios or all four together. The movement responses gradually become more complex as the piece develops, and mood shifts are appropriately timed. There are funny sections interspersed with somber sections that have slow, meditative music and movements.

Erdos concluded, “We’re lacking communication between people. I hope this dance performance will make people think and develop closeness with each other.”

ILENE SCHNEIDER IS A CONTRIBUTING WRITER TO JLIFE MAGAZINE.

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