In Conversation: Sharon Eyal & Claude Adjil
Curator Claude Adjil speaks with choreographer Sharon Eyal about This Is Not A Love Show, the series of dance performances presented by LAS at Kraftwerk Berlin. They discuss what Eyal looks for in dancers, their shared love of music and how space can transform her creations.
Claude Adjil: Thank you so much for speaking to me, Sharon. I thought we could start at the beginning to understand how your journey as a dancer began.
Sharon Eyal: My journey as a dancer began before I began. It began before I was alive, almost. I feel like it was always there and I had to dance because it's my life. I was very hyper as a child and nothing helped me. But when I found dancing, something changed and I began to feel more at ease, more real.
Claude Adjil: You had a very classical ballet training. Then when you joined the Batsheva Dance Company, you adopted the Gaga method.* Over the years you have also very much developed your own style. Can you tell us how you move across the different techniques?
Sharon Eyal: To me, they are not so different because it's all about how you train yourself inside the material. All the different directions were always about finding my own voice. In ballet, I love the system and technique, and I love its organisation. Gaga is personal for me. It helped me to find myself. I'm taking something from everything. I love finding a system and freedom in the system. I love finding the physicality, the extremity – the suffering in the physicality almost, so that the emotion coming out is pure and individual. Training is a great tool, but then inside the training, you want to find your own feeling.
Claude Adjil: You set up L-E-V Dance Company in 2013 together with Gai Behar, and you also often collaborate with other dance companies. For the project at Kraftwerk you'll be working with tanzmainz again. How does your role as a choreographer change when you're entering these different companies, and how is this then brought back into your work with L-E-V?
Sharon Eyal: I connect to people. So for me, whether in my work with other companies or with L-E-V, it is always about that. I find real inspiration and real feeling in the moment. What makes it different is that people are different, and that L-E-V is the company that I am with all the time. With them, I can deepen the connection. But in the end, it's the same because I'm creating for people. I love to work with people, I love to get something extreme out of the individual. I love finding the right people for me and bringing them to a different level of emotion. I honestly don't know how to do otherwise.
Claude Adjil: It seems like you would want to always do both – to not limit yourself to only working on L-E-V but to have the opportunity to work with other companies. One of the things I admire about you the most is your desire to explore the unknown, your openness to collaboration and learning from new contacts. That you don’t just stay in the classical dance world, but also often work outside of that space. You have such energy for pushing and learning.
Sharon Eyal: I just get bored fast, so I am always looking for new sensations and new collaborations. It doesn’t even need to be new, but can just mean going a different way and tasting something new. Energy is something in our mind, I think. So when something is interesting, the right energy is driving me. When it's boring, I cannot be there anymore.
Claude Adjil: And that has an energy, too. You work with extraordinary dancers at L-E-V and I was wondering how you select your dancers, how you come into each other's lives and what you are looking for. Because just on a physical level, there's such a range. Your work is marked by an intense physicality, but your dancers are different from each other and it doesn't seem like you prescribe to any kind of uniform.
Sharon Eyal: Again, it is about connection. I'm choosing them like they're choosing me almost. I have been working with most of the people for a long time. We already have a past, and we have the now and the future together. I feel like something was always there. Physically, what I am looking for is extreme technique. But with technique I don't just mean ballet – I mean the ability to deal with it and to go further with your emotion. Because I'm looking for the purest people with the best technique, but also for people that don't perform and are not trying to be something that they are not. I'm looking for real people with amazing technique and a totality of feeling that they can commit to the work and to themselves. This is quite hard to find.
‘I don't want to see the choreography, I want to see the magic. I want to feel and I want people to feel what I want to give them.’
Claude Adjil: In your work, you are taking your dancers to a different level of emotion. It can’t be easy to go back to a routined life afterwards.
Sharon Eyal: Yes. I'm asking them to be naked from the inside. I want to see them. I don't want to see anything else. This is the hardest – me asking them to be the most simple and the most trained at the same time.
Claude Adjil: Even when your dancers are in costume and make-up, their individuality is allowed to shine through. It is as if you want to present them as who they are and not as this idea of an ensemble.
Sharon Eyal: The choreography is not so interesting to me in the end. Interesting is what the dancers bring to it. I don't want to see the choreography, I want to see the magic. I want to feel and I want people to feel what I want to give them.
Claude Adjil: That intense feeling comes up in your work a lot. You keep returning to the theme of love and I always feel like you're injecting a sense of it into the audience. Why is it so important to you?
