S E R E N A D E
by Gil Harush (2023)
September 8, 2023, Noon Friday, 14:04, Esplanade de Montbenon - Lausanne.
How long I waited for this email. Sarah Ginter, the Communications Officer of the Ballet de l’Opera National du Rhin: "Can you send the programme text by the end of the month?". "Yes," I said to myself out loud and began to write excitedly: Sometimes I feel that inside me, there’s a stock of love words and love sentences that I need to express in a day, and this text, what is it if not a perfect opportunity for romantic ventilation? I'm Gil, and I'm a romantic. Nothing satisfies me more than projecting my romantic fantasies onto the future. It took me a long time to admit it, without fear of criticism from those who think it contradicts the popular mantra - which has long ago exhausted itself - "Live in the moment". Today I know that this is exactly how I achieved everything I have, through the fantasy itself, through the excitement of an event that had not yet occurred, step by step I went in its direction.
Serenade - “A complimentary vocal or instrumental performance, especially: one given outdoors at night for a woman being courted” - is my first creation that deals specifically with love. Between you and me, and between me and me I sign: The time has come.
1934, New York
George Balanchine presents a work that has become an icon, a symbol of quality, and a measure of technical level. It was created with ballet students, and not with professional ballet dancers. He intended to create a work that the students could physically withstand, but would challenge their abilities. Since then, in the last 90 years, all professional ballet schools, ballets and opera houses have staged Serenade, a piece that has become a representation and example, perhaps even a definition, of what neoclassical ballet is. It was created with unprecedented fidelity to Tchaikovsky's Serenade for Strings in C (1880) and indeed the choreography is nothing less than a complete visualization of every note that is played. It was the first full-length work Balanchine created in America, for an audience that had not yet been widely exposed to ballet before, while in his heart a sense of gratitude for the generous subsidy and the warm welcome he received when he immigrated to the US.
I identify with Balanchine's inspiration to create from a place of gratitude and with his need to express it. Also, I don't think it's a coincidence that his "creation of gratitude" is essentially romantic because for the last four years, I've been feeling a similar feeling. Since moving to the Basque Country, I have lived in the embrace of everything that surrounds me, and the need to express gratitude through love is familiar to me. My observation of this need reminds me how much all works are born from the personal story of a creator, of an artist from any field, while within us begins a process of greasing the engines of narcissism and self-convincing, until reaching a complete belief that our voice is topical and our work is relevant to the time and place in which live. Our hope as artists is one: that our work will touch people's hearts and move their awareness and in return - we will be loved.
My association: ballet school atmosphere, where my story begins.
2006, Tel Aviv
I was a student who was accepted to the Thelma Yellin School of Arts, a private school that is a dream of every young artist growing up in Israel. I remember that morning I was walking down the hall while hearing string instruments passing through the studio walls as if they weren't there. I peeked through the round window and saw the girls of my class standing in the sixth position with long white skirts. In front of them is Mrs. Dalia Dvir, the rehearsals director. Their right arm extended towards the sky and their hands bent as if they were hiding the sun's rays. Indeed, it was the opening scene of Serenade by George Balanchine, wrapped in the most refined aromas of Tchaikovsky's music. Mrs. Dalia Dvir invited me in. I remember myself sitting there, neurotically moving my gaze between the TV screen, where the New York City Ballet dancers were performing Serenade, and the studio where my classmates were glowing with sweat. From that moment, dance has been my oldest partner, my closest relationship and every day I wish us an endless life together. But don't be mistaken, I don't love dance specifically, I found my love since the day I was born: creation = bringing fantasy to reality. I chose dance, it chose me and between us, there's a contract. If I had been born in a different place, in a different time, my relationship might have been with the theater or with the camera or the pages, but my love for the creation would not have changed but rather received a different setting to exist in it.
July 16th, 2022, Côte des Basques - Biarritz.
I met Bruno Bouche, the Artistic Director of the Ballet de l’Opera National du Rhin, and he officially invited me to create an original version of the ballet Serenade. Bruno knew that this was one of my personal dreams as a creator, but what he didn't know was that with his invitation, the hotel in my heart where each of my past and present lovers live, would open all of its doors. As usual, I treat each of my new creations like a patient entering my clinic. I embark on a journey into his inner world where I learn to swim freely, investigate his behavior with curiosity and remind myself: if I know what can make me love this person, I can learn why others love him and above all, why and thanks to what he must love himself. From this point, the process of creating a Serenade actively begins.
