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Yossi Berg and Oded Graf’s “4 Men, Alice, Bach and the Deer”

Posted on 25 March 2010 by Deborah Friedes Galili

Choreographers Yossi Berg and Oded Graf started collaborating in 2005, and over the years they have built a reputation for work that is supremely physical, sometimes provocative, and by turns poignant and witty.  Their recent production, 4 Men, Alice, Bach and the Deer, premiered in Germany to great acclaim and subsequently took Israel by storm; indeed, at the International Exposure festival here in December, the dance won a remarkable amount of both laughs and cheers. Now the pair is bringing the dance to San Francisco for a performance at the Herbst Theater on April 17 as part of the month-long Out in Israel LGBT festival.

San Francisco-based writer Talia Baruch caught a performance of 4 Men, Alice, Bach and the Deer at International Exposure, and the post below is her preview, originally published on her blog.

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4 Men, Alice, Bach and the Deer

Choreography, Stage, Costume & Lighting Design: Yossi Berg and Oded Graf| Performance: Hillel Kogan, Irad Mazliah, Oded Graf, Yossi Berg | Dramaturgy: Carmen Mehnert | Text: Sergiu Matis | Music: J. S. Bach, Paul Kalkbrenner | Still photography: Matthias Creutziger | Review & Copywriting: Talia Baruch

4 Men is a dramatized exploration of masculine interaction and action.  It is a fairy tale of vile and virtue.

The first 4 minutes of the opening scene bring on a monotonous sequence built into a 4-step linear routine carried out by 4 masked men.

And all the while, in the far end of the stage, there lays a magnificent deer, perched on the ground: long legs crumbled in; long neck stretched out, crowned with royal antlers.  Fabled & Fabulous.

When one man breaks out of the group’s conformity and spins off, the drama slowly creeps in.  But not quite yet.  We’re still in for some humorous sweet fantasy.

The 4 men, the intrepid troop, are potent and powerful.  They are Studs, Hunters, Greek Gods. They are boys being boys, wrestling, showing off, confessing lustful desires.

“Far, far away in a land of quiet, there were 4 men living in a huge house with a super flat screen TV…”

Soon, their ideal of the ultimate man will be re-defined.  And we will be tangled in the twirling twister of their power struggle.  We will gasp for air, as they strike and thrust and pound, their heart beats will set the pace for their tapping feet.

Soon, they will forcefully seize, and helplessly surrender,

betrayed, embraced,

manipulated, mutilated.

Slaughtered.

Like a deer.

Written by Talia Baruch, San Francisco based Localization Consultant and Copywriter: www.copyous.com

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Barak Marshall’s “Rooster”

Posted on 05 February 2010 by Deborah Friedes Galili


Video: Barak Marshall’s Rooster

Another guest at International Exposure 2009, Talia Baruch, covers the San Francisco-area dance scene for her blog GoSee– Dance. She wrote some reviews of dances she saw here in Israel in December for her website and is generously sharing them here on Dance In Israel.

Talia’s third article is about Barak Marshall’s Rooster, which was a hit at both Tel Aviv Dance 2009 and International Exposure 2009.  Read below to learn more rich background about Rooster and to hear Talia’s take on the work.

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International Exposure 2009 — Suzanne Dellal Center | Barak Marshall

By Talia Baruch

ROOSTER

Co-production of Israeli Opera and the Suzanne Dellal Center

Choreography: Barak Marshall | Costume Design: Maor Zabar | Set Design: Sergey Berezin | Lighting Design: Felice Ross | Photography: Avi Avin & Kfir Bolotin | Guest Artist: Margalit Oved | Soprano: Lilia Gretsova | Review & Copywriting: Talia Baruch

This dance-theater piece is based on I.L. Peretz’s Bontsha the Silent, Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot and on stories from the Bible and Yemenite folklore.

“Here on earth the death of Bontsha the Silent made no impression at all. Ask anyone: Who was Bontsha, how did he live, and how did he die? Did his strength slowly fade, did his heart slowly give out, or did the very marrow of his bones melt under the weight of his burdens? Who knows?

