Shechter, Eyal-Behar and Naharin: Mega Israel by Gauthier Dance

Haus der Berliner Festspiele, Berlin
April 14, 2019

Veronica Posth

Visiting from Stuttgart, Mega Israel is Gauthier Dance’s evening of three works by Israeli-born choreographers: Uprising by Hofesh Shechter, Killer Pig by Sharon Eyal-Gai Behar and Minus 16 by Ohad Naharin, artistic director of Batsheva Dance Company.

Uprising is a triumph of masculinity and synchronised physical forces om a stage where designs are generated entirely by the lights, which change between gloom and brightness. Nine men move in perfect unison. Combinations are challenging and stamina-sapping. Uneasy communication between the dancers increasingly poses questions. There is provocative interaction but also scenes of solidarity and brotherhood. Maybe the group is dealing with an act of resistance or rebellion as the title suggests, but are they compliant or are they fighting each other? There is aggressiveness but insecurity too. At one point something silly does end up as wrestling. Whichever, their ongoing struggle was beautifully performed.

Casually dressed, the men seem to exacerbate the problems they are dealing with as the rounded and grounded dance is amplified. Acrobatic jumps are part of the action too. The dance and distorted rock music (also by Shechter) draws you in, captures you and makes you feel part of it.

Gauthier Dance in Uprising by Hofesh ShechterPhoto Regina Brocke
Gauthier Dance in Uprising by Hofesh Shechter
Photo Regina Brocke

Uprising ends with a sculptural pyramid where the dancer on top stretches out with a little red flag. Dark irony or sarcasm? For me, it screamed out loud a comment on the on-going Israel-Palestine conflict.

Killer Pig appears as opposite. In this condensed version, six women move graciously to music by Ori Lichtik. Most of the time on relevé, in their stretchy skin coloured suits they exude self-confidence. They move boldly and intrepidly, dealing with an unexplored sensuality. As they try to find their own identities, there is nothing that can stop them. It is full of Eyal’s well-known edgy vocabulary with a focus on shoulders, elbows and hips. It is sassy and sensuous, yet it becomes quite repetitive and univocal. Lichtik’s techno groove is compelling and the dancers seem to be endlessly flexible but there is something missing, though it’s hard to pinpoint precisely what or why.

Gauthier Dance in Killer PigPhoto Regina Brocke
Gauthier Dance in Killer Pig
Photo Regina Brocke

After a 15-minute break (sort of) comes Minus 16. ‘Sort of’ because while the audience is still drinking and chilling in the foyer, a dancer starts an improvised solo to the soundtrack from Cha-Cha De Amor that keeps going until the spectators have retaken their seats.

The dance comes in distinct sections, the most striking with the cast seated on a half circle of chairs, the dance repeating and cumulatively growing in waves to Echad Mi Yodea, an Israeli popular song performed by The Tractor’s Revenge. The music, chanting and synchronised explosive movements generate incredible power and suspense.

Gauthier Dance in the 'Echad Mi Yodea' section from Ohad Naharin's Minus 16Photo Regina Brocke
Gauthier Dance in the ‘Echad Mi Yodea’ section from Ohad Naharin’s Minus 16
Photo Regina Brocke

After a duet to part of Vivaldi’s Stabat Mater, Minus 16 ends with the dancers, now dressed as ’50s elegant men, going into the audience and inviting a few to join them on stage and gently dance to Dean Martin’s ‘Sway’. The way it’s done makes it not at all embarrassing and the newcomers responded well. The idea also breaks the barrier or distance between dancers and people, and makes the important point that everyone can dance.

An excellent evening from a company full of excellent dancers, even if it did feel occasionally as if the essence, that secret ingredient was missing.