Sharon Eyal: It's not important to me, it's just life. It's not the theme that I'm going for but rather my story and my process. I also don't think it's love – it's relationships, it’s life. They are the same. I believe that you can change life with life.
Claude Adjil: It's true, it's life. And because it's life, it's happiness, and it's also pain. There is joy in all of your pieces, but the range of that feeling. It is that intense physicality of looking at the bodies contort, seeing them go into these almost animalistic positions. But then in other moments, it's pure beauty.
Sharon Eyal: And it's not even happy or sad or pain – it's the combination of emotions. The elements are all there and the wildness becomes very sad. But it's not about that. It's about deeper material that you find in your body and your heart and your brain. It's never one thing, it's layer by layer of feelings.
Claude Adjil: Absolutely. Music is so important to your work as a choreographer and you've collaborated with many different musicians, such as Koreless and Jamie xx. For the Kraftwerk Berlin project you will be working with musicians again. How is music an inspiration to you and how do you use it as a way of going into something deeper?
Sharon Eyal: I love music, not as a choreographer, but as a person. I love it and I connect to it. It can change my mood. It can change everything. It's one of my favourite things. I have been working with Ori Lichtik for a long time. We have an amazing relationship and we have a lot of things that we develop together. I worked with Koreless and it was really interesting, an inspiring feeling. I worked with Jamie xx and it again was a new sensation. I just like to dig into new material where I'm discovering myself and music is really an amazing part of that. In the pieces, it is not not that the music is more important than the costumes or the other way around – everything is equally important. It is important because the piece is important. Music, again, is life. It changes something in me.
Claude Adjil: It's like you say, music is life, it's a way of life. You can feel so many different emotions with it, and it breaks down people’s barriers. It is also a way of changing the context, whether it's referencing club culture or something else. And you are interested in how you can show your work in different contexts. I have seen many different performances of yours in more traditional dance settings, like a theatre, but it has also been presented in non-traditional venues.
Sharon Eyal: It's just another layer, an opportunity to feel and experience differently. It can be a new element to the piece when you change the space. It is quite amazing how space can be part of the composition of the piece. It can change the feeling of the piece completely if it's in a theatre or in a different spot or in nature. And that's beautiful.
‘I think something in the instinctive and the moment, the alive moment, is very important to the pieces. It's almost like you shout it out and then you shape it the right way.’
Claude Adjil: How did it feel to finally go back into these spaces?
Sharon Eyal: I love it. When I was a kid, my favourite series was about two girls and a boy who had a stick that they were pointing at a map, and whenever they pointed at it, they were beamed into a different world. That is how I feel. I really want to go to these magical places and to do my own stuff there. I don't have the stick, but I have my body and my feelings.
Claude Adjil: It's beautiful, it carries you there. Can you tell us about your process of adapting pieces to different settings? Again, you're always interested in pushing the piece further so that nothing is ever final and you can always look back, you can always revisit it. When we worked together in London in 2019 and I was watching you shout out to the dancers, I was particularly struck by how alive it all is, how it feels like it's constantly bubbling.
Sharon Eyal: This is my favourite part, actually. To do it on the spot and to feel something and to give that to the dancers. I'm creating like this more and more. I have a microphone and I'm talking with the dancers. I think something in the instinctive and the moment, the alive moment, is very important to the pieces. It's almost like you shout it out and then you shape it the right way. I like to change pieces, not because I don't like something but just because I have new ideas. And I think it can always grow.
Claude Adjil: Everything is growing in life. A garden continually replenishes, you're not going to just stop it growing.
Sharon Eyal: Exactly. So why not pour more water onto the creation? I love it. It's always refreshing. It's always almost new.
Claude Adjil: Often when you're travelling, you only go for a short period of time. But with the project in Berlin, you'll have the time to settle in a city, to settle in the space of Kraftwerk Berlin, it’s like a residency with LAS. That is a different experience of really having it become a home – everyone moves in, in a way. For you to be in one place is a unique and exciting opportunity to have again.
Sharon Eyal: It's an opportunity to go deeper, to be a bit more grounded. And I think it's an amazing opportunity. I'm really happy about it. Thank you.
* Gaga is a movement language and training method developed by Israeli dancer and choreographer Ohad Naharin. It is conceived to deepen dancers’ awareness of physical sensations and to help them connect their effort to pleasure.
Sharon Eyal & Gai Behar