Ohad Naharin and Yasmeen Godder Bring Us Order and Chaos From Israel

The Joyce and the Kitchen host the curious choreographers

Godder’s Singular Sensation has been drawing awe-struck reviews ever since its premiere in 2008. While her 2004 Strawberry Cream and Gunpowder(it was shown here in the 2006 Lincoln Center Festival) dealt with the destabilizing effects of living and working in an endangered atmosphere, Singular Sensation deals with a phenomenon not entirely exclusive to Israel. The media—reality shows and talent competitions or eating ordeals in particular—have upped the ante on extravagant and violent behavior as performance. Real tears, real blood, shocking confessions…. And the arts often fall in line in terms of gore and explicit sex. What does it take to excite us out of our numbness these days? How much sensation do we need?

One aspect of this provocative work is that the five performers are always “on”—eyeing us to gauge our reactions, wooing us, challenging us. The white floor that curves up at either side contains them, while the black wall at the back braces them when they need support (set by Oren Sagiv). Matan Zamir’s initial, weirdly puckish solo introduces us to a world where self-awareness has been fatally skewed. Wearing mottled tights and an indecipherable logo T-shirt, he sends us suspicious, slitty-eyed looks as he wiggles his hips, smacks his belly, falls, laughs, and turns his body into rubber. Repeatedly, he sticks out his tongue, but at the side of his mouth. He also turns his index fingers into guns as he falls and stumbles to his feet.

War lurks in the sound score that meshes together Random Inc & Tim Hecker, Panda Porn, Ziv Jacob, Rona Geffen, Gabi Lala, and Throbbing Gristle. Roaring, rumbling, exploding sounds are sometimes at a bass level that shakes the floor under your feet and messes with your stomach. Also breaking waves, heavy piano notes, what might be artillery fire, and other drastic disruptive rhythms and noises.

Batsheva Dance Company in Ohad Naharin’s "Project 5"
Gadi Dagon
Batsheva Dance Company in Ohad Naharin’s "Project 5"
Sara Wilhelmsson, Inbal Aloni, and Shuli Enosh in Yasmeen Godder’s "Singular Sensation"
Paula Court
Sara Wilhelmsson, Inbal Aloni, and Shuli Enosh in Yasmeen Godder’s "Singular Sensation"

Details

Batsheva Dance Company
Joyce Theater
175 Eighth Avenue
212-691-9740, joyce.org
September 21 through October 3

Yasmeen Godder
The Kitchen
512 West 19th Street
212-255-5793, thekitchen.org
September 23 through 25

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Inbal Lieblich’s costumes combine the everyday with the gaudy in disorienting ways. Inbal Aloni begins wearing a slightly lumpy, oddly cut purple velvet dress. Shuli Enosh has a shiny, sleeveless top over dark leggings. Sara Wilhelmsson’s initial top is a gorgeous black job, heavily embroidered in silver, and her fingers on one hand are tipped with long, red rubber talons. Tsuf Itschaky wears sportier, more casual clothes. Entering and leaving the action periodically, they’re suspicious of one another or moved to hilarity. Not only do their bodies function in gawkily extravagant ways, their mouths are constantly falling opening, smirking, pouting, laughing, crying.

Although all of them, especially the woman, display the practiced erotic come-ons of burlesque or porn stars, they have their own peculiarities. Aloni is constantly, smilingly flirtatious—casting sidelong glances, arching her back, spreading her legs. Sometimes she blinks her eyes rapidly. Enosh—given to fits of shaking—is catlike, her hands poised like paws. Tall, svelte, blond Wilhelmsson struts like a model and is adept at disdainful looks and domineering strategies. Itschaky fancies himself a stud, but becomes a victim. All the performers are given to pulling up their shirts to show us their bellies.

Their contacts with one another are fraught. Itschaky holds Aloni almost upside down and jounces her around. He rides Enosh as if she’s his pony. After Zamir has spat the green stuff onto the seated Itschaky’s head, the latter doffs his protective dark glasses and returns to the action, fists raised. But he still has plugs sticking out of his ears, and for a few seconds you can view him as Odysseus, guarding himself against the three sirens tangling seductively together. In an elaborate sequence near the end, Zamil pulls Enosh’s pantyhose off and puts the top part over his head; she, holding the feet, swings him around like a dog on a leash.

Occasionally, the valiant and gifted performers do “dance,” but that plays a minor role in the evening. More often, they handle objects like kindergarten kids on the loose. Wilhelmsson chews off her red fingertips and spits them out. The performers spew glittering confetti. Aloni uses dry pasta as decoration (of herself and others). Wilhelmsson enters in gold trunks with a belt of little green bags and a bulging bra. Standing (luckily) on a sheet of plastic, she caresses the scissors meaningfully, punctures the green sacs to release more goo, and stabs her breasts—all the while wriggling enticingly. The breasts turn out to be oranges, which the performers can squeeze on one another, or into their own mouths.

Godder fights excess with excess. A daring move. I honor her for it, even though there came a point when I, for one, badly wanted Singular Sensation’s final orgy to end. The horrible climax comes when everyone gangs up to turn Itschaky into a kind of superhero victim. By the end, he’s got the oranges stuffed in his sleeves, masquerading as muscles; the pantyhose are over his head; and Zamir has wound yards of plastic wrap around on top of that, casually poking a breathing hole or two for him. Then they all hoist him up and squish his feet into a molded pile of red jello.

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