When We Danced on Water

  • Review
By – August 26, 2011
Teo Levin, the 85-year-old chore­o­g­ra­ph­er of a bal­let called Obses­sion, explains its title to his new friend, Vivi, a woman half his age. The word comes from the Latin, he notes, where it means siege’ or block­ade,’ as if one’s sens­es are besieged by the object of one’s desires.”

Vivi knows some­thing about such desires. Her moth­er, a Holo­caust sur­vivor, has long been obsessed with the need to talk about the Shoah wher­ev­er she can find an audi­ence. Vivi her­self end­ed up in mil­i­tary prison because her intense involve­ment with a man — a non-Jew­ish Ger­man man — cloud­ed her judg­ment. After meet­ing Teo, a reg­u­lar at the Tel Aviv café where she works, she becomes pos­sessed by the need to learn every­thing about him and to cre­ate a trib­ute to his life and work.

Her quest to uncov­er a hid­den part of Teo’s past leads him to reveal to her the secret he had buried for six­ty years: he sur­vived the Holo­caust because he was the object of a Nazi officer’s erot­ic obses­sion. Deeply dam­aged by that expe­ri­ence, Teo nev­er­the­less incor­po­rates in his art the same unbound­ed pas­sion, revul­sion for medi­oc­rity, and urge to reach for the stars” that in a dif­fer­ent way drove his protector/ tor­men­tor.

In spare and pre­cise lan­guage, and with extra­or­di­nary verisimil­i­tude about the world of dance, Evan Fal­l­en­berg has cre­at­ed a mod­ern para­ble about the thrills and the dan­gers of suc­cumb­ing to obses­sion.

Read Evan Fal­l­en­berg’s Posts for the Vis­it­ing Scribe

Elab­o­rate Lies with Con­vinc­ing Details

Mak­ing it True”

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