Bontsha was a human being; he lived unknown, in silence, and in silence he died. He passed through our world like a shadow. When Bontsha was born no one took a drink of wine; there was no sound of glasses clinking. When he was confirmed he made no speech of celebration. He existed like a grain of sand at the rim of a vast ocean, amid millions of other grains of sand exactly similar, and when the wind at last lifted him up and carried him across to the other shore of that ocean, no one noticed, no one at all.”

I.L. Peretz, from Bontsha the Silent

After watching a bounty of dance performances back-to-back at the 2009 International Exposure Dance Festival/Suzanne Dellal Center, it was Rooster that hit home and made me go see the show a second time the following week.

Barak Marshall’s Rooster. Photo by Kfir Bolotin.

Rooster opens with the night chirps of grasshoppers and ends with the twitter of morning birds.  The events unfold in & out one night.  One night that digests interactions in a Kafkan sequence, that throws in the mix Theater of the Absurd, Vaudeville and Greek Mythology, that reels in Balkan, Gypsy, Middle-Eastern and American-Yiddish tunes, all mashed up into one burning stew.

The show reveals a man’s subconscious stream of thoughts under the spell of a dream.  And trailing through this flow of feverish thoughts is the vivid image of the Rooster, which also means Gever (“man”) in Hebrew.  The allusion to the story of I.L. Peretz’ Bontsha the Silent, implies Barak’s appeal for self-assertion: “trust your desires and act on them.”

The Rooster, with its flamboyant erected cockscomb and fluttering feathers — pecking, idling, roosting, kakadoodledooing — mirrors the villagers: their rapacious jealousy, pestering gossip, vaunting vanity.

And in all that chaos of color and cruelty and caring, of plucked feathers, warm embraces and longing to our womb roots, there lays the connection between hen and human. Being chicken — fearful; plucking feathers — slaughter; Tarnegol Kaparot — sacrifice (the Jewish ritual of sacrificing a rooster for atonement); and the forever existential loop: Which came first, chicken or egg?

Barak Marshall’s Rooster. Photo by Avi Avin.

Barak Marshall was born in Los Angeles to a Yemenite Israeli performer — Margalit Oved — founder of the Inbal Theater Dance Company. Barak, a true auteur, nursed on the rich brew of his cultural diversity. In his creative work, he draws themes, flavors and voices from the exotic ingredients that nourish his roots. He peppers his staged art with implied Jewish heritage, Yemenite folklore and biblical text, like the excerpt noting the twelve tribes (this piece is written for twelve dancers).

Barak created Rooster for the 2009 Tel Aviv Dance Festival, after the great success of his former piece — Monger — featured at the 2008 Tel Aviv Dance Festival.

Talia Baruch is a writer and translator covering the dance/theater scene in San Francisco, where she has been living for the past 11 years. She is the founder of Copyous, providing creative copywriting and Localization Strategies. The ingredients that shaped her life are the explosive dance scene in urban Tel Aviv, where she grew up, the pea-green English country side, where she inhaled a handsome amount of fresh-manure & horseback-countered through endless woods, and the 24/7 Localization/Internationalization business bustle, that put perspective to it all. www.copyous.com

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Vertigo Dance Company in Noa Wertheim’s “Mana”

Posted on 29 January 2010 by Deborah Friedes Galili

Video: Vertigo in Noa Wertheim’s Mana

Another guest at International Exposure 2009, Talia Baruch, covers the San Francisco-area dance scene for her blog GoSee– Dance. She wrote some reviews of dances she saw here in Israel in December for her website and is generously sharing them here on Dance In Israel.

Talia’s second guest article is about Noa Wertheim’s Mana, which premiered as part of Curtain Up’s 20th anniversary and was a hit with the audience at International Exposure.  Read on to hear Talia’s take on this captivating work.

