Between beauty and horror: Dance interprets massacre at Nova music festival

Two weeks after the start of the Gaza war, choreographer Dor Eldar started grappling with the emotions evoked by the disturbing accounts from the Nova music festival massacre, leading him to create 'RAVE,' a dance performance that juxtaposes the aesthetic beauty of movement with the raw horror of that event
Yael Ilan|
How does one articulate the heartache of October 7 in the language of dance? Renowned choreographer Dor Eldar attempts to decode this enigma through a new dance composition, rendering an original and profound interpretation of the tragic carnage that unfolded at the Nova music festival, a horrific event that extinguished the lives of over 360 people.
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Eldar, a 32-year-old maestro who has collaborated with numerous artists over the years, found himself navigating unfamiliar emotional terrain, striving to encapsulate sentiments distinct from the ones he usually weaves into his choreographic narratives.
"I found it challenging to create something disconnected from the current circumstance," he confesses during a discussion with Ynet. "My thoughts are consumed by this event."
His creation, titled 'RAVE' and spanning just over two and a half intense minutes, doesn't afford much breathing space. Accompanied by the soulful strains of "Mount Everest" by British artist Labrinth, the video begins with a poignant image of young women crammed atop a white Toyota pick-up truck, offering a haunting foretaste of their inevitable demise. From this point, it unravels the progression of events – the vibrant, emancipated dance that mirrors the festival's atmosphere, the sudden intrusion of dancers garbed in black, culminating in the brutal clash of the two.
All these events unfold through powerful dance sequences that resonate as gut punches to the viewer with every rhythmic move. Since its recent debut on social media, the clip has quickly amassed about 200,000 views and thousands of shares, catching the attention of esteemed choreographer Brian Friedman, known for his work with Britney Spears and Mariah Carey.
Eldar came up with the idea about two weeks after the outbreak of the war. "After two weeks of shock, I felt a surge of inspiration," he recalls. "I resolved to encapsulate the entire Nova experience through a dance piece. I wished to highlight the positive aspects – the electrifying ambiance, the beautiful people, the vibrant costumes. I aimed to faithfully portray the essence of a trance festival. These were people in pursuit of liberation, whose dreams turned into a nightmare, ending in a brutal death."
He assembled a troop of 24 dancers, and in the span of just two rehearsals amid the relentless downpour outside, they were primed to shoot the video. Emotions ran high, and the team grappled with their own pain, Eldar reveals.
"They, too, were without work, reeling from the impact, living through the turmoil firsthand," he says. "The rehearsals were extraordinarily poignant. There were moments I questioned the whole endeavor, as it weighed heavily on my psyche and on the dancers."
"Tears were shed abundantly by the dancers during the shoot. Filming certain scenes proved to be a struggle; we occasionally paused when the emotional load became unbearable. My approach was to handle them with care. I offered them an out, particularly for the taxing tender scene – I was ready to find a replacement. Yet they refused, insisting, 'No. We want to do this. It's challenging, but it's essential.' Their commitment and understanding of the project's significance were remarkable."
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יום הצילומים ליצירת המחול RAVE
יום הצילומים ליצירת המחול RAVE
(Photo: Amit Salicter)
Where did you find the strength to press on? "I reminded myself that this is the purpose. The difficulty I felt, the hardship for the dancers – it was the very essence I needed to externalize. I aimed to channel the trauma we endured. The intent extends beyond reaching an Israeli audience; it's about exposing the global community to the events that transpired. My desire is to relay the narrative of a celebration where people sought nothing more than to dance and love, and yet were met with catastrophe. It's a narrative that affects us collectively."
He is now determined to carry this narrative across international boundaries. "My ambition is to showcase this at global festivals, to cultivate awareness. Confronted with the pervasive 'Free Palestine' sentiment among youth worldwide, including the LGBT community and other progressive circles, I find myself perplexed, wondering: 'How can this be?' My aspiration is to initiate a shift, even if slight, to inject a different perspective into the global discourse."
Aren't you afraid some would view this as insensitive? "This represents the precise paradox. The most common feedback I received was that it's simultaneously shocking and incredible. The scenes that are the most visually appealing in terms of movement also carry the most horrifying undertones. Given the connotation of the video, I don't think viewers perceive it as merely beautiful. Instead, they establish a connection between the aesthetics and the gruesome events that transpired, producing a unique emotional response."
2 View gallery
יום הצילומים ליצירת המחול RAVE
יום הצילומים ליצירת המחול RAVE
Emotion through dance
(Photo: Amit Salicter)
Do you believe art and dance can change people's minds? "Undeniably. I breathe art. In my view, art is a language devoid of rules, it's the most authentic form of expression, untouched by politics. Even for those not actively engaged in art, witnessing something truly compelling stirs emotion within them. That's why I believe it's the best medium for disseminating information on a global scale. Politics, by its very nature, tends to disillusion me, and likely many others. We are skeptical, choosing whom to trust and, even then, our belief is never absolute. But art carries an inherent truth."
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