The Dancing Fellow

Yehuda Hyman is a LABA Fellow with the gift of movement presenting his new work at LABAlive “MOTHER: Martyr” On April 24th at 7:30pm at the Theater at the 14th Street Y. Click here for more information and tickets. Yehuda let us into the studio to talk about his process and background. Get to know him and his experiences with LABA: A Laboratory for Jewish Culture.

Photo Credit Paula Court

Q: In one word, describe your work?

A: reallyhardtodescribejustcomeseeit

Q: What is your primary medium or style of art?

A: Movement Theater

Q: Your creations are so full and complex, what influences you?

A: Literature, painting, music, people I meet. Strangers I see on the subway. The ocean at Fort Tilden, NY. The way New York City looks at sunset. Great artists like John Cassavetes, Pina Bausch, Johannes Brahms, Peter Brook, and my current obsession: the film director Paolo Sorrentino (The Great Beauty) and always, always Mitzi Gaynor’s video on YouTube: Let Go. Everything is taken in, digested, absorbed.

Q: Describe your process for us.

A: Each piece I make is different, but I usually need a story to begin with. Then it’s a long process of getting inside the story, taking it apart, finding the movement score that describes the story in physical space, collaborating with performers, composers, and designers. Writing, tearing it apart, starting again and again. It’s usually a long and painful process mixed with moments of extreme joy and nausea. I worked on my play, THE MAD DANCERS (and the solo version, THE MAD 7) for almost twenty years. This new project has been gestating since 2002.  Now this doesn’t mean I’ve been working on this continually all this time but it has obsessed me. I have a box in my bedroom of scribblings, photos, and souvenirs about this piece that is finally getting out of that box and onto the stage. I can’t tell you how wonderful it feels to finally find the time, the venue, the community, the support (from LABA and Sarah Lawrence College) and the dancer/actress (Amanda Schussel) to make this piece come alive on the stage.

Q: What have you taken away from being a LABA Fellow?

A: First of all, being asked to be a part of LABA is a great honor and very encouraging to me. Especially as an artist who has worked with material of the Jewish ethos for a very long time. Secondly, we get together, eat, shmooze and study – sometimes we laugh a lot, sometimes we argue (always respectfully). Reading and studying together with my LABA group about the amazing Jewish matriarchs has definitely lifted my mother consciousness to a new level. It is always vibrant and exciting. Sometimes it’s mind blowing. We fly. What could be bad about that? I love LABA.  And look, I’ve given a platform in New York City to present this work. This is great… Great I tell you!

Q: How has “MOTHER” influenced you throughout this whole process?

A: This piece exists because of “MOTHER.”  “MOTHER” gave me permission to mythologize and conceptualize this particular story in a way that I had been unable to before.  I recognize facets of my mother in the heroines we have studied: Eve, Lilith, Rebecca, Hannah, and Tamar. Reading and learning together about these singularly great, and I do mean great women, helps me to see how my mother came from and continued the line of great, gutsy, sexy Jewish women.

Q: Final Thoughts… 

A: My father was a tailor from a village off the map.

Photo Credit Paula Court

My mother was a Gypsy Jew who liked to finger snap.

My grandpa was a badkhan, a kindly Klezmer Klown.

And I am just a dancing boy who’s here to write it down.

Click here for tickets and information about “MOTHER: Martyr” on April 24th at 7:30pm at the Theater at the 14th Street Y

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