Australian Dance Reviews

Hillel Kogan’s ‘We Love Arabs’ has potential to be political satire

'We Love Arabs'. Photo by Maria Grazia Lenzini.
'We Love Arabs'. Photo by Maria Grazia Lenzini.

The Coopers Malthouse Beckett Theatre, Melbourne.
18 October 2017.

Are we so scared of being politically incorrect, of being perceived as intolerant, that we can no longer use humour to explore the issues of our time? We Love Arabs, created by Hillel Kogan, and performed by himself and Adi Boutrous, signals it will be cutting political satire in its casting and marketing.

'We Love Arabs'. Photo by Gadi Dagon.

‘We Love Arabs’. Photo by Gadi Dagon.

We Love Arabs is a dance theatre work dramatizing the rehearsal process for a new contemporary dance work. The Beckett Theatre at the Malthouse is bare. Kogan, Israeli choreographer and dancer, enters and describes his work to the audience. He casually demonstrates and describes the problems and challenges he is encountering in space in his work. He desires a collaborator, and he feels that the work requires an Arab. Enter Boutrous. 

Kogan proceeds to make continued errors in cultural diplomacy, including questioning the authenticity of Boutrous, and the visibility of his cultural identity and marking them both with permanent markers to distinguish who is Jewish and who is Arab. Kogan instructs Boutrous in how to dance and about his own choreographic process, giving self-aggrandising titles to parts of his process. Mundane and banal ideas become metaphors worthy of examination. Occasionally, the choreography becomes especially potent or beautiful, and in that moment, Kogan subverts it for satire. Kogan is imperious in the dramatized choreographic process, and a dance work unfolds between them that is about power, control and religious iconography.

'We Love Arabs'. Photo by Maria Grazia Lenzini.

‘We Love Arabs’. Photo by Maria Grazia Lenzini.

The design is deliberately sparse to suggest a rehearsal space, the dancers are in rehearsal costume, and the work only becomes more theatrical in the final act, when the dancers move closer to a performance sequence.  

In We Love Arabs, Kogan is asking the question how to collaborate to make work, how to be intimate with the other, and how can we communicate across cultures. We Love Arabs parodies the processes of choreography and pokes fun at the seriousness of artists. Although it has the potential to be a cutting piece of political satire, it is repetitive, and satirises dance artists more than the politics of race, and it is ultimately not that funny.

By Tamara Searle of Dance Informa.

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