Stripe show

At 71, a dancer tangos with time for comeback after 30 years

Sally-Anne Friedland, who has been teaching and directing in the interim, returns to choreograph and perform autobiographical ‘Zebra,’ with partner 40 years her junior

Jessica Steinberg, The Times of Israel's culture and lifestyles editor, covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center

Sally Ann Friedland (left) and Dana Markus in 'Zebra, A Duet for Two Women' premiering June 24, 2023 at Suzanne Dellal's Studio Zehava & Jack. (Courtesy: Sharon Zindany)
Sally Ann Friedland (left) and Dana Markus in 'Zebra, A Duet for Two Women' premiering June 24, 2023 at Suzanne Dellal's Studio Zehava & Jack. (Courtesy: Sharon Zindany)

Growing older is tough for anyone, but climbing up on a stage to premiere a new dance at 71, some three decades after she last performed, choreographer Sally-Anne Friedland is executing a cunning pas de deux with aging.

Friedland will unveil her new autobiographical work, “Zebra, A Duet For Two Women,” with dancer Dana Markus at Suzanne Dellal Center’s Studio Zehava & Jack at a sold-out show on June 24. The piece will be reprised on July 7.

Friedland began her career with classical ballet in her native South Africa and Europe before turning to contemporary and modern dance when she moved to Israel some 50 years ago. She stopped performing in her 40s, concentrating more on choreography and working with other dancers.

“There was a lot of pleasure in that, sitting in a chair as a director comfortably and watching the dancers sweat and warm up and get injured and do this and create it,” she said. “I had that incredible distance and it was almost like sitting in the dark, like dancing in the dark.”

“Zebra” delves into what her life has been like since being widowed two years ago, about her battle with cancer, and rediscovering the itch to dance after 30 years of showing or training others.

“I don’t want to teach anybody, and I don’t want to argue with anybody, I just want to say a few things,” said Friedland. “And one of the reasons I’m doing this program is because I felt the necessity.”

In “Zebra,” Friedland and Markus, a study in contrast at just 31, try to confront the social and political realities of their lives, sometimes in tandem and other times apart, and it’s an attempt that alternately tests and humors them.

לא חשבתי שארקוד יותר ואז זה הגיעאותו עצב קטן שמתעורר ולוקח אותי לאט לאט אל עולמות שאותם הכרתיאבל כעת כאשר השרירים והבשר עייפים איך עושים את זהזברה. בכורה מתקרבת!אני מזמינה אתכם בחוםשבת, 24 יוני, 2023, 21:00שישי, 07 יולי 2023, 14:00סטודיו זהבה וז'אק , מרכז סוזן דללכרטיסים:יוצרים: Avi Kaiser, Sergio Antonino וסאלי אן פרידלנדמופיעות: סאלי אן פרידלנד, Dana Marcusבימוי וניהול אומנותי: אבי קייזר, סרגיו אנטונינופס קול: Inbal Dushyעיצוב חזותי: Dalit Inbarטריילר: Aviad Fuchsמיתוג: Micky Matalon Moo Tag Studioסושאיל: Laetitia Boulud

Posted by Sally-Anne Friedland on Monday, June 12, 2023

The piece is named for the stark contrast created by a zebra’s black-and-white stripes, mirroring the sharp differences between the two dancers, and may also harken back to Friedland’s South African roots.

Flowers are part of the work, reflecting on Friedland’s fascination and love for working with blossoms.

“We started to go dig into things, and play all the funny little things from our childhoods, from South Africa, from coming to Israel, all the funny little things,” said Friedland. “And I started to put them into a salad, and I just threw it all in and I thought, ‘well, nobody’s going to judge me.’ And then I started to get more serious about really doing this.”

A central theme of the movement is the zebra’s relationship to the mule, and the burdens each dancer carries.

For Friedland, those burdens include the death of her husband two years ago and her own battle with cancer. But since returning to dance she has been surprised to discover that the desire to move her body and make demands of it is still there, despite the passage of time.

“We never, ever get used to being old, you know, nobody teaches you to be old as a dancer,” said Friedland. “You’re always in control of your body and it’s your instrument, it’s your violin, it’s your cello.”

Her journey back to the stage has not been a cakewalk, though, and there were many times Friedland wasn’t sure she could do it all. Those doubts were shared by some of her partners in the process, who had concerns about her strength.

But she slowly began to build up material, first by herself and then with Markus.

את אבי וסרגיו אני מכירה 7 שנים דרך תאונה שקרתה לאבי.הייתי לעין החיצונית שלהם בשלושת הדואטים האחרונים.נוצרה ביננו אינטימיות. הם הכניסו את העבודה למסגרתולאט לאט המסגרת נגעה בנו.הם הכניסו את הסאונד מוסיקה רעשים דיבוריםעד שהכל הפך לפס קול של החיים.זברה. בכורה בשבוע הבא! שבת, 24 יוני, 2023, 21:00שישי, 07 יולי 2023, 14:00סטודיו זהבה וז'אק , מרכז סוזן דללכרטיסים:יוצרים: אבי קייזר, סרגיו אנטונינו וסאלי אן פרידלנד | מופיעות: סאלי אן פרידלנד, דנה מרכוס | בימוי וניהול אומנותי: אבי קייזר, סרגיו אנטונינופס קול: ענבל דושי | עיצוב חזותי: דלית ענבר | וידאו: אביעד פוקס | מיתוג: מיקי מטלון

Posted by Sally-Anne Friedland on Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Watching the two on recorded clips shows a natural intimacy, their similar vibes and wavelengths, and Friedland credits Markus for lending her practicality, youth and support to the project. Despite their relationship bearing similarities to a parent and child, Friedland insists that “‘Zebra’ is personal, but it’s not a mother-daughter piece.”

When it became clear that Friedland and Markus would perform the work, she invited dance directors Avi Kaiser and Sergio Antonino to direct it. Bringing them on changed the focus and made it clear that “Zebra” was destined to be put on for a public performance.

Friedland is keeping the premiere limited, performing in a smaller, more intimate space that will give Friedland and Markus more awareness of their audience.

It also means spectators will have a close-up view as Friedland takes her 71-year-old body through movements not attempted publicly in 30 years. It’s a risk, and she may never do it again, but she’s putting it all on the line for her comeback.

“I have to be incredible,” she said.

Tickets for “Zebra, A Duet For Two Women” on July 7 are available through the Suzanne Dellal Center box office.

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