Dance Review: Kolben Contemporary Dance

Charlie Mandelbaum at Suzanne Dellal December 16.

charlie mandelbaum 370 (photo credit: Tami Weiss)
charlie mandelbaum 370
(photo credit: Tami Weiss)
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 level.
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. Not cool.
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 artistic components.
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.