"Nava Waxman’s approach to the theme of migration is informed by her personal experience of diaspora, and by her engagement with the history of dance practices and choreography both in the Middle East and abroad. Her works in the exhibition are at once poetic reflections on this itinerant existence and highly technical experiments with an abstracted language for human movement. The two-channel video Variations on Blue Gestures pays homage to the work and scribblings of the 20th century Austrian-Jewish modern dance pioneer Gertrude Kraus, herself an itinerant artist who fled from Vienna during the rise of the Nazi party in 1935 to open a dance school in Palestine. The video realizes particular movements for unrecorded performances contained in Kraus’s sketchbooks. For Waxman these “choreographic scores” are recovered artifacts from a little-known history of dance in the region, reanimated and honoured but also mined to build a lexicon of “migratory gestures” in the present. Drained of colour and laid out on a grid, the second work Diagram (Migratory Cycle) highlights an anatomizing and unsentimental impulse in Waxman’s work to bring the body to speech and perhaps to free it from the visibility traps of the dance world. Inspired in part by Eadweard Muybridge’s studies of animal motion the photographic wall piece shows ghostly traces of a 2018 studio performance arranged as variations around a consistently rendered circle in each of the grid’s squares. As a shorthand for a centre of gravity, the circle repeated across the grid provides some compositional balance but cannot still the blurred images that flit across its boundary, and the grid form’s conventionally linear temporality is also undermined by Waxman’s arrangement of the images out of chronological order. I’m reminded by the restlessness of Waxman’s work of a well-known quote from one of her acknowledged influences Paul Klee. Just as for Klee “a line is a dot that went for a walk,” for Waxman our movements in choreography and migration equally can be narrated and diagrammed, but as long as it remains in motion the body refuses the kind of capture promised by a picture."
Tammer El-Sheikh, York University