'Shape on Us' Vertigo Dance warrants moment of grace

VERTIGO – POWER OF BALANCE: Shape On Us. Choreography: Sharon Fridman. Suzanne Dellal Center, Tel Aviv

VERTIGO POWER of Balance’s ‘Shape On Us.’ (photo credit: YOEL LEVY)
VERTIGO POWER of Balance’s ‘Shape On Us.’
(photo credit: YOEL LEVY)
One by one, nine performers parade on the Suzanne Dellal Center stage and show themselves, with abilities and disabilities included. It is a quiet, unexpected assemblage of dancers and handicapped performers.
Vertigo Dance Company’s parallel branch, Vertigo Power of Balance, is an ongoing project dedicated to integrated dancers and participants with diverse disabilities, using a contact improvisation technique that expands options of engagement, by physical support and help from partners.
In fact, the first “Shape On Us” scene demonstrates its basic component – solidarity. A height-challenged performer is being carried from her wheelchair and seated center stage, and as soon as she leans back, an attentive group of dancers catch her, repeatedly. Later, a variation of that theme will be repeated with a different cast.
Vertigo commissioned Sharon Fridman – a fine Israeli choreographer residing in Madrid – to choreograph this work, since he worked successfully with Vertigo before and is well versed in contact improvisation as his main tool. Furthermore, from a personal angle, Fridman grew up helping to take care of his needy mother. His sensitivities made him well aware of social stigmas, and he would avoid exposing performers to compromising positions.
Indeed, he did his utmost to give more attention to performers with limitations and mellowed the dancers’ roles and reduced their stage presence. They became the enablers, which tumbled the balance we expected from a company titled Power of Balance and flawed the dramaturgic flow.
Restrictions and limitation can often produce interesting and original solutions, and serve as a springboard for diversity and originality. In “Shape on Us” there were rare moments which sparkled, since Fridman held back the dancer’s individual parts and partially because of structural issues. The choreography leaned toward loosely fragmented segments of short, secondary scenes, and while its attention was focused there, the seams in between were sometimes neglected.
Regardless of the best intents, the work needed saving by more attention to the larger artistic scope, and finally it arrived almost at the last moment with a spectacular group scene.
The performers were sitting on the floor in a tight formation. For a moment all one could see was a pool of feet up, moving like underwater creatures. The group tightened and all performers touched and caressed the ones next to them, and with the right lighting and mild sound it was both touching and extremely beautiful. A true moment of grace.