sexta-feira, 14 de janeiro de 2011

When Israel becomes Isreal (Day Five: Tel Aviv)

Schlomo Hamelech Headquarters: our heroes prepare to hit the road disguised as theatre professionals looking for local partners to support a play called “Israel”. We head to Arkadi Zaide’s flat in 26, Gordon Street. The mission seems easy enough since that street is only a few blocks away from our uptown palace. Unfortunately, that proves to be a very wrong misconception, when we come to realize that we didn’t have a floor and a door number to work with. Using our fine intuition and some visual hermeneutics skills we decide to go floor by floor analyzing the aesthetics of each door in order to find how does a choreographer entrance door looks like. We first rang the doorbell of someone who was devoted to oriental spiritual beliefs and practices, and supported non-profit multicultural organizations. No answer. Then we push the buttons of a design lover with minimal monochromatic taste. No one home. What is happening? Where are we? Oh G-d, why has thou forsaken us? We decide to call Arkadi and accept that we had failed the simplest of all missions. Apparently, Mossad had used its disinformation techniques on us. The meeting was not to be held in Gordon Street but in Jaffa instead. Our contacts (given to us by outstandingly nice Rui Silveira, through his link with “DBM - Danse Basin Méditerranée”) were waiting to have lunch with us at a renowned local restaurant named after its female owner: “Puah”. Jaffa to me sounded a lot like Yafo. I am deeply afraid to push the limits of my comfort bubble too far. I do not think I am ready to go to Arab territory so soon… Pedro laughs. He is a well-travelled man and the world is his oyster. So we went. If Hemingway were ever in Jaffa, he would be having his hangover late lunch in and with “Puah”. It’s a place with tons of personality and even more bric-a-brac paraphernalia all around. Old furniture and rugs come to life side by side with drawings, photos and poems framed by the love of the regulars for the food and atmosphere of this unique place (I start to sound dangerously like a cheap travelling handbook). We were welcomed by a very singular group of five: Arkadi Zaides, Guy Birian, his wife and renowned vocal artist (not a singer!?) Victoria Hanna and their two infants. The heat inside the restaurant was only surpassed by the loud volume of everybody’s conversation. The only effective bugs Mossad could have ever left in such a place would be cockroaches. It seemed the worse place to held a professional meeting and it was. So the meeting became a nice meal with a bunch of new-found-friends-to-be. Guy is the Israeli doppelganger of our friend choreographer Rui Horta. And like him, is involved in so many things at the same time that it makes impossible for anyone to have a “here and now moment” with him. Guy is always coming from somewhere and going somewhere. He knows everybody and has the ubiquity of G-d. Arkadi is in the other extreme (In Israel nothing exists without its extreme): laid back, Buddha-like smile and oddly still for someone who makes a living out of movement. Victoria is Victoria. I still recall our obsessive-compulsive faces when she held my precious Jerusalem bought Israeli blue notebook with fishy fingers, which were afterwards used to clean her sweaty forehead. Guy works both as a theatre teacher (in Israel and abroad) and a programmer of an interdisciplinary performative venue called “The Arena” in Jerusalem. Arkadi collaborates with him as an adviser for dance related issues and works as an independent choreographer and performer, touring regularly abroad. He expressed vehemently to us his longing for leaving Israel due to the fact that the dance shown in his country is only “of a certain type” which limits his possibilities of a creative dialogue with his international peers. Guy is trying to make him stay put, arguing that if one does not stay things will never change. Both are highly committed to projects involving Arab artists and organizations. As for “our” “Israel”, we again tried to explain our apparently misplaced love for such Monster to its suspecting children. This time Art spoke louder that Politics and our audience seemed to accept our strange premises for the project. A gush of suggestions, contacts, telephone numbers, names and events poured out of Guy’s pen. He wrote, scratched and underlined as much as it is humanly possible with a baby on one’s lap. We tried to follow such fireworks of networking but I must confess we were lucky enough to understand (did we really?) that we had to attend some Brecht performance by a brilliant newly graduated Theatre student in the coming days. He wanted us to meet and talk to everybody. “You must, you should, you have…” And we will, for sure. Thanks. “And I already talked to Puah. She has so many stories. You must talk to her” All that while trying to keep all the objects on the table away from his children’s mouths. Even I held a baby in my arms and dreamt of a virginal pregnancy that would make me and Pedro the Holy Family of the 21st Century. Arkadi mentioned he was soon to perform in Lisbon at CCB in the realm of the festival “Temps d’Images”. He is a good friend of António Câmara who, by the way, is an honorary Israeli at heart and has been here many times over. Since Arkadi was quite familiar with the daily life of Israeli Arabs we asked him some questions concerning the subtle bureaucracy eviction techniques used to turn Jaffa into Yafo. More and more we start to realize that there is much more a coexistence shades of grey than and opposition of blacks and whites around. Due to family obligations, the Birans had to leave sooner and so our long business lunch had to come to an end. We stayed a little bit longer chatting with Arkadi about Israel, Dance and “The Situation” but, as the night fell upon Jaffa, he decided to hop on his bicycle to get back to central Tel Aviv leaving us with the dilemma of walking back or taking a taxi. Again I was overcome with a sense of insecurity as if we were lost in a dark gloomy Kasbah in Baghdad. I am such a bubble girl! Thank goodness for the clock tower that raised above all buildings, showing us the way out of no Jew’s land. As someone who was in love with Michael J. Fox in the 80’s, I know very well that Clock Towers are portals to get back to the future. So there we found the DeLorean taxi that would beam Doc Penim and me up to Schlomo Hamelech. But the day was not over yet. We still had an appointment with the glittery dark side of Pedro Penim’s life. I was finally going to satisfy a long lasting dream of meeting his Eurovision fanatic friends since we were invited to have dinner with the Israeli branch of Eurovisionfreaks™. There was Nir (the politically radical cinema teacher), Oded (the dandy-like and exquisitely polite local actor), Itamar (who invited us to an upbeat spinning class), Roi, Shai, Itzik and Alex. It was nice for a change to discuss about another kind of international conflict in which Israel is deeply involved. And what an army of fans it had at that very table. Those guys knew everything about the Eurothing. I though Pedro was an odd ball in such matters but he is only an average knowledgeable citizen in Planet Eurovision. After a delightful dinner and an even more delightful Master class Quiz on Eurovision Trivia (won by a proud Oded closely followed by a surprised Pedro), we left the restaurant and headed to Oded’s flat. There, Itamar and Oded, dubbed over all the presenters voices of the 1989 edition of the festival while the rest of the group sang all the songs in competition as if they were their own. I had my own glory moment when “Conquistador” by Portuguese Eurhythmics Da Vinci broke out and I could finally join that lovely secret brotherhood of übber kitsch. While walking home, with Itamar and Pedro, our joint voices filled the streets of Tel Aviv with the Portuguese entries in the festival that although not very successful in their own times, lived on to become the Hatikvah of us three on that beautiful summer night.