Dallas — A solitary figure stands in a shaft of light. Behind her at the rear of the stage in its own rectangle shines the moon in a sea of darkness.
Dropping her head, bending forward and opening her arms, the figure moves in utter silence. She uprights herself, but only for a moment, turns and bends with legs far apart.
The images are striking, but executed slowly and deliberately except for an occasional tossing of her thick black hair.
She repeats the sequence several times, staying put, and then ventures back into the light to the sun, again repeating the sequence.
It turns out this becomes one of the leitmotifs of the dance, picked up by other dancers throughout If At All, the 65-minute work performed Saturday night at City Performance Hall by Israel’s Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company, making their Texas debut courtesy of TITAS.
The name “Kibbutz” is not without significance, as the dancers live in a kibbutz at the north edge of Israel. As you might expect, If At All celebrates communal life in all its ebb and flow of conflict, love, disappointment and joy—albeit the communal life of the young.
For only the young dance with such vigor, displayed in outbursts of off-kilter turns, runs, abrupt slides to the floor, rebounds, and wild tosses of the hair.
The man responsible for a work of such coherent scope is artistic director Rami Be’er. Mr. Be’er choreographed, designed lighting and sets, and even had a hand in costume design and sound. As for sound, it was an eclectic combination of opera, Nine Inch Nails, bells, drums, loud noise, voices, plaintive piano and violin, mournful cello, thunder and a childlike voice repeating “our last lost chance” scores of times.
The dance moves in fits and starts, building up to the relentless flow of a turbulent river, cresting and ebbing, building to a new surge. The effect is hypnotic. It can be loud and rancorous, quiet and gentle, strange and mysterious.
Sometimes all the dancers do is lift an arm or roll over—as in the beginning, after six men line up in a row and sit on the floor, heads practically touching the ground.
The music, light and costumes contribute a great deal to the various changes in mood. Sometimes the light illuminates a single dancer, at another time a square falls on one dancer, then opens up to illuminate another, until six or seven women are moving in their own sphere of light.
The costumes change dramatically over the span on the dance, with women first wearing very short black skirts and simple tops, while the bare-chested men wear voluminous floor-length black skirts. Those long skirts make a dramatic statement when the men are leaning far forward and pitching themselves into a sudden swirl of motion. They billow out too during expansive leaps.
At the end, men and women are both wearing identical muted and multicolored dress, except that the men are bare-chested. Individuals and couples play an important role in a kibbutz, but as the clothes and movement make clear, a sense of community prevails.
» Margaret Putnam has been writing about dance since 1980, with works published by D Magazine, The Dallas Observer, The Dallas Times Herald, The Dallas Morning News, The New York Times, Playbill, Stagebill, Pointe Magazine and Dance Magazine.