Choreographer Tami Stronach Uses Noah’s Ark
By Kimberly Greene
Set against the backdrop of the story of Noah’s Ark, “Pinchas, the Fish-people, and the Great Flood,” downtown choreographer Tami Stronach’s new work, premieres April 12-15 at Dance New Amsterdam.
“It’s a mishmash of myths,” Stronach said. “It ends up being a classic retelling in a way, about [a man who is] alone and really keeps searching in the wrong direction until he cares for something.”
While the description seems to be simpler than usual for Stronach, the stylistic character of this piece remains the same: a truly original, challenging-yet-enjoyable multi-layered interpretation where many different elements – including mermaids and puppets - always snap into place.
“This was sort of an attempt to make a story and see what happens,” Stronach said of the Pinchas piece. “The real interest in making dance theater is not so much what you’re telling, but how you’re telling it - the way that the image builds, and the way that the energy mounts, that’s where the magic is.”
“Pinchas, the Fish-people and the Great Flood” underwent a series of workshops where choreographers present an unfinished piece and receive feedback from audience members. For Stronach, however, the verbal feedback provided little information. “You don’t need to talk to people after the show. People lie anyway,” she said. “You can feel what works and what doesn’t. You just need to have it in front of people to know what’s landing and what isn’t.” And in the Pinchas piece, it became clear to Stronach and her dancers that a lot of extraneous information wasn’t working; they needed to strip away all of the excess and simplify the story.
“[Stronach] is always keeping composure when most would not, and creating work that resonates,” said Jessie Green, one of Stronach’s dancers. “I think she has been consistent in marrying the languages of theater and dance in poignant expressions.”
Perhaps Stronach’s ability to marry various elements can be traced to her childhood, where she transitioned between several cultures and languages. Born in Tehran, Iran, Stronach left with her parents during the revolution in 1979, moving to Israel, England, and then the United States. After graduating from SUNY Purchase in 1999, Stronach became involved with several performance companies including the Neta Dance Company, where the performers created much of the material they presented, and The Flying Machine, a theater company that first exposed Stronach to the integration of physical theater, movement and storytelling. Stronach formed her own company in 2000, allowing her to begin refining an individual aesthetic combining all of her influences.
While Stronach continues to perfect her stylistic approach, she’s looking ahead to her next project, where she will explore the energy surrounding the Israeli dance scene and how it affects her choreographic process. It involves taking a work-in-progress to Israel this summer, developing the material on Israeli dancers, bringing it back to New York to set it on American dancers and presenting it at Danspace Project at St. Mark’s Church in 2008. And while Stronach is “perpetually obsessed with how people try to control the world,” she said she isn’t obsessed with controlling how people see her choreography, or even making work specifically for audiences trained to watch dance.
“It’s really about making work for everybody. It’s about sharing, and there should be keys into it,” she shrugs. “So I do my best to hand out some keys and say ‘Come on in.’”