News: Meet Hagit Yakira, founder of Hagit Yakira Dance

Wednesday 18 January 2017


Award Winning Israeli choreographer Hagit Yakira founded Hagit Yakira Dance in 2007 and has since gone on to tour the UK, Europe, Scandinavia and Israel. So far, she has created seven works for her company and many other commissioned works for other companies and students. Hagit Yakira Dance creates work whereby human experiences, movement and dance are uniquely and poetically interwoven into an individual interpretation of relationships and emotions through dance and performance. Two of her company works were awarded: first prize for ‘Oh Baby’ in the ‘Kajaani Choreography Competition’, Finland 2009, and second prize for ‘Somewhere between a self and another’ in the ‘Burgos New York ?Choreography Competition’ (New Dance Trend Category), Spain 2007.

Tell us a bit about your background, where you are from, how you got in to dance?
I have been living in the UK now for the last 12 years but I am originally from Jerusalem, Israel. I also spent many years living in Tel Aviv which I loved! I think I always loved dancing, and I always danced apparently – even though I started walking very late my parents often tell me that since I was 4 I just wanted to dance. Though I think that it got serious for me when I was a teenager, and then really seriously in my mid-30s. I think that before that I couldn’t commit to it, only when I understood that this is the only thing I truly want to dedicate myself to could I claim my place and space and voice, and this is when I truly went for it.

My work and my background as a dance movement therapist in-forms very much my journey into choreography and my journey as a choreographer since then. In a sense, the social aspect of dance and choreography and more than that the emotional aspect of it are very intriguing for me. Not in the way of an emotional expression but rather in the way of how art and emotions combine into an artistry and aesthetics. I look at life as emotional journeys, I understand the world through my emotions first, and this of course feeds my work completely.

What was your first Job?
My first job as a student was in a tea house in Jerusalem called Jan’s tea house almost a sacred place back then in Jerusalem where all the interesting people of Jerusalem used to go out – a rare mixture of cultural, intellectual and hippie people of Jerusalem. The first dance job wasn’t as interesting; the interesting dance jobs came a bit later.

What do you wish someone had told you when you first started out?
I wish someone had told me that I can and that I would. I wish someone had told me that it is quite lonely out there, but there is something quite poetic and creative about it; there is strength in it, and that help and support can come from very unusual places.

If not dance, then what else would you be doing?
I would probably have lots of children; I would travel a lot and then most likely become a psychotherapist.

Do you have any theatrical superstitions or rituals?
Yes! Playing extremely loud pop music before the show as a warm up for the dancers. I normally join with lots of screaming and grooving on the side.

What is the first thing you do after a show?
The first thing I do is to talk to the dancers then I drink a glass of wine and go out to talk and interact with the audience; to hear what they think of the work, what they made of it, and if and how it touched them.

Who or what was your biggest influence?
I am influenced by everything that has a humanistic approach – everything that evolves around emotions and requires depth and reflection on human nature.
My biggest influences in the dance world are Pina Bausch, Anne Teresa de Keermsaeker, Rosemary Lee, Rosemary Butcher, Trisha Brown, Yvonne Rainer, Yasmeen Godder – mostly female choreographers I have to admit.

How did you create these works, Air Hunger and Free Falling? What processes did you use? Do you always go through a similar process?
For many years now I wanted to create a piece that somehow presents different anxieties I became familiar with while studying and working as a dance movement therapist. Some of the stories I heard in the therapy room (or studio) touched me very deeply, and I felt I needed to somehow share them. Of course, not revealing any details but rather trying to create an experience that somehow provokes the feelings these people shared with me.

Air Hunger started by looking at anxiety attacks. It had been named like this because when there is an anxiety attack the body experiences lack of air – it is of course a psychological feeling rather than a physical one – and it is a real shock to the system because the person can believe he/she is experiencing a heart attack and they feel they are going to die.

Free Falling initially started by exploring the fear of falling. Something, which I believe we can all experience sometimes, but when in a sever scenario this fear can prevent people from walking, from leaving their houses, every step they make feels as a risk which might end in a fall which will have no recover. This of course links to a psychological fear of failing.

