IN CONVERSATION WITH SHARON EYAL
Interview by Marie-Pauline Cesari
Portrait photography by Yaël Temminck
Sharon Eyal was born in Jerusalem. She danced with the Batsheva Dance Company between 1990 and 2008 and became the muse of choreographer Ohad Naharin. At Batsheva she worked as Associate Artistic Director and later as house choreographer. She founded her own company L-E-V in Tel Aviv with Gai Behar in 2013. Their repertoire consists of 7 creations, the latest being Chapter 3: The Brutal Journey of the Heart.
Photo by Yaël Temminck
We had the extreme honor of discovering this breathtaking artistic performance, composed of 8 dancers that you cannot take your eyes off for 55 minutes. We were immersed in a powerful and intriguing journey, telling the story of love in its deepest meaning. The costumes, like second skins, are designed by Dior and make the hearts of the dancers, as well as the audience, beat faster.
Eyal’s work is dark, hypnotic, seductive, exciting and alienating, and it is performed at the highest level.
Photo by Stefan Dotter for Dior
The Guardian calls you ‘one of the most disconcerting and original choreographers of our time.’ How do you manage to not be pressured by all the excitement around you and to constantly create unique and original pieces?
First, thank you, it’s amazing to hear it! (laughs) I think I am more connected to my work than what people think about me. Of course, I care about people and their reaction to my work is very important, but I’m not doing it for the others, I’m doing it because creation is what I meant to do. I create because I must, and this is not liked to any pressure. I live with creation, and creation is part of my life.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
That’s a question everyone always asks me (laughs) and I always answer the same thing because my inspiration comes from life, naturally. For me, life is the most inspiring film. I am inspired by everything around me.
The costumes of your dancers are designed by Dior; they embody the sensual atmosphere of the dance. This is the third time you have collaborated with Maria Grazia Chiuri, the artistic director of Dior. What role does fashion play in your life and your work?
I think fashion is everywhere. Fashion is not something different from dance, both are part of us. I love working with Maria Grazia, and I love this collaboration. But to be honest, I don’t really like to call it fashion, to me that could reduce the meaning of it. Because fashion is like dance, it’s life. It’s something you believe in, you love, and you taste it too. Fashion is part of me.
Photos by Stefan Dotter for Dior
You have indeed choreographed the show for the Dior Spring Summer 2019 Collection. A collection that honors the freedom of the body and is inspired by movement and dance. Can dance be inspired by fashion as well?
Of course, it is! Dance is about movement, just like fashion. You can be inspired by anything, and I think dance is really inspired by fashion and so am I: I am also inspired by fashion and Maria has been a big inspiration to me, as a designer but also as a woman.
Is this the beginning of a long partnership with Maria?
I love her very deeply, and it has been an extraordinary experience to have worked with her. So yes indeed, I hope this is the beginning of a long partnership because her creation and our collaboration are a real inspiration to me.
The choreographies you are creating are based on your own movements and your dancers film you in order to memorize them. Isn’t it too complicated to let dancers reproduce a work as personal as yours, with all the subjectivity that dance implies?
It’s not complicated at all, and that’s the whole point of the methodology. I really like to see different emotions, when I create, I don’t need to see myself anymore. I need to see something new that touches me.
Aren’t you sometimes afraid that the emotions will differ too much from those you originally expressed?
The source of the movements must indeed come from me, but I like to see different interpretations of my work and discover new ideas from my dancers. It is much more interesting to catch different feelings. I’m not looking for myself or a perfect copy of my movements, I’m looking for something I will connect with and that I will love.
You are passionate about love. If OCD Love was about lovers that come and go and Love Chapter 2 was about what’s left (or not) after love, is The Brutal Journey of the Heart trying to tell us that love hurts?
I think that in all the chapters love makes you suffer (laughs), these chapters are like our life: full of love but also full of pain. These three chapters are not really separate from each other, they don’t exist independently. It’s the story of life, and this last chapter of the story is not the one that talks more about the pain of love, it’s a different combination, it’s just another way of telling love.
You said in an interview that your most beautiful creations were made after you met your husband, Gai Behar. You have been working together a lot since then. Is it easier to talk about love when you work with your other half? Or on the contrary, isn’t dance a secret garden?
We don’t talk about it; our work together is based on feelings and experiences. Gai is my favorite person in the world, I feel lucky to have someone I trust in my life and work. I love the fact that we share our tastes and feelings for every project we work on. I can’t answer and say if it’s easier or not because those words can’t explain the chemistry that happens between us when we work together. It’s a unique feeling.
You said that through dance we can express things, emotions that we can’t necessarily express in real life, can we consider dance as a therapy?
Of course, dance is a therapy. You can heal with it, express anything you want because it is an expression of your whole body, from the brain to the heart.
How do you choose your dancers? Do they have to look like you, share the same desires?
I have known most of the dancers in my company for a long time, and I have worked with most of them before. Choosing dancers is like falling in love. They choose me and I choose them, it’s a mutual appreciation based on feelings. It’s about connection.
You often say that dance starts from the stomach, can you explain this to us?
I’m talking about the stomach because it is the center of our body. But dance also comes from your heart, from your brain. The dance comes from your body, in its entirety. Because it is a complete combination, all the organs are connected, from the brain to the heart. You can’t dance with just one part of your body; you dance with your whole body.
You founded your own company, L-E-V, what was the motivation to do so?
I think that when you want to create something that reflects you the most, you have to do it. And thanks to that, I can choose the dancers, the costumes, the lighting. It’s about freedom and personal fulfilment, it’s about becoming your deepest feeling.