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International Exposure 2009—Suzanne Dellal Dance Center | Vertigo Dance Company

By Talia Baruch

MANA
Vessel of Light

Choreography & Artistic Director: Noa Wertheim | Co-Artistic Director: Adi Sha’al | Music: Ran Bagno | Percussion: Dani Makov | Stage & Costume Design: Rakefet Levy | Lighting Design: Dani Fishof | Still photography: Gadi Dagon | Review & Copywriting: Talia Baruch

Mana dances the tension between container and contained, exterior and interior, whole and hollow.

And what is installed first, vessel or light?
Does the Sun rise to fill in the absence of Moonlight, or rather is it the lack of Moonlight that creates the inspiration of its vessel, container of light?
(Based on the Zohar)

Noa Wertheim’s Mana. Photo by Gadi Dagon.

Noa Wertheim’s Mana. Photo by Gadi Dagon.

This timeless tale follows the flow in black and white, with few specks of ruddy-warm.  The bewitching-dark night stands in still, mystical contrast to the milky-white house, symmetrically centered in its simple stable form on stage.

Geometric shapes will now act out the dialogue between feminine and masculine, draw the drama between the forces of life that forever struggle to compliment each other:

Feminine: circular, soft black balloon, hanging like a full moon, up above the house

Masculine: pointy, sharp angular triangular roof, edgy rectangular door, protruding

Feminine: curve and crave in sensual, spiral hip-stirred movements

Masculine: stride, high-strung, across the stage in “connect-the-dot”-like linear routes

Noa Wertheim’s Mana. Photo by Gadi Dagon.

Both forces aspire to escape the hollow and reach the whole in this quest to be holistically contained and content. The visual image interlaced throughout the show is of a black balloon attached to a dancer, pulling her up, tall, stretching out for perfection, her white legs long and strong, trotting like a royal horse in a parade.

Noa Wertheim’s Mana. Photo by Gadi Dagon.

At first glance, the fully dressed, almost orthodox, costumes communicate a puritan, reserved modesty.  But quite quickly, a bare foot peeking under heavy garment, an escaping white shoulder, a curving contour, a tight waistline, a hip, lend to a sensual, lustful, communication.  The free-fall back bends and suicidal leaps shatter the quiet, restrained recital.

Noa Wertheim’s Mana. Photo by Gadi Dagon.

The music drapes the dancers like a fitted gown, in sync, in tune. I play the soundtrack CD over and over and give in to the lyric mood quietly setting in.  Ran Bagno, who has been working hand in hand with Vertigo’s mom and pap (Noa and Adi), wrote the score and played all the instruments, except for percussion, tapped by Dani Makov.  I sit with Bagno over cappuccino on a sunny winter day in down town Tel Aviv and ask him about the creative process of piecing music for this show. “Unlike some other dances, Mana isn’t a collage of fragmented scenes,” he says, “rather, it’s composed as a single, comprehensive piece. When Noa came out with the idea of a ‘vessel holding light’ I struggled to find just the right musical instrument to fit in…until I stumbled over my kid’s old, abandoned guitar. Something about its virgin, broken, acoustic sound was perfect for infusing the muse.”

Noa Wertheim’s Mana. Photo by Gadi Dagon.

Watching the fluid flow of movement on stage, I’m reminded of Alexander Calder’s art — capturing compound sketches in one single line stroke.  The expression captured in Mana carries the visual aesthetics of calligraphy: fine brush, dipped in black ink, forms a black blotch over snow white paper.  Then, in a single skilled hand, it drifts, pulling up tall, lying low, and spiraling all the way through.

Noa Wertheim’s Mana. Photo by Gadi Dagon.

Vertigo Dance Company founded the pea-green Eco Art Village, where they live and create in a little utopian planet of clean air and fresh manure: http://www.eco-artvillage.org/index_eng.asp. This might explain why their work is genuinely untainted, raw and earthly.