My work is a delicate balance between improvisations and set material or set moments, though the improvisation tasks are very strict. This gives the dancers quite a lot of freedom, or a kind of freedom during the performances to make decisions and to hold a very interesting ownership of what they do.
I work collaboratively with all the artists involved, and through a long dialogue we find something that matches our aesthetics.

Where did the idea for the music come from? Why Sabio Janiak?
The music in this piece was very important to me and I needed a very special composer and person for that. Sabio was the perfect choice. Sabio and I have been working together for quite a while. He accompanies my dance classes around London and I collaborated with him for the first community project On Falling and Recovering.

I think that Sabio and I have something quite similar in our approach. Sabio comes with quite a vast holistic background. He looks at music as a source of healing, there is something very fresh and intuitive about his music and these things really suit my way of working. This collaboration led to such a fascinating and emotional journey for both of us.

Tell us about your community work and the work you’re doing alongside this tour.

I always had a great passion to engage dance in the community. I didn’t want to distinguish my choreographic practice from the people. I want my work to be created with them, through them; I want the work to talk to them. I love of course the artistic side of dance but also its social and humanistic possibilities. How dance can help us meet others and ourselves from a raw and emotional place, how the moving body can help us communicate, take risks and embrace vulnerability, the sensitivity it can develop, the ability to listen; the ability to own an ownership over our body, and the sense of grounding and centre it can help us develop.

Therefore, alongside my work with professional dancers and with my company I also work with the community with those who might not have so much experience in dance but that just want to move.

I started by doing a very big community project about 3 years ago, called Air Hunger. That was probably the first time I decided to really pursue community and professional work together. They didn’t perform together on that project but the topic I used in my community and professional work was the same. Then when I came to create Free Falling, the second piece in the Double Bill we are touring, I decided that I wanted to somehow try to find a way (my way) to combine the community into my professional work. (This of course isn’t a new thing – though it is for me). It started by researching with 30 none professional dancers over a period of six months in which we met once a month for a lengthy rehearsal in which we looked at the notion of falling and recovering. Though very soon the notion of falling became a need for help, a need for support.

In July 2015, we invited an audience to see what we had created, this performance or shall I say the interactive experience was so successful that we decided to extend the project into a much larger one. And when I say ‘we’ I mean the participants and myself. The project was then commissioned by The Place with 60 participants and was performed in July 2016. I have to say that the 3 performances, which were basically improvised and interactive promenade for over 300 people in total were quite outstanding and overwhelming. I haven’t experienced such a warm atmosphere in a performance before, people were hugging, people who didn’t know each other were hugging and kissing, old people, disabled people, babies, were all part of the interactive jam we created. The idea is to take this community project in to some of the venues where we will be performing Free Falling, this will then be performed prior to the show.

Where next? Any future projects in the pipeline?
Oh yes – a big project that combines the professional company with the community. I wouldn’t like to reveal the topic right now, even though it is very present in my head, heart and research. I will also be starting to work on a solo.

Hagit Yakira’s Free Falling – a double bill will be at Laban on Thursday 26th January, please click here to book tickets and see further tour dates

Hagit Yakira has toured in numerous festivals and dance platforms in the UK, Europe, Scandinavia and in Israel. She has also been choreographing for different companies and institutions around Europe and the UK as well as leading performance projects and workshops for both professional dancers and the community. Hagit is a teacher and a guest choreographer at Northern School of Contemporary Dance, Trinity Laban and at The Place and since summer 2011 she has been delivering workshops at ImPulsTanz, Vienna. Recently Hagit has been choreographing and teaching in Norway, and has been invited to collaborate with the Stavanger University since 2014 to develop their renewed dance programme, she is now a member of faculty there. Hagit has been developing a personal style and way of teaching. She is constantly in demand to deliver classes for professional dancers and the community around the UK, Europe, Scandinavia and Israel with many dedicated followers. Hagit’s training commenced at the Music and Dance Academy in Jerusalem, Israel. After qualifying as a Dance Movement Therapist in 2004, Hagit relocated to London where she completed an MA in European Theatre Dance (2005). 2013 has seen Hagit choreographing her new work, teaching in Vienna, Hungary and Israel, alongside undertaking a PhD in Choreography at Trinity Laban, researching the notion of choreographing autobiographies while discussing feminism, the theory of affect and storytelling.
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