Unrelated to the post below: My wallet was returned to my apartment this morning by a kind, sincere, grandfatherly man via moped; helmet still on his head, who fretted over the fact that the contents had been a bit rearranged. He explained that the police would have been less than effective, and he himself had even tried the American Embassy to see what they could do. They were less than enthusiastic about helping – above and beyond so purely defined. Right after he left, the shop keeper called to see if I received the wallet and to make sure I had what I needed. After explaining how grateful I was and how moved I was by his kindness, he simply said, in his beautiful broken English: “I hope you will do this for someone else if the need appears itself.”
eyes closed, breathless, and touched…
If you go back far enough, you will discover that men totally invented dancing. Yes, it’s true. As with almost all other great inventions, men are responsible for this phenomenal art form, for its richness and diversity, for its ability to serve as social affirmation, for its theatricality, and for its utter cool-ness. Men danced women’s roles in the high courts of France, men would dance to celebrate a particularly abundant harvest – ie. lots of slain antelope for food, and men invented spinning on your head. Men even invented pointe shoes – so take that. We certainly didn’t want to wear them but knew someone had to. Dancing men make the world go around and when men dance together on stage, the world stops to watch.
ummm, in case Ani DiFranco asks, yeah, sure…..give her my email address….
All joking aside, there is a different kind of energy on stage and in the theatre when men dance. But there would also be a different energy on stage and in the theatre if walruses took to dancing. Anything that offers us a chance to see something unfamiliar is going to catch our eyes: circus acts, bumble bees in tunics, men dancing together on stage. And more often than not, subject matter for dances comprised of men often hinges on masculinity, female companionship, and bravado. It is somewhat rare to see a men’s piece that lives in more sensitive subject matter and I think it is because the opportunity to work with an ensemble of men is so rare, that as a dance maker, one may wish to capitalize on the rarity of the assembled group of guys and use them the way people are used to seeing them used: throw each other around, be acrobatic, show off your skills, wear loincloths and do lots of movements close to the ground. Or you could ride the fine line between being masculine and being really balletic, that always gets a crowd going!
Yossi Berg and Oded Graf presented a work in Suzanne Dellal’s smaller venue. The work was called:” 4 Men, Alice, Bach, and the Deer.” In this 50 minute piece, there were four men who entered the stage in super hero masks, they sang and talked about a woman named Alice, danced to Bach’s Chaconne, and there was a stuffed deer on stage. I so did not understand the title.
The piece began with men cha cha cha-ing, repetitiously, in a straight line upstage and then suddenly the partnering began. Sumptuous, detailed, and mind-boggling partnering that took me away from the fact that I was watching an ensemble of men, and led me to seeing four, really talented people dancing on stage. The movement was organic, the dynamics constantly shifted, and there was so much being said that it was hard to read it all, but I delighted in the abundance of the words and felt the liberty to pick and choose what I wanted to watch. Then came a moment that made me cringe: all four men in the middle of a lengthier phrase, yelled “yeah” and simultaneously beat theirs chests. Oh no! Was this going to go down that familiar path? Bravado? Machismo? It was too early to tell if this was tongue in cheek or if it was really a sad turn in the road. I was guarded, prepared to throw my hands in the air with disgust, prepared to sigh audibly…but:
It was relentless, the assault of typical masculinity, and these choreographers knew how to work the room. They had us in the palms of their hands because they were bold with the clichés and knew how to play them. The piece later evolved by adding text, allowing the men to basically sing and danc a tribute to Alice, which gave way to emotional conflict, jealousy. There was a duet that developed with Darwinian speed and was so gripping that I never wanted it to end. Always surprising, remarkably simple, arrestingly powerful.
Israeli choreographers don’t abide much by that Doris Humphrey rule of making your ending the most important part of your piece. In fact, every show I have seen so far has left me hanging. No tidy bows and ribbons, no pretty packaging. Just a stop or a fade into the distance, leaving some questions unanswered and doors open to multiple interpretations. Cunning? or an oversight? Who knows, but there is an unmistakable penchant for leaving dances a little unfinished. This piece certainly fell into that category. After a strobe light section – thank goodness I am not epileptic is all I can say,( there were NO warning signs that we would be entering a rave 25 minutes into the work) the deer was slaughtered. Subsequently it was dragged away, and what was left were three of the four men partnering the “murderer” one by one until it was just him on stage. I don’t really know what all of that meant, but as is the case with much of what I have seen so far, I didn’t care if it was mysterious. Dances here aren’t designed to narrate a specific story. They get inside and leave residue that becomes more a feeling than an intellectual connection. You may not “get it,” but somehow you don’t care because what remains is powerful enough.
The dancers here are good. I mean, real good. Charismatic, flexible, diverse, committed, engaging, and so serious about what they do. I was haunted by this work for some time after it was over because of the content and the brilliant performances. There is so much to be said about dance makers who can give us something juicy, provide incredible movement, and work with text in a way that is so clever it defies reason – especially since the text was English, not the native language of the dance makers, making it even more poetic. The choreographers aren’t afraid of movement. They embrace it, all kinds of movement, and have a gift for making dances that actually dance, and dances that speak volumes. Well, there was the Kibbutz mess of a piece, but I’ll just chose to forget that I actually saw a reputable company do heel stretches one second and west African movement the next. What a disaster!
Maybe it is the fact that men aren’t such a hot commodity here, (there seem to be plenty to go around,) that instills in them a kind of drive that propels them to such admirable places. I will admit in Yasmeen Godder’s work, the men did pale in comparison to the women, but honestly that was the only show I saw where that was the case. In all others, the men held their own, and with the “4 men” piece, the guys astounded me by merely touching upon the notion/novelty that the cast was all men, but that soon dissipated into some really wonderful choreography and really wonderful dancing, about men, by men, and solid, not because they were men.
Telegraph, Telephone, Ships, Planes, Printing Press, and chauvinism – ALL invented by men!