Talia Baruch is a writer and translator covering the dance/theater scene in San Francisco, where she has been living for the past 11 years. She is the founder of Copyous, providing creative copywriting and Localization Strategies. The ingredients that shaped her life are the explosive dance scene in urban Tel Aviv, where she grew up, the pea-green English country side, where she inhaled a handsome amount of fresh-manure & horseback-countered through endless woods, and the 24/7 Localization/Internationalization business bustle, that put perspective to it all. www.copyous.com

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Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company in Rami Be’er’s “InfraRed”

Posted on 10 January 2010 by Deborah Friedes Galili

Video: KCDC in Rami Be’er’s Infrared

Another guest at International Exposure 2009, Talia Baruch, covers the San Francisco-area dance scene for her blog GoSee– Dance. She wrote some reviews of dances she saw here in Israel in December for her website and is generously sharing them here on Dance In Israel.

Talia’s first guest article is about Rami Be’er’s InfraRed, which was mentioned in my last post about the festival.  Read on to learn more about this work, Be’er, and the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company.

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International Exposure 2009—Suzanne Dellal Dance Center | KCDC

By Talia Baruch

INFRARED

Choreography, Stage Design, Lighting Design: Rami Be’er | Costume Design: Maor Tzabar | Sound Design: Alex Claude | Still photography: Gadi Dagon | Review & Copywriting: Talia Baruch

A black garden is revealed.
An invisible world is unveiled through infrared light spectrum.
Black bodies expose colors.

IN THE BLACK GARDEN

Lyrics and music: Rami Be’er
Translated from Hebrew: Talia Baruch

In the black garden
Red soldier—watch
Blue soldier—warn
Yellow soldier—shoot all
(Back to. The wall.)

In the black garden
Red soldier—respond
Blue soldier—drop
Yellow soldier—yell
(Get used to hell)

In the black garden
Red soldier—reply
Blue soldier—hush
Yellow soldier—weep
(In the shit. Deep)

In the black garden
Red soldier—gape
Blue soldier—loll
Yellow soldier—hallucinate
(Feel the pain, mate?)

In the black garden…
A soldier stares
A soldier strays
A soldier errs

Rami Be’er’s InfraRed. Photo by Gadi Dagon.

A deep voice delivers the weight of “In the Black Garden” to the taps of a black platoon.  They open the show and they’ll also close it, but not just yet.   We’re still in for a journey, exploring the tumbles of our human condition, sinking deep into its weaknesses, aspiring to new heights through time and space.

Music is at the forefront of Be’er’s dance compositions.  He writes the lyrics & tunes, mixes the electronic sound effects and plays the cello pieces. The opening scene carries you over to another planet, both locally familiar and exotically estranged.  A wind storm echoes. Soft oasis waves flutter, lulling you into the Sahara mood, a blazing desert sweeping in like a yellow sea.

The drama sets off with bodies, humans and creatures, pacing through.  I quake in my seat, feeling a sudden urge to stretch right out of my spine, when the four-legged creature enters.  You know she’s coming out when you hear the slow somber score greeting her cue, like in Peter & the Wolf.  Her long black hair glides down to the floor, heavy, with every stretch of muscle elongating her back and limbs, like a preying tiger, graceful and ready to pounce.  Her movement is from another dimension, arching, curving, hands turned backward, magnetized to the floor.  She shifts back and forth, stretching like sticky gum out of its glued grip.

Rami Be’er’s InfraRed. Photo by Gadi Dagon.

Another twitching image is the cocoon, tightly swaddled: legs breaking out of colored paper wrap, muffling.
Soundtrack creaks:
-..I can’t dance it anymore
’cause my feet don’t touch the floor…-

The framework image for this dance is a board game.  And on it players make their moves.  They represent the three core colors: red, blue and yellow. Then there’s black, absorbing all colors, and white, their void.

Be’er was inspired by Sergeant Pepper’s album cover and commissioned the costume to reflect that 19th-century-European-soldier-uniform look, with the long flap buttoned apparel, set in the three foundation colors.  Like players on a check board, the dancers move through space in forward/backward horizontal/vertical taps, at times restrained within the confinements of red, blue and yellow squares laid out on the platform.

