Amit Kolben, artistic director of Kolben Contemporary Dance, founded the
Jerusalemite company 17 years ago after a long career as a dancer and partner of
the groundbreaking Tamar dance group ensemble.
The name chosen for the
work is meant to induce an associative link to Berlin’s Checkpoint Charlie and
Jerusalem’s Mandelbaum gate, but the dance has nothing meaningful to say in that
regard. At best, it stirs the thoughts to micro issues, on a personal level. At
its very best, it resolves the contextual matter on an abstract
Most of the time, Kolben avoided the trap of pretense, but on the
downside some of the pushy efforts to keep it cool were felt on and off stage.
The audience was “interrogated” by dancers dressed in stage costumes upon
entrance, and later some viewers were targeted by dancers on stage. Too often
the lights went on and dancers attempted to go down and touch audience members.
Yet Charlie Mandelbaum keeps some of the spirit and vitality of
Kolben’s yesteryears. He is a skilled and experienced choreographer and always
had an eye for composition, but I think that in this work he achieved more than
mechanical craftsmanship. He produced an effective dance, greater than its
The group of eight dancers did quite well; some were
more experienced, and the ensemble could benefit from even stronger dancers,
particularly male dancers – a rarity outside Tel Aviv – yet all were used well
in the more theatrical moments.
Kolben’s eye for composition, handling
smooth passages between scenes, and keeping well-balanced shifts to and from
changing focal points, contributed enormously to the success of the evening.
Kolben is also responsible to the sound and set design. The most effective
backdrop was made out of strips of partially crumpled wrapping brown paper, and
the musical choices supported the evening very effectively.
So did the
sensitive and surprising choices for the closing scene, of a touching song with
unique female vocalists, played for a moving, minor-key solo.