Upside down and inside out, choreographer and dancer Adi Boutrous is seeking and finding the meaning within movement, and letting us all in on it. Herein lies his gift.
Words by Elianna Bar-El
Photos by Ariel Tagar
“When I was around eight years old, I discovered that I could walk on my hands and stand on my head. I liked the world from that perspective,” says 33-year-old Adi Boutrous. A burgeoning star dancer and choreographer, Boutrous recently received The Israeli Ministry of Culture and Sport Award for Creation in Dance, an honor that is typically bestowed upon creatives double his age. “This new understanding changed my life in a way; it helped pave my path and refine my perspective about the world. So I just continued.”
Born and raised in Beer Sheva to a close-knit family of seven, Boutrous is the youngest of five children (his brother, Amir Boutrous, also in the arts, is a London-based actor with credits in Fauda and The Crown). When he speaks of his family, he overflows with the love and acknowledgment with which he has been nurtured since he was a child. He was raised in one of three Arab-Christian families in a predominantly Israeli-Jewish community. In particular, his relationship with his father is a running thread throughout his works, most notably in his critically-acclaimed work “One More Thing.” Boutrous not only choreographed, but also dances in it himself, alongside three other male dancers.
“My parents supported my choice to dance 100%,” Boutrous imparts. Dance, as a profession, typically prompts reservations among parts of Arab society. It triggers negative associations about the body and the way it should or shouldn’t be presented. It is a complex issue related to majority and minority relations, cultural hegemony, and tradition. From this vantage point, Boutrous’s family support is something exceptional.
A veritable porthole into the conflicted, emotional, and repressed masculine world, “One More Thing” expresses what is said and left unsaid between men. Even the title participates in this interpersonal sentiment, leaving the hope of something unsaid lingering in the air. Premiering in September 2020, in the standstill of the pandemic, the intimate space of “One More Thing” landed onstage with a resounding, undeniable magnitude. It was part of Tel Aviv Dance online by the Suzanne Dellal Centre, and afterward, a live showing at the renowned Théâtre de la Ville Paris. The show gained international recognition and went on to tour throughout 2021 and 2022, with performances scheduled throughout 2023 as a co-production of Théâtre de la Ville – Paris and Fabrik Potsdam.
“One More Thing” seeks to reveal the essence of intimate expression, a performative state that is heightened by a meticulously-selected soundtrack. Boutrous himself sourced the show’s music, part of his continuous search for rare sounds. He is an avid vinyl collector, focusing on the years 1950-1979, with a deep affinity for Latin American and Caribbean sounds.
Born from the honest, communicative relationship Boutrous shares with his father, “One More Thing” delves deep into the toxic masculinity of society’s ills - those that are, undeniably, rooted in our upbringing, our environment, and our personal self-reflection or denial thereof. In particular, Boutrous explores the ways in which men express themselves in Israeli culture; the nuanced acknowledgment, the inquisitive, familial demeanor, the respect and disrespect, the limited range of emotions that are acceptable and equated with masculinity - these diverse expressions are each given a poignant physicality in Boutrous’s work. “The look of my father - it is my mirror. He confirmed that I feel right, as a man. I discovered this softness, and the ability to be fragile,” Boutrous explains. “And I share it, in practice, in the studio, and give it a stage. Because it deserves a stage.”
“One More Thing” begins as a circle of men who move between being intertwined and apart, communicating in a physical dialogue of give and take, passivity and aggression, tenderness and jolts of whiplash, rising and falling. Each man shines in his own solo moments, and is equally as stunning when dancing as part of the whole ensemble. Every gesture is measured, every collision and caress rolls into a thought-provoking vignette.
“Reflections” is Boutrous’s work-in-progress, an international co-production premiering this summer. “It feels like we’re obsessing over the future while severing all ties to the past,” he voices. “Art is in a passage towards the disappearance of some of its most deep-rooted aesthetic principles.” Politics, whether we like it or not, soak through the seams. “The political dimension exists in any case, nothing we do exists in a vacuum; the connections between art and the environment are immediate and cannot be disconnected. Yet, I crave creating with these ideas before we forget about them completely. Myths, archetypes, and symbols of Christian iconic Renaissance paintings all function as a mirror to our lives, carrying ideas of grace, death, and birth.”
Change is our only constant, yet it doesn’t happen overnight. It is a slight chipping away, a meticulous, calculated progression of moments, movements, elements, and factors. With this in mind, Boutrous continues to deepen the physical and emotional language of conveying moral ideas through dance, morals that are inherent in each of us, revealing our most humane insights. “This is what art can do: deepen our abilities to create a moral world,” Boutrous says, full of hope, yet matter of fact.
“Reflections” will premiere at the closing event of Tel Aviv Dance this summer. In the fall, the company will go on tour in Europe, starting with the Biennale de la Danse Lyon and Théâtre de la Ville Paris.
Adi Boutrous is an Artist-in-Residence at the Suzanne Dellal Centre.
- Tags: ISSUE 7