Sunday, November 16, 2014

L-E-V is in the (Dance)House

Local dance artist Vanessa Goodman lead the pre-show talk with sound designer Ori Lichtik before last night's performance of House, by the new Israeli company L-E-V. She mentioned that company co-founder (along with Gai Behar) and choreographer, Sharon Eyal, would be performing in the piece, improvising a series of three solos. This was an exciting surprise, as Eyal's name was not listed along with the other six dancers in the program; I was eager to catch a glimpse in the flesh of the choreographer, long renowned for her work with Ohad Naharin's Batsheva Dance Company, who was behind the stand-out performance of Corps de Walk by the Norwegian company Carte Blanche as part of last year's DanceHouse season.

House, the work presented by L-E-V, opens with Eyal, in a skin-tight black bodysuit, shimmying across the stage to Lichtik's music. We recognize grooves derived from Tel Aviv's legendary club scene, but also traces of Naharin's famous gaga method; however, Eyal combines these into a language all her own via her interest in holding a pose just a second or two past the music's beat, and in finding new patterns within deconstructed movement.

As Eyal exits upstage, the rest of the company emerges, all clad in flesh-coloured bodysuits reminiscent of the ones worn by the Carte Blanche dancers in Corps de Walk. As in that work, about which I blogged here, this first main section of House begins with the six L-E-V dancers in a circle, each bending into a deep plié and swaying side to side with mechanical precision. Eventually, however, one of the dancers breaks free from the circle, moving horizontally across the stage in a style reminiscent of voguing--which, along with the obvious musical associations, is to a certain extent signaled by the work's title. But unlike the house walkers in Harlem made famous by Jenny Livingston's Paris is Burning (and whose moves were then hijacked by Madonna), Eyal's dancers, in "leaving things on the floor," paradoxically remain resolutely vertical.

Following a second solo interlude by Eyal, she is joined by the rest of the dancers. Three of the four men are now dressed in black, like Eyal, and additionally the tallest of these men sports high heels (as does one of the other female dancers). I frankly couldn't take my eyes off of this dancer (which is saying something, given that his confrère stage right was impressively shirtless); with his beard and ball cap, imposing lithe frame, and hoof-like heels, he looked like a giant satyr. And, indeed, this section, in its mixing of images of sexual fetishism and animality, comes across very much as a dark and dreamlike exploration of various kinds of taboo.

Finally, after a third solo by Eyal, House concludes with an electrifying display of unison movement, in which Eyal takes the phrases explored by her dancers in the previous sections and builds them into a "singular sensation" of chorus line effects, complete with high kicks and jumps. It's a rousing, spectacular finish that's hard to resist, the rhythmic entrainment of the music and the movement designed to make audiences leap to their feet--which most did last night. I confess, however, that I was more compelled by the less easily assimilable (thematically and choreographically) bits from the previous sections.


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