George Balanchine's Serenade is a dance piece without a distinct narrative. But some elements fill it with content. First and foremost, its name immediately creates access to a soft and nocturnal world. From the moment the curtain opens, standing still as soldiers: the skirts that correspond with the same skirts that characterize the romantic ballet "Giselle", the erotic lighting taken from looking at the planet Mars, the choreography itself which is made up of solos and duets which emphasize the tension between solitude and togetherness, and of course - the music.
While creating a homage, I wonder about the connection and the tension that should be kept between the original version and the new one. One way or another, in creating a homage there is a clear intention to perpetuate an original work, and without paying attention to the details that deserve to be resonated, the magic disappears. I dwell on the powerful presence of music in the piece and honestly think that the success of the work throughout history depends on the music as much as the choreography and in my opinion, the music or maybe even Tchaikovsky in spirit, gets the role of the main dancer in the piece. That's why the first element I chose to deal with is bringing the music in a concrete way to the work, and working with a space that is limited by strings as if the dancers were moving between the strings of the instruments themselves, in contrast to the original version where the stage is completely open. I began to notice the unconscious erotic relationship between Balanchine and Tchaikovsky. Serenade for Strings in C is characterized by the same frustration that exists in most of Tchaikovsky's compositions, the feeling of falling in love that does not come to fulfillment and usually ends in catharsis, an orgasm, after which the lovers part and never meet again. From here, I joined Balanchine with the intention of producing a complete musical visualization, I dive deeper into the sensations and associations that flood me, like listening to a patient in psychotherapy, and the contents that I wish to pour into my work are getting clearer:
I. Tchaikovsky's works take the listener through a progressive emotional journey, like scenes taken from our relationships, from a small fear that emerges in the form of quiet violins to a passionate fight that is the playing of all bow instruments together.
Please note: we always whisper before we shout.
II. I remember that in Euskera, the language of the Basque country, the expression for "falling in love" is "Maitemindu" which means "to be wounded by love". Maite = love, Mindu = wounded.
Attention: we are all sadists, we are all masochists.
Gil: "I'm gay."
Mother: Crying. "But I always wanted grandchildren from you."
Gil: "But I want children."
Mother: Wiping the tears. "Really? How? Tell me".
Gil: "I don't want to join the military, I want to study dance in the Netherlands"
Father: A month later. "Baby, I get it. When do classes start?”
Please note: parents, don't react, act.
IV. Last summer, a music festival in Bilbao. An innovative electronic music performance that captured all my senses immediately. After a short time, I realized that what enchanted me in this concert were the sounds of the classical trumpet interwoven with the electronic sounds. The trumpet was like a warm south breeze that came and went and ran her fingers through my hair. I kept searching throughout the concert for the trumpet among the electronic sounds like I was searching for my beloved among the crowd of people.
Attention: the drama of the 21st century. The obsession is to find the new, not to stay.
October 10, 2023, Mulhouse
In the first rehearsal with the dancers, I asked them to share with me, actually, their romantic wishes. And with their consent only, ask them to send me the text or the song, the serenade they wish themselves to receive, the words they wish someone would dedicate to them. I was privileged to get a private tour into their hearts, to visit their bedrooms, their wedding day, their brokenness and disappointments. We spilled all the words on the studio floor to compile our private book of Serenades, our collection of love stories, which you will watch in a moment. Please note, that my conclusion is accompanied by pain: no matter how complete my creation is, it won't tell what happened in the studio, and what happened between the dancers and me. Even if our friends or family members will share endless stories of their relationships, their love lives, we will never know what is going on between them, inside them. No matter how hard we try, love cannot be presented. My answer to the question, < why we never stop filling the world with love songs, music, plays and works about it > reveals itself : if love had a body and form, we would never indulge in attempts to embody it, we would never be obsessed with trying to present it. We keep trying. All the creators. Again and again.
And today, January 13, 2024, the day of the premiere, Strasbourg.
A screen opens and a love story closes. The place where mountains end, and my Serenade to you begins. Between you and me and me and me, I sign again: this is not my last Serenade, and until we find the answer for what love is, I will be here to create it again and again, until one day, like everything else in life, it will simply end.
The piece is dedicated to my very first ballet teacher, Ms. Naama Yadlin,
To my teachers in Thelma Yellin Arts School, Ms. Rose Kassel and Mr. David Dvir,
And to my last teacher, my dear Mr. Nikolai de Lusignan, of blessed memory.