The Dance Enthusiast Asks Zvi Gotheiner about ZviDance's Premiere "On the Road" at BAM's Next Wave Festival
A multi-media dance and video performance, this newest piece by Zvi Gotheiner is a reflection on the famed Jack Kerouac novel and is a meditation on freedom. TDE had an opportunity to speak with Gotheiner about this project, his Israeli-American identity, and the evolution of his choreography over the past thirty years.
Performances from November 30-December 3. For tickets and information go to BAM.
Stacey Menchel-Kussell for TDE: Kerouac’s On the Road was published in 1957, why did the book resonate with you now?
Zvi Gotheiner: As a young man this book shook my foundation. Kerouac’s philosophies about freedom and happiness were very different than the core values I was raised on. In Israel so much energy was put into being a part of the community – the collective–serving in the army and adding to the economy of the country. On the Road, instead, is a total celebration of individuality. The road trip is the metaphor of the improvised life and having no ties to anything. While I don’t exactly embody this in my own life, I’m lured to it.
Kerouac was trying to hold onto his youth and fight the passage of time. As I pass from middle age to older age, I also feel this struggle. I wanted to take some time to really reflect. The piece came out of a restlessness – the need to drive and to clear the head.
TDE: What was the road trip experience like, and how did you create choreography on such an improvised journey?
ZG: I took four dancers in the company and the cameraman [Josh Higgason] and for two weeks and we traced the cities of Kerouac’s first trip: New York, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Chicago, Denver, Reno, and San Francisco. We were very improvisational about the whole thing. We would stop at random places and just starting filming, and we didn’t plan our accommodations until last minute.
TDE: How does your piece reflect on the novel and how is it different from the book?
ZG: The piece is not a retelling of the book. There is not a Jack or Mary Lou character, but it does take inspiration from the idea of spontaneous prose.
The car became sort of a spontaneous home, a microcosm of ideas as well as conflicts, blocks and sparks.
One big departure is the role of women. In the book Kerouac really denigrates women. In my version of the story, the women are initiators, taking care of their own destiny and dealing with their own concept of patriotism.
TDE: Do you think On the Road has particular relevance today considering recent events in American culture?
ZG: For me, the piece was an opportunity to reflect on being American. I have been a citizen for over a decade, and there are values in American society that still stand out to me. The idea that all of us are created equal and that we have decision making ability in our destiny. This is important more than ever.
TDE: What’s new here for you? How do you think your has your work evolved?
ZG: The video aspect of the project really put me into a new place, and it added meaning to what the work could be. Now the movement has many new possibilities as it relates to the video, and there is no “oneness” of interpretation.
Currently, I’m in a place of more peace with my work. I am normally so hypercritical, and with this piece, I’m not – it just fits. The BAM invitation was a huge honor. After thirty years in the business, it comes at a good time – I’m finally relaxed enough to enjoy it.