L-E-V explore compulsive obsession in OCD Love

Experimental Theater at the National Theater, Taipei
November 5, 2017

David Mead

L-E-V Dance Company’s name includes reference to the Hebrew word for heart (lev), so perhaps it rather appropriate choreographers Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar turn to it as the theme of a work.

While matters of the heart are important to OCD Love though, as the title suggests, even more so is obsessive-compulsive disorder. Characterised by disturbing thoughts, images, or urges that intrude into the mind causing anxiety or discomfort, and often leading to repetitive ritual actions, it brings challenges to those with it, to family and friends, to love and life. Much of the inspiration for the piece comes from OCD by poet Neil Hilborn, that describes a woman in a relationship with a man with the disorder that eventually fails, but which he cannot let go of.

OCD Love by Sharon Eyal and Gai BeharPhoto Regina Brocke
OCD Love by Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar
Photo Regina Brocke

OCD opens with a black-leotarded body (Rebecca Hytting) twisting and turning in the black space. Sometimes her limbs seem dislocated from her body as she preens herself to the percussive sound of what sounds like a speeded-up metronome or something being tapped madly against metal. It is nicely lit but isn’t especially memorable and doesn’t really fire up the imagination. What is does do is set the scene for what follows, though; dance with a strong theme that doesn’t need to turn to anything else for effect; and very, very good it is too.

Once the rest of the ensemble join in, Behar and Eyal present a world of noise, of non-stop shaking, quivering, throbbing movement. Yet, even with DJ Ori Lichtik’s relentless music ramped up and bashing out (although not oppressively so), and the dance frantic, intense and tempestuous, one senses a desire and a search for peace. It’s there in the dance too, breaking the surface occasionally, often in a classical ballet reference, as in an ‘Odette’ moment, a beautiful attitude, or a series of neat tendus, all of which spring from nowhere.

When you have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, you don’t really get quiet moments.
Even in bed, I’m thinking:
Did I lock the doors? Yes.
Did I wash my hands? Yes.
Did I lock the doors? Yes.
Did I wash my hands? Yes.
But when I saw her, the only thing I could think about was the hairpin curve of her lips.

(From OCD by Neil Hilborn)

The choreography reflects perfectly the obsessive-compulsive. There’s a lot of almost tribal movement, sometimes in a circle, sometimes in other formations. It centres largely around one female who, however hard she tries, cannot free herself of the others (not unlike the character in the poem). And she certainly tries, even making as if to punch them in the solar plexus at one point.

Appropriately, there is a lot of repetition (Hilborn’s poem includes the male speaker describing how he turns lights off and on, and off and on, and so on) but it’s always being interrupted or done with small variations; always just enough to keep both the mood and the interest. It is very inventive.

OCD LovePhoto Eyal Landesman
OCD Love
Photo Eyal Landesman

Really striking is the accuracy and quality of the dancers. Moments of unison glide seamlessly out of individual phrases, then break apart again just as smoothly. They are all quite outstanding although it’s the men who leave most impression, especially Shamel Pitts, capable of power one moment and soft the next; and always beautiful. Like a bottle of sparkling wine, he seems full of pent up energy just waiting to be released.

OCD Love closes with a female dancer arching ever backwards as if falling into some deep abyss. Perhaps there really is no escape.

Choreography, dancers, music, performance: electric all.