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Dance and Music Reviews : Batsheva Company’s Second Program at Royce Hall

Batsheva Dance Company of Israel again declined to comment on current events in the Middle East on its second program, Sunday in Royce Hall, UCLA. However, there was an oblique reference to strife--not over geographical boundaries, but between the sexes.

It came in a piece by Daniel Ezralow, known hereabouts as a member of ISO, an offshoot of Momix, which is an offshoot of Pilobolus. And in keeping with the aesthetic of those troupes, his “SVSPLKT” speaks in code.

In other words, the work uses behavior modalities, not movement itself, to get across feeling states. If I can’t show you my naked anguish, it seems to say, I’ll give you some indirect, esoteric clues. By the time a viewer can decipher the acronym--and don’t even try in the case of “SVSPLKT,” as a company spokesman says the title has no meaning--all resonances of emotion are gone.

Still, it has lots of cleverness and imagination, qualities that mark Ezralow’s work. The influences of Merce Cunningham’s “Winterbranch” make themselves known instantly, however, when a blinding lantern is flashed on the audience. And the opening gambit of loose-bodied hobos in suspenders and battered, pulled-down fedoras smacks of deja vu, courtesy of David Gordon’s “Four Man Nine Lives.”

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But when Ezralow’s protagonists shed their hobo disguises behind Levelor panels, one dancer per frame, and a lone saxophone with lush string accompaniment suggests urban anomie and sexual languor, new signals flash. Manipulating the Levelors at eye-blink speed for some now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t images, they give us all the poses of Shiva.

The denouement, which follows a ritualistic tableau of Indian dance, features palsy victims doing a horrific minuet to Tom Waits’ “Heart Attack and Vine.” Motto: A battle of the sexes can be crippling. The dancers articulated the message compellingly.

The program also included two other pieces. Robert North’s “Entre Dos Aguas,” a vaguely Vegas fusion of Spanish, ballet and modern dance, made a promising display of zestful virtuosity, although the dancers lacked the ultimate razzle-dazzle to carry it off. “Cantata 78,” previously reviewed, was repeated.


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