Love Cycle by L-E-V

King’s Theatre, Edinburgh
OCD Love; August 9, 2018, ★★★★
Love Chapter 2; August 10, 2018, ★★★★

David Mead

Linked under the title Love Cycle, Sharon Eyal’s OCD Love and Love Chapter 2 for her and Gai Behar’s L-E-V Dance Company are jammed full of her trademarks: fast paced twitching and jerking mixed with fluid upper bodies, walking on high tiptoe as if in high heels, references to ballet, and above all, energy. Both shows are non-stop, stamina-sapping affairs, and assault on the eyes and ears that leaves the audience gasping as much as the dancers.

There seems to be lot of works taking love as a theme in Edinburgh this year and much of the inspiration for OCD Love 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. It’s one example of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), in which people often experience frequent obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours. They can actually take many forms but the repeated image or urge causes feelings of anxiety, disgust or unease. It’s as if doing something multiple times somehow neutralises the thought, even though those who suffer know it is irrational.

Both works open to the sound of tapping, in OCD Love like a speeded up metronome or something clanking against metal, in Love Chapter 2 like the never-ending tick-tock of a clock.

OCD LovePhoto Eyal Landesman
OCD Love
Photo Eyal Landesman

In OCD Love, a black-leotarded female body twists and turns in the black space, as if lost in nothingness. It is beautiful and strangely compelling. When the ensemble join her, the energy ramps up as Behar and Eyal present a world of non-stop noise and movement to DJ Ori Lichtik’s relentless music, which includes percussion to sound like a beating heart. OCD references abound, not least in the repetitive nature of the choreography. One specific is the dancers frequently wiping their hands on their bodies as if trying to rid themselves of germs. Fear of contamination by disease, infection or an unpleasant substance is a common obsession.

Yet among the intense dance one does sense a desire for escape. That one woman always trying to find her way out. Just like OCD, it’s as though she knows what is happening, knows why. There are moments when freedom does seem just around the corner, only for the door to be quickly and firmly slammed shut as she becomes lost in her torment once more.

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

Both works but especially Love Chapter 2, in which all five dancers are on stage throughout, feature a lot of almost ritualistic movement, phrases repeated over and over as if in a trance. Eyal’s handling of the ensemble is certainly impressive, patterns and shapes come and go remarkably fluidly. In OCD Love, it’s a circle they often come back to but in Love Chapter 2 it tends more to a diagonal line. In both works, the choreography often sees one dancer break out of the group. Yet, however hard he or she tries, even punching in frustration, just like with OCD, escape is impossible, and it’s not long before they are subsumed once more.

Look out too for the subverted classical ballet references, a common feature of Eyal’s dance. OCD Love includes what I’ll call an ‘Odette’ moment, a beautiful attitude and a series of neat tendus that suggest order and that spring from nowhere before disappearing just as quickly. In Love Chapter 2 there are some disjointed balletic ports de bras and tottering as if bouréeing on pointe.

Love Cycle is very much that with Love Chapter 2 referencing much of what is seen in the first work. That second piece goes into what Eyal calls the desolation after the sufferer has understood what has happened and all has been lost. The designs emphasise this, with everyone in grey, against a grey background, initially at least in a misty haze. It’s a no-mans-land of space in which minds and bodies seem lost and are floating in isolation. Yet, even here, amongst the despair, there are odd glimmers of hope as dancers occasionally break free.

Apart from one moment towards the end of Love Chapter 2 when we see smiles, recognition of each other and a momentary sense at least that a way out has indeed been found, the dancers inhabit a deep emotional state. It is unbelievably intense, as in their accuracy and quality. There is a lot of unison, in Love Chapter 2 especially, yet there’s also just enough variation that we see the dancers as individuals.

When the noise and action suddenly stops and the curtain drops, you can almost hear the breath in the auditorium as the audience relaxes once more. The demands on the dancers probably make it impossible, and it would demand a lot of the audience too, but I couldn’t help wondering what it would be like to see the works back to back on the same evening. Just seeing one, there are times when I wanted to escape the relentlessness myself, but it would be an interesting experience, and certainly a test.