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Ran Brown, Haaretz

“Sepia” by Stav Struz is an outstanding creation in the quality of its performance, in its attention to detail and in the world that it creates on stage using incredibly simple means. A thin leaf laid on the floor, scaling the wall, leads the eye to a candle flickering in an opaque window carved into the back wall of the stage. Three pieces of white wool and scattered on the stage and, on them, lanterns of various sizes. As the audience enters, traditional Georgian music can be heard and Struz is already on stage, wrapped in a shawl out of which three long fake braids emerge. According to the program notes, Struz “returns to the Georgian cultural roots” from which her family came. Although in the piece it would be difficult for one who is not knowledgeable of Georgian traditions to see the difference between the traditional dances and their contemporary interpretation, the inability to decipher the difference is part of the secret magic of the work. 
Struz performs steps taken from the Khorumi, a traditional Georgian battle dance reserved predominantly for men alongside she performs steps from the Jeriani dance, which is traditionally performed by a female dancer. Her performance is no less than thrilling in its modesty. Each movement Struz makes is a world in and of itself, full of intention and beauty, each part precise. Struz sails across the stage on her knees, surfs forward while her hands execute sharp battle movement with clenched fists. She withdraws into herself and breaks forth in a turn, stands and stamps without sound. At the peak of the creation, she goes onto her tiptoes over and again surpasses them, descending to the floor on the backs of her feet with an unparalleled softness. As in the traditional Georgian dance, in “Sepia” there is a narrative element and her character undergoes a journey-training, clutching a knife hung on stage and releasing it, gathering the objects together and leaving them, as she does to folklore and contemporary dance, in moving poetry.

Edit Suslik,The Contemporary Eye website

“Sepia, Stav Struz’s creation, came to be from research of her family’s Georgian roots and within it, the body is revealed as a type of ‘map’ on which movement patterns, gender roles and the material culture of this tradition are imprinted as a reflection of the brokering between them done by the artist. Already at the start of the work, it is clear that Struz is placing herself between the past and the present, memory and interpretation: she wears a golden costume checkered with stones, on her head a covering connected to two fake braids. She performs choreographic sequences taken from the traditional Georgian battle dance (Khorumi), male in origin, which, in meeting her body, becomes “a female war dance that allows an intimate glance at the world of the warrior” (from the article). The choice to perform the first movements without music places emphasis on the physical mechanics- shoulder shaking, arm movement with clenched fists, gliding along the floor on the knees and turns throughout the space. These elements comprise the choreographic action as a string of transitions energetic physical states characterized by “a quest, an invitation, combat and victory” (from the article). At the end, it seems that Struz is imbuing the dance with another, more reflexive dimension. She removes the headwrap, lets her natural hair loose and collects the rugs and lanterns that are strewn around the space. All this, she connects to create a chain of cultural monuments that she carries with her, in her body as an inheritance and heritage. 
Sepia is the first part of the evening ‘Voices of Caucasia’, curated by Stav Struz, in which Georgian culture receives various interpretations that resonate one with the other. The second part is a photography exhibition of director and photographer Zohar Ron. The exhibition includes a series of photographs as well as a video installation, which was created as an homage to Sergei Parajanov and present shards of stylized images. In many ways, these images are an expansion of the solo presented by Struz through a visual richness composed of locations, fabrics and materials that “speak” the precise aesthetic of the stage piece. Within the exhibition there is also a live performance by the child Ahava Raviv, whose physical presence creates a continuation of the movement patterns of Struz. This pinpoints the place of the dancing body in traditional cultures as a live ornament and inspires thought on the way in which ancient heritage is taught in the familial-communal space and formed into body-knowledge passed from generation to generation.  
In the third and final section of the evening, Adi Boutrous plays vinyl records of Georgian, Caucasian, Turkish and Iranian music from the 60’s and 70’s, unifying the musical research materials into a soundscape that encompasses the cultural mosaic created by Struz.

Ruth Eshel, Dance Diaries

In “Sepia” Stav Struz Boutrous discovered the hidden path to create a wonderful solo with an artistic statement fueled by tradition. It all began when a lockdown was enforced following the outbreak of Corona. The daily routine changed, time was freed up, and she found herself drawn to research her Georgian roots. She found inspiration in films by Armenian director Sergei Parajanov as well as YouTube videos. 

When one enters the hall to see the performance “Sepia”, small traditional Georgian houses are placed on the stage. They are lit from within and hold the magic of memory, longing, dream. I could imagine that in a moment gnomes or Georgian dolls would emerge from them. When the show begins, the dancer stands, hands covering her eyes, long black braids roping to her hips, dressed in a yellow/gold leotard adorned with gems and embroidery. “The dancer as a thrilling jewel”, came to my mind. 

Beautiful traditional music is played, like in the opening of a movie and the dancer does not move. Only when the music stops does the movement begin. Her hands softly caress her eyes as if gently peeling away layers of memory and longing. The feminine tenderness spreads through her arms, to her hands, which are touching one another as if stroking a soft mane. The quality of softness is magnificent. As if to say the woman is not just softness, her body fills with a different energy- tense, strong, militant. The rounded, curling movement is replaced by sharp gestures with thumbs extended, beating fists and stomping feet. At the climax, the dancer is pulled to the floor from her tiptoes, rising and falling like water. Just thinking of the effort needed to execute this, my knees hurt. 

An important place in the creation is given to movements connected to progression on the knees, the sailing and variations on different turns. These are knees that dancers protect fiercely from injury. One must develop a special technique to do this. While watching, the dancer presented pieces of traditional movement material that had been abstracted, boiled down, minimized. This is all executed in silence, which gives the movement material the full respect and attention it deserves. The choreographer returns again and again to the elements, as if teaching the viewers, and perhaps herself, the new language, worthy of repeat observation. 

In a sharp transition, like a cinematic cut, upbeat traditional music is heard, and the dancer begins a folk dance. As if changing the record. The choreographer’s choice to first present the abstract, contemporary version and only later the traditional folk dance is correct. As such, from the onset of the piece, she establishes “Sepia” as contemporary. 

A sword and fur are used to cover the body and as a carpet to sleep upon. These are the objects used by the choreographer. She passes the sword over her eyes and mouth, aware of its sharpness, testing it. The sword may graze the neck, but it can also protect it. She returns the sword to its sheath, wraps it in soft, white fabric, protecting the slaughterer’s tool, to be passed from generation to generation. The element of longing rises. A finger touches under one eye, then the other, as if marking tears. Only the fingers change location, as if in a cinematic close up, there is no slide into over-emotion. Throughout the creation, transitions between quiet to music are woven together and their timing is correct. 

The creation seems to be a process of release, or internal healing. It is a possibility to speak of something the choreographer has long desired to say, perhaps unknowingly and finally after a prolonged wait filled with longing and extended research, a true pearl was formed. 

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