NORTH ADAMS -- LeeSaar The Company is driven by two Israeli choreographers, Lee Sher and Saar Harari, who are bringing their new work, "Grass and Jackals," to its final stage with a residency at Mass MoCA.
There will be a performance of the work Friday, Feb. 8, at 8 p.m., at the museum.
The title "Grass and Jackals" evokes something apart from the world of humans, and the company's desire is to allow the audience to bring these associations to their experience of the performance and the human involvement in it as the abstractions coalesce into something further in the brain, a process reflected from a typical human experience in nature.
" ‘Grass and Jackals' reminds you of nature." Sher said. "We felt the nature in front of us by putting all these women together on stage. When you go outdoors and look far away from you, that's what you see. You see the mountains, maybe you see the sea far, far away. You see the light of the sun and the grass, if you stand in a big open space. Then, if you look at the trees and the stones, you start to recognize things more deeply."
Just who or what the women on stage are, and in what way they inhabit the natural world, is left up to the audience. Sher and Harari point to the name as a launching pad for the work the mind does in the performance.
"You can think they are creatures," Sher said. "Maybe strong creatures or maybe very vulnerable creatures. It's not that we try to proclaim, OK, it's nature, definitely not. It's somewhere in there; it's in the back of our mind. We might dream about it and go to the studio. It's a suggestive. We don't create the shape of a mountain. Maybe somebody will never think about nature. They'll think about something else, and that's the beauty of contemporary dance. There are many, many suggestions on stage and each one can be completely different."
"Weight, choreography, intention -- there are a lot of things inside a piece, but at the same time, it's important for us to leave it open to interpretation," said Harari.
As important as the individual creature is the pack of them as they appear on stage -- the dance troupe constitutes a herd while they are in movement.
"When we started the process, we wanted to work on something that would have more of a feeling of a group -- the herd of the people, but also the individual," Harari said. "Before, we did our piece ‘Fame,' which was started with solos. ‘Grass and Jackals' started with a group and there was something about that community. If you put it into the animal world, it will be the herd. Then in the studio, starting the process, we started to recognize a lot of struggle. Something in when we watched it in the studio, we sensed struggle, like the piece is dealing with struggle."
"I think also the piece is dealing with the extremity of life," said Sher. "There was a concept and then it happened. We put everyone on stage and started to see what was going on, and we enjoyed watching all the layers, one on top of the other, and from there we took it by listening and seeing what just happened."
Though the team take initial inspiration from the world, that mostly serves as a starting point for the moment they enter the studio with the dancers and the real creation begins.
"It's definitely about what happens in the studio more than about the idea that we come with," Sher said. "You always have an idea or an association, something that you want to touch. But we definitely practice how to listen more to the instincts and what really happens in the studio and in our everyday life. That makes the process."
And the process pulls from and reflects the group dynamic, which, in turn, reflects each individual as one part of a whole.
"It's like when you watch people on the street, you can see a group of people walking on the street and each one is so different, yet they're all walking in the same direction," said Sher.
Sher and Harari stress that the piece blossoms from their work with the troupe in the studio; much of what results is directly through the creative contributions of the dancers.
"Lots of the material comes from the dancers because of the way we've worked with them the last five or six years. They became very amazing creators, all of them," Sher said. "They built some material and then we started to choreograph it. Some material is ours and lots of the material comes from them, which I think is very beautiful because you can also see the story of the dancers. It's not just Lee and Saar. Each one of the dancers tells her own story in the piece."
Any work is built from a collaboration between Sher and Harari, as they pull from their arsenal, and the dancers, who bring not only the physical, but the personal, to the theoretical. All the parts come together as a super-organism of movement and art.
"When we put things together," Harari said, "we use our knowledge as choreographers -- space and rhythm and music -- and we create something that for us makes sense in the arc of the piece and makes sense in the rhythm, and so it's a lot of layers.
"It starts from the investigation of each dancer into their own movement research, and from that, we build the material, and from, there we start to see what this material is and what kind of feeling or sense it gives us, and then how we stitch it together, and what's the structure and what does it bring us, and then how we put this structure in the bigger structure. So it's a lot of small details that somehow makes something bigger."
The Mass MoCA performance will be the culmination of a 10-day residency that will allow the troupe to collaborate with lighting designer Bambi, with whom they worked on their previous production, "Fame," and who was factored in as they conceived and expanded on this one.
"We felt that his process really deserved more time and that can and could influence the piece more," said Harari. "So when we built this piece, it was in our heads that Bambi is going to come. We almost left him a space in the piece to influence it."
The team is excited to see what ideas Bambi brings to the work and are delighted with the time they are able to take with the conception before presenting the finished work at the American Dance Festival this summer. There's still an air of mystery and surprise for them thanks to the final component of Bambi's input.
"We work so much in the studio that the transition to stage is very fast and not so careful. This is something that is really important," Harari said. "It's totally a different space and it has different rules, so we're really looking forward to seeing where the piece is going to go with it.
"We have many things that we're going to explore, but we don't know where it's going to go."
LeeSaar The Company can be found online at www.leesaar.com.