Dance Review: Dance, with imagination, chutzpa

LINDA BELANS, Correspondent


News and Observer

DURHAM -- If the audience attended "Celebrating Israel's 50th Anniversary"

at the American Dance Festival expecting to get a little closer to

Israel's roots and branches, they may have thought they were in the

wrong theater for most of the evening.

Brenda Angiel, whose dancers literally climbed the walls in a piece

that was pure optical illusion, hails from Argentina. Inbal Pinto's

"Frieda & Rosa" is reminiscent of a child's pop-up book with sound

-- but whose themes have no connection to Pinto's home state of Israel.

Barak Marshall's "The Wive's Tale," the third dance on Wednesday's

program, is full of Israeli flavor, yet it came from a choreographer

who immigrated to Israel from Los Angeles in 1994.

But this international trio represents the shape of a world where native-borns

are becoming a rare species. And Israel is certainly no different.

What the trio of choreographers offered us was an engaging evening

of ADF-commissioned premieres -- a glimpse of art that is shaped by

culture, imagination and pure chutzpa.

Angiel, who has spent three years in the United States and received

a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, took Elizabeth Streb's

flashy wall climbing into a quieter, deeper plane of optical illusion

and lyricism in "South, Wall and After." The score, conceived by Angiel

and ADF musician Christian Cherry, added a sense of altered space and

time.The six dancers are suspended from the rafters by rigging strapped

around their waists. Their "floor" is the black back wall upon which

they stand, creating the illusion that we are watching this dance from

above. There is a cinematic quality to the work throughout the soft

duet, the seated dancers and the vigorous running side to side. The

overhead device is so effective that it's jarring to the senses when

a dancer enters from stage right on the normal plane. Relief comes

when he grabs onto one of the suspended dancers, joins the illusion

and reorients us.

The cinematic quality continued with Pinto's "Frieda & Rosa," but this

dance took us to a completely different universe where four larger-than-life

grotesque women schlepped in and out. Dressed in floor-length gray

paper dresses and walking in Teva shoes strapped to tall boxes, they

are a mixture of "Arsenic and Old Lace," MacBeth's witches and a nightmarish

vision of hunchbacked crones.

These characters both minister to and menace two "little girls," Elizabeth

Swallow and Summer Belnap, who engage in an intricate gestural and

clucking language. One sings a Hebrew nursery rhyme about a little

girl whose baked goods turn to coal. The work is immediate because

the action all takes place downstage in front of a gorgeous fabric

curtain designed by Pinto, who also designed the costumes. She's on

to something.

And so is Marshall, whose work echoes David Dorfman's athletic, luscious

movements interspersed with text. The music, traditional Romanian with

a splash of jazz, is by the Klezmatics.

The heart and soul of this work is Marshall's mother, the famed dancer,

singer and choreographer Margalit Oved, who acts as the chorus throughout.

Part oracle, part folklorist with a twinkle in her eye, she weaves


The 16 dancers, costumed in evocative contemporary funk and clunky

shoes by K. Meta, move exuberantly, as if driven by something both

urgent and wonderful. Plunging into deep knee bends and other exaggerated

folk dance motifs, they become moving candelabras.

Marshall, a Harvard graduate in social theory and philosophy, has been

making dances for about three years. His work is strong but not quite

woven the way his female ancestors wove their stories and lives.

The dancers in each of the three pieces were primarily ADF students

who learned the dances in three weeks. Mazel Tov to them. They looked



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