Black clothes? Nude clothes?
In the program notes for Sharon Eyal and Guy Behar’s House, which recently premiered together with Yasmeen Godder’s The Toxic Exotic Disappearing Act, there were two costume categories listed. Designer of black clothes…so and so. Designer of nude clothes…somebody else. I took a moment to consider the amount of detail put into what is often a peripheral bit of information. And then the lights went up.
On stage was Sharon Eyal, dressed as the missing member of The Matrix, illuminated by the foggiest, most alluring light I’ve seen in ages.
House was, in my eyes, a love letter to dance. It was sexy, naughty, dirty, suggestive and delicious. The nearly nude dancers, each one fiercer than the next, moved like they had been sprinkled with magic powder. The work was built with group sections and interludes during which Eyal snaked across the stage like some kind of glorious fembot.
I have to admit, while I liked Eyal’s previous works for Batsheva Dance Company (Marakova Kabisa and Bertolina), I never really got them. They were neat, sure. You couldn’t deny that there was something very edgy and new about Eyal’s pieces. I loved the electronic music. I loved the risky feeling I got sitting in the audience. As if Eyal was leading me into some shady back alley of the dance world that I wasn’t sure I should be allowed to visit. There is something truly voyeuristic about watching her pieces. Like glancing through a keyhole at the girl next door while she changes. But with all that said, I didn’t recognize the real genius of Eyal until it hit me in the face while watching House.
The piece was deeply atmospheric. And at the same time, it read like a kind of homage to American modern dance from the 1960s. In this work, Eyal employed compositional tactics used by choreographers whose work looks like the Teletubbies next to hers. The clean lines, shifting formations and dynamics let me see dance as I want it to be, know it should be and don’t get to see enough. The pure joy of watching bodies moving in space was aloft in the audience on that night at Suzanne Dellal.
Sadly, House won’t be shown again in Israel until early May. However, Eyal’s previous work, Bill, goes up for an additional run in Tel Aviv on Wednesday night. Bill is a quirky, unusual glance at our simultaneous desire to fit into society and stand out. The dancers are dressed uniformly with matching contact lenses and hair masks to boot. By removing the representation of individuality through costume, Eyal manages to bring out the subtle differences between them. So they aren’t “the girl in that floral shirt” but rather “the guy with those knife-like legs.”
In some way, this too mirrors the modern dance or even classical ballet world. In a corps de ballet, every dancer is outfitted with a matching tutu, diamond earrings and a tiara (if they’re lucky). The idea is to create a live backdrop of beautiful women swaying softly to the cello music. However, even with the hours spent on making sure each arm is at the exact same angle and each foot perfectly pointed, a trained viewer can pick out the rising stars from the mass. As my favorite ballet teacher always says, “the body doesn’t lie.” On stage, where no text can speak for it, the body tells its story whether it is instructed to do so or not.
In modern dance, the notion of individuality is essential. Breaking from the 91-pound weight limit and the everybody-looks-like-they-are-related casting, the modern dance community was founded on the idea that difference is bliss. An average contemporary company could be mistaken for United Colors of Beneton’s models with ease. Because of this, seeing a rising contemporary choreographer swap that variety with uniformity is shocking and a truly unusual sight to behold.
I wonder if Eyal read Vonnegut’s Harrison Bergeron during the creative process.
Bill will run at the Suzanne Dellal Center on February 8, 9, 10 and 11.