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Juilliard Dance

Published: January 31, 2017
Category: review

Israeli Dance Troupe L-E-V Is OCD

By Rachel Straus, MusicalAmerica.com

The 10-year-old Israeli troupe L-E-V takes its name from a word that can be translated as
“heart.” Which is ironic, for in the group’s OCD Love (2015), six dancers’ hearts appear mangled, like partially melted pieces of corrugated iron. Created by L-E-V co-founders choreographer Sharon Eyal and the multi-media artist Gai Behar, the 60-minute work received a standing ovation at its January 14 performance on the Joyce Theater stage; it was danced to the hilt and disturbingly strange.


Eyal’s emotion-driven style stems in large part from Ohad Naharin, in whose Batsheva Dance Company she was a dancer and choreographer, from 1990 to 2012. Naharin’s Gaga technique recalls early 20th-century German expressionist dance, or Ausdruckstanz, where the emphasis was not on developing an elegant line, or an intricate choreographic relationship to the music, but on expressing—with the greatest of nuance—the panoply of human emotions. The Third Reich snuffed out the creative energies of Ausdruckstanz, but with Naharin and his dancers (past and present), Gaga technique has arguably become the most successful heir to the German experimental dance movement. It is spawning a myriad of choreographers, has a growing dictionary of terms, and is certifying numerous teachers who are inspiring professional dancers and lay people alike.


OCD Love is steeped in raw emotion. At one point, dancer Darren Devaney circles the stage like a matador, his arms aloft as though holding a lute, his facial expression like that of an ax murderer. His regal gate contrasts Mariko Kakizaki’s plaintive twisting and joyful jumping near him; he ignores that, for she seems to be his bird of prey. As he continues to circle her, he violently picks the top of his crotch, as though trying to itch his gut, or wanting to masturbate. He is a deviant, a live wire ready to explode. The muscles in his bare chest seem to pulse through his skin, like a tin drum being played from its underside. When four other male dancers enter, in much less clothed variations of his black matador trousers, it’s hard not to think of the gay underground club scene, circa 1990. Gon Biran, for one, is only wearing an epi-leather thong.


No one seems to desire one another in OCD Love. The downstage center solos, performed by four dancers, are full frontal, and remind one of the look-at-me style of go-go dancing. Here erotic desire is tendered through exhibitionist, narcissistic behavior; instead of being sexually titillating, it is violent and scary. The two women and four men have different roles. In the ensemble, the men take on a bravura tone. In her solo, Rebecca Hytting becomes a cauldron of convulsive, compartmentalized rage, as though her anger is snaking through her intestines one second and into her face the next. Unlike some of her peers, Hytting seems to understand deeply what this dance requires: a disassociated and mechanical approach in the group sections, and an emotionally out-of-control display in the solos, like a volcano spewing lava.


Before the curtain rose, we were informed that composer Ori Lichtik, a loyal L-E-V collaborator, would provide electronica in response to the dancers’ movements. Lichtik’s first contribution came with a fast clicking to indicate that time in OCD Love moves quickly. This idea carried through in the group sections, where the dancers performed in unison like bionic, wind-up soldiers. The dark, focused lighting of Thierry Dreyfus gave their muscles a hard, etched quality, like the serrated edge of a knife blade. Lichtik’s aggressive, repetitive electronica reinforced the notion of them as individuals, isolated one from the other. Shrouded in near-permanent darkness, they almost never touch, existing in a group but rarely acknowledging each other.

OCD Love began and ended with Kazizaki—the only dancer whose movement remained lyrical. At the beginning, she is alone and in the dark, twisting her limbs like a newborn discovering their range. At the end she stands erect and is lifted aloft by the ensemble. Radiated by the harsh overhead spotlight and consumed by the pounding of the beat, Kazizaki appeared like a sacrificial lamb, one who seems to be joining this fearful and fearsome group of lonely hearts.

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