HOUSE 2014

"The dancers were as if eerily unhuman, their characterization, through bound-flow contorting and twitching completely captivating. House, the 55-minute work by Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar, literally brought down the house. 

While the dancers performed utterly grotesque shapes, lines, and facial gestures, the unity, variety, repetition, and contrast of elements were eloquently sequenced. The dancing was impeccably organized, detailed, focused, and driven with bone and muscles rippling, abdomens bulging, and spines coiling. 

The audience was taken on a journey to another world, led by seven part-human-part-insect-beings. These creatures were devised using the changing form of body, time, mode of locomotion, minimal use of weight sensing, sleek, form-fitting costumes, and pulsing music. Torsos undulated, bulged, hollowed, sunk, rose, oozed, twisted, and hyper-extended. Limbs reached, flexed, rotated inward, and quivered. 

Heads bobbled and eyes were fixated. Successive flow rippled through dancers’ joints from an internal mission, a mission that evolved gradually throughout the piece. The beings seemed to be visiting from another world or, quite possibly, two unknown species were interbreeding to evolve into a new life form…"

Teresa Heiland, Los Angeles, 22 November 2014

Brilliance is one thing, sustained brilliance another.

Judged by the latter, the Israeli dance company L-E-V’s return to Vancouver was less than a complete success.

But in terms of giddy what-the-fuck moments and extraordinary movement, House offered all the eye candy anyone could want. Book early for the troupe’s next visit. It’s that good.

House opens by needling the imagination with a solo turn from a female dancer. Clad in a shiny black cat suit, she sets the parameters for the evening: physical flexibility, choreographic unpredictability, and just a hint of kink. But her ordinary virtuosity—the kind made up of perfectly toned muscles and turn-on-a-dime speed—gives way to a far more stimulating playground of the mind once the ensemble makes its appearance.

L-E-V’s principal choreographer, Sharon Eyal, apprenticed under Batsheva Dance’s Ohad Naharin, who calls his movement style Gaga. It’s clear that he’s not proprietary about the term, however, for dance is rarely as madly gaga as House’s initial group passage, in which several dancers, wearing flesh-tone body suits, stand square to the audience, their legs spread wide and bent at the knee so that their thighs form a horizontal line. 

Their bodies look like architectural elements—structural frames for a prefab house, perhaps—and move from side to side with unsettlingly inhuman precision. Later, two of the group shift so that they’re seen from the diagonal: through some trick of the light, their thighs disappear and they become short-legged, long-torsoed midgets. The effect is utterly hallucinatory.

Avi Yona “Bambi” Bueno’s lighting design has a lot to do with House’s success. At one point, he spills a pool of light onto the floor; with the air clouded by theatrical smoke, the dancers appear to be wading in an ocean mist. Elsewhere, he illuminates the stage in moody grey-greens, like a Giorgio de Chirico painting—but with two long-limbed male dancers working en pointe, it’s a de Chirico inhabited by figures from Amedeo Modigliani’s sketchbook.

Sound designer Ori Lichtik keeps things moving nicely, for the most part, with his spare, rhythmic score, but House breaks down when he introduces an uncharacteristically banal synth-pop tune approximately 40 minutes in. Eyal succumbs to its blandishments and has the dancers shimmy and vogue as if they were in an ’80s house club. It’s oddly routine—and definitely at odds with the rest of the dance. 

I’m also puzzled by her ending, in which the curtain closes on two of the male dancers, now in their own shiny fet-wear and holding their arms out as if they’ve been crucified. Back in the ’80s, this could have been seen as a reference to the AIDS crisis; now it seems gratuitous.

These incongruities aside, however, Eyal’s choreographic gifts are undeniable and L-E-V’s dancers are magnificent.

ALEXANDER VARTY, Vancouver, NOV 18, 2014