When we think about luxury and excess, food is often part of the picture.
Champagne, caviar, certain fancy and rare spices and truffles all symbolize the good life. In recent months, in Israel as well as abroad, these indulgences have become limited to an increasingly smaller segment of the population. As the cost of living rises and employment opportunities decline, food prices have come to represent all that is unfair, unjust and unbalanced in society.
This notion of the disparity between rich and poor is what propelled choreographer Amir Kolben throughout the creative process of his newest work, which will premiere next week at the Suzanne Dellal Center. Entitled Kme’hin (Truffles), the piece is set around a large table.
“With the current protests, food has become an even more highly charged subject,” Kolben said at a recent presentation leading up to the premiere. “Not everyone has bread on the table. When I thought about the kind of food only some can afford, I immediately thought about truffles. Only a small group of fortunate individuals can really allow themselves to enjoy a dish that is made with this fine product.”
Once Kolben began exploring food, the practices and traditions surrounding food quickly tumbled onto the drawing board. In the piece, Kolben uses stillness around the table to visually evoke The Last Supper by Da Vinci, perhaps the most famous repast in history. “It’s impossible to portray food and meals without eventually drawing on Da Vinci,” said Kolben.
His musical choices reflect holiday meals, during which families gather around the table to break bread. There is a recurring reference to the Passover story, with one scene set to Chava Alberstein’s rendition of “Chad Gadya.”
“Well, we all know that the Last Supper was in fact a Passover Seder,” Kolben explained.
However, Kolben’s Seder takes place somewhere long ago and far away. “They will be wearing evening wear – gowns and suits, I mean. There is a sense that this event is happening in Europe. It is a sort of gala,” he explained.
Kolben and his cast of eight dancers spent eight months developing Kme’hin. As in most of his works, Kolben uses text at various points during the piece.
One dancer hungrily chomps on a shiny red apple as the rest of the cast shouts out the names of the Ten Plagues. Between moments of theatrics, there is more than a fair share of strong partnering work. As a choreographer, Kolben is a fan of lifts and gravity-defying movement. His dancers seem to effortlessly swing each other through the air, thrusting one another to the floor and back up again.
This season, the Kolben Dance Company is celebrating 16 years of activity. At the time that the company was established, it stood alone as the only troupe of its kind in Jerusalem. Now Kolben shares the Gerard Behar Center with the Vertigo Dance Company, whose studio is directly below KDC’s. A wealth of young choreographers have recently named Jerusalem their home, and the Mahol Shalem House has become a hub for local dance makers. While the company has experienced ups and downs over the past few years, Kolben has remained a unique voice in the local dance community.
Kme’hin offers glimpses of the types of choreographies with which Kolben first made a name for himself. This is no doubt due to the strong cast of both Israelis and foreigners that Kolben has had at his fingertips this season.
Each of his skilled dancers is highlighted in material that appears to have been created in collaboration.
Dancer Stav Dror particularly drew focus during Kolben’s prepremiere presentation. With featured roles in many sections, Dror is lithe, articulate and charismatic. She manages to express emotion without turning to melodrama and is a welcome surprise to behold in Kme’hin.
Kme’hin will premiere at the Suzanne Dellal Center in Tel Aviv on July 23. For more information, visit www.suzannedellal.org.il.