I was recently asked to write about a contemporary artist in another discipline that inspires me. Here’s where that went:
ETGAR KERET: The Writing Analogy
Etgar Keret is an Israeli short story writer. Since the 90’s he has become the face of contemporary Israeli fiction. His stories have been translated from Hebrew into over two dozen languages. I have read, cover to cover, over and over, every story within his two most recent publications “Girl on the Fridge” (2008) and “Suddenly, A Knock at the Door”(2008). His stories are lean. His diction is familiar. His stories start with an incident and end with how we feel about it, without telling the reader what to feel. His fiction gives us a dose of what we need in our non-fiction life. As my kind of short story does, his stories communicate incommunicable emotions. His characters live lives we recognize, have habits we know, but they do and say on the page what we cannot (legally) or would not (emotionally), do and say in person.
These are the kinds of dances I want to make.
For example: let’s talk spaghetti — the special familiar feel and smell of a million worms of spaghetti just out of a boiling pot.
There’s an creative non-fiction memoir type dance about an individual’s memory of spaghetti, the spaghetti moment serves as a metaphor for some seemingly universal stuff. There is short spoken word section, and an original score using ancient Italian folk singing. There is a moving duet with one dancer eating spaghetti and another dancer moving around the eating dancer. Maybe there’s a table and a chair. Maybe there is contact and a lift and table-chair acrobatics. The dance is well crafted and performed. The audience is moved by the aesthetic and emotional impact of its beauty in tandem with the subconsciously digested metaphor. “We, and the grains” it is called, grammatically idiosyncratic. I do not want to make that dance.
There is a dance that is an essay of the socio-political connotations of pasta. There is dry pasta everywhere. The audience walked through it to get to their seats. The dry pasta makes amazing sounds. Amazing. Maybe it’s mic’ed and the sounds of dry pasta and empty pasta boxes are captured and live looped on stage. The dancers wear light colored costumes to make visible the projections of the real-time live-captured footage of themselves, spliced with found footage of fields of grain and pasta commercials, projection-mapped to appear only on their bodies as they slide and gesture around, slightly on and off of unison, in parallel lines, parallel lines, parallel lines: the pasta makes a million parallel lines before it breaks. Spaghetti; This Is A Dance About Pasta. I do not want to make this dance.
There is a dance of the pasta. A solo, with a dancer, let’s make it a dude, and he’s basically naked, and he has such a hip haircut, and he is showering in cooked pasta, that is slowly dribbling from an unseen source in the ceiling. He is fully immersed in the feeling of the pasta on his skin, mushing under his feet. The audience is aroused and self conscious. I – Am – Pasta. I do not want to make this dance.
Today, I want to make dances like Etgar Keret makes stories. Taking the nouns and verbs of life, and following them to the incommunicable familiar. I used to be interested in making non-fiction dances. But from Keret I have learned that fiction, good fiction — athletic and imaginative, like a good dance — can give us more. I read and I write because of my faith in words. For my faith in everything that has no words, I make dances.