Thoughts on You Look Like You by Yaniv Cohen
The medium of Yaniv Cohen’s You Look Like You, which ran this past weekend at the Mandel Cultural Center in Jaffa.
Every part of the evening, from the awkward waiting period before the audience was ushered upstairs to the lineup that formed around two clumps of stacked plastic chairs and the instruction to “sit wherever we like” (but clearly on one side of a big black line), to the rapid shift from Hebrew speech to English text spoken in computer-ese to the tense few minutes before anyone was willing to approach the two keyboard stations linked to the sound systems and the ensuing audience-war to direct the show.
Why do we always want the performance to go to the edge? Why do we ask a woman who has just informed us she is pregnant to jump off a plastic chair in order to reach the ceiling? Why is “explode” the first thing we ask of the clearly angry performer? Why does control always lead to some kind of humiliation or abuse?
The discomfort was so gorgeous, so palpable, so thick. This lab experiment/dance work/audience performance needed so little explanation. It was a perfect, weird cherry popped by the need to explain, to calm, to let us know it was all okay.
At the end of the show, after more than an hour of typing, moving, shifting in our seats, lighting cues, musical interludes and a lot of embarrassed smiles, Cohen took his place on stage for a Q&A. And here, the discomfort found its true home.
We, the audience, were not in the wrong for participating in this strange experiment, for exercising our power in not the kindest of ways, and the performers weren’t actually pushed to any limits, they felt in control the whole while. Our happy puppets.
Here, in the conversation that was arguably more telling than the performance itself, the real truth came out. We commit but not all the way. We put ourselves out there, we feel awful, we want to hide, we can’t stand it, but then, once the clapping is done and the stage lights are off, we take it all back. We weren’t really uncomfortable. We weren’t really dancing, we didn’t really feel anything. We were acting.
And herein, the strangest contradiction of dancers. Watch us, feel us, see us, love us but don’t think, not for one second, that you know us.
To read an interview with Yaniv Cohen that was published in The Jerusalem Post, click here.