About KCDC–Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company

KCDC was founded in 1970 by Yehudit Arnon, who directed it through 1996, as an extension of the Ga’aton Repertoire Dance group.  Today the company’s work is identified by the compositions of its Artistic Director—Rami Be’er, who also runs KCDC 2, the young company.

KCDC simultaneously holds 5-6 different dance productions and tours globally.

About Rami Be’er

Rami Be’er was born and raised on Kibbutz Ga’aton in the Western Galilee, northern Israel.  Music and art were his bread and butter growing up. His father played violin, his sisters played viola and violin and Rami picked up cello.  After completing his mandatory military service, he found himself at a junction: Should he follow a promising music career or pursue a newly explored path in dance?

Motivated by his life-long mentor and teacher, Yehudit Arnon, Be’er voted for the latter, reasoning that composing dance integrated most other stage art forms: music, design and lighting.  Rami’s drawing and sculpting background is manifested in the stage and costume design, his passion for music is unleashed in the way he pieces together the soundtrack, and his aesthetic vision is carefully crafted into the lighting design.

“I concoct a total experience of music, text, visual and movement,” says Rami, “taking in my impressions of the bounty all around.” “Dance is a way of life for me. I believe that any art form touches on our human condition and arouses existential explorations. I invite the audience to a journey. I provide the tip of the rope, and leave a wide range for individual interpretation and connotation.”

When asked what are his sources of inspiration, Rami replies that it can be a song he hears, a curious object, the angle in which a sun ray falls on a leaf, pregnant with rain due.

Be’er’s parents, Holocaust survivals, were members, along with Yehudit Arnon, in the commune that founded Kibbutz Ga’aton. Rami joined KCDC in 1980 as a dancer and house choreographer and rapidly made his mark.  He has since created over 40 full-piece productions for the company, leaving his signature footprint along the way.  Be’er produces at a pace of 1-2 full soirée shows a year, turning the corner for KCDC, now a globally renowned dance company.

About International Dance Village

Far away, on the other side of the rainbow, there is a little village, an International Dance Village, where dance students from around the world congregate to create.  When I came to visit, there were people dancing on dirt foot paths, behind glass doors, across lawns.  This is a unique program, initiated by Rami Be’er in 2008 on Kibbutz Ga’aton, where KCDC breaths and works.

“The extensive Ga’aton and neighboring community are engaged in this initiative, funded by Raaya Strauss.  The kibbutz communal dining hall, named “Beit Raaya,” was converted into 2 spacious dance studios, flushed with morning sun light, where KCDC rehearses daily.  There are 6 additional studios on site, with a little “home made” café where dancers and community members hang out and chill.  Once a month, on a Saturday, a collaboration between KCDC, Keshet Eylong and Teva Yechiam hostel offers a unique weekend get-away package of dance, music and pampering in the pea-green Kibbutz setting.

“There is a pyramid at the heart of kibbutz Ga’aton,” says Rami Be’er. At the top there lies the performing KCDC, then there’s KCDC 2 and Masa (“Journey” in Hebrew). The surrounding community consists of the supporting foundation of this structure. Masa is a dance immersion program that brings dance students from across the globe for a period of 5 months on the kibbutz. There is no other program like it in the world.

The literal meaning of kibbutz is a collective gathering, but there is also a double meaning in the term Kibbutz galuyot, which means an international collective gathering.  And that is what the International Dance Village is all about: a little colony of people nurturing one another, living, expressing and creating ensemble.

Talia Baruch is a writer and translator covering the dance/theater scene in San Francisco, where she has been living for the past 11 years. She is the founder of Copyous, providing creative copywriting and Localization Strategies. The ingredients that shaped her life are the explosive dance scene in urban Tel Aviv, where she grew up, the pea-green English country side, where she inhaled a handsome amount of fresh-manure & horseback-countered through endless woods, and the 24/7 Localization/Internationalization business bustle, that put perspective to it all. www.copyous.com

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