Israel Festival - Cullberg Ballet

Cullberg Ballet commissioned Figure a sea, a collaboration of Hay and multidiscipline artist Laurie Anderson that premiered in 2015.

June 10, 2019 20:31
2 minute read.
Israel Festival - Cullberg Ballet


Cullberg Ballet returned after a long hiatus with two programs of fresh, yet worlds apart creations. On its first evening at the festival, it showcased Figure a Sea, by American choreographer Deborah Hay – a disciple of Merce Cunningham, and a group member of the Judson Church artists’ community that changed dance perception forever in the 1960s by implementing postmodern principals.

Cullberg Ballet commissioned Figure a sea, a collaboration of Hay and multidiscipline artist Laurie Anderson that premiered in 2015.

What was considered radical approach on dance stages and challenged modern dance discipline at the time, translated now to a rather mild, often semi-minimalist conduct on stage – with all 18 dancers taking their time, moving a bit languidly in pedestrian manner, streaming, attuned inwardly.

Clearly, what often seems improvised is rather well-planned, though it avoids geometrical compositions, unisons or obvious symmetries. Often the goings and comings, the occasional fleeting interactions, the purposeless activities without aspiring for dramatic peaks or coherent direction’s motivation is misleading.

As time passes, the sense of random chaos morphed into meditative mode as it grew on you while you focused on the big picture and details become inconsequential. A pleasurable feeling, saturated with simplicity, modesty and, eventually, satisfying beauty engulfed you.

On its second evening, Cullberg Ballet performed Protagonist, a new creation by up and coming choreographer Jefta Van Dinther.

A large, shiny metal construction dominates a sizable piece of the stage. The space is quite dark, a voice recite words pertaining to some upcoming imperative changes and the dancers brings with them a sense of aggression. They could be a group of misfits, possibly homeless, definitely distrusting. They roam the stage, looking for interactions, for attention and for momentary safety in numbers, but there is a strong misinterpretation in their social ties. Provocation and out-loud protest serve as a relief, but out of the chaotic existence that human contacts form, small tribal-like commitments are built, some involuntary order sprouts.

Van Dinther invested a lot in introducing the viewers to the life and miseries of the rejects of society, and it is not about to make it easier for them and sell them hope and a bright tomorrow. Is the moment when all the dancers removed their clothes and act like a family of apes, using the construction as their playground, a defining moment? A metaphoric path that they can take?

The words of Elias’s song are muffled, yet one word infiltrated clearly over and over, “Falling.” The lyrics offer them a choice, to surrender to the comfort of familiar conditions, or fight for light, for future. Bright yellow light floods the group that is facing the audience with determination as a solidified community. The strong light blinds us for a moment, then a sudden deep darkness swallows us all. The harsh, loud music enhance those contradicting feelings and later, when vocalist Elias sings Jefta’s lyrics, the ruling mood is of deep sadness and turns that dance piece into the saddest ever. I’ll certainly try not to miss his next work.

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