L-E-V pummels theater walls with fine dance and street music.
Political activism has gotten so fracturous — possibly because it is so ignored by politicians — that radicals on the left have turned against their strongest potential allies. It was seen when unofficial Black Lives Matter protesters shut down a Seattle Bernie Sanders rally in August. Such is the sad state of political activism that it cannot see its targets clearly, but those people are a fringe sort, to be sure. Three or four protesters stood outside Portland State University’s Lincoln Hall on opening night of L-E-V’s three-night run, holding placards demanding we “boycott Israel” for that nation’s occupation of Palestinian communities — a legitimate grievance. It’s silly however because White Bird presents probably more Israeli dance companies in dissent of Israel’s militaristic society than any other presenter in Portland. Moreover, the performance from L-E-V is apolitical and multicultural, embodying the hopeful future of Israel through dance.
Six dancers performed: two Americans, one Guadalupan, one Swede, one Japanese, and one Israeli (note: zero Arabs). The troupe, split evenly male and female, are choreographed by Sharon Eyal of the famous Batsheva Dance Company. Their movement is fused to electronic music by Ori Lichtik and the lighting of Avi Yona Bueno (Bambi). The co-creator of the company, Gai Behar, is known for throwing great parties, and for curating arts events. Taken together as L-E-V, they offer a brilliant, sexy, virtuosic, interdisciplinary package.
Two pieces are perfromed in a 60-minute program called SARA | KILLER PIG. The opening, “Sara” clocks at 13 minutes, which is followed by “Killer Pig” (45 minutes) without more than a costume and lighting break. The pieces pair together nicely with continuous movement and energy, under haunting light, dressed in body-conforming costumes.
“Sara” begins with the troupe in black latex and slick sculpted hair; this reminded me a little too much of Mike Myer’s Sprockets, a spoof of avant-garde German television, but that association faded. The music kept pulling me in, seducing me through its expression of dance. As the vocals came on, dancer Rebecca Hytting lip-synched them almost becoming a narrator to the piece, staying to the side under faint spotlight. I thought by the end that it would make a great music video, were it filmed in a studio. For what this troupe is capable of, that piece was merely a warm-up.
“Killer Pig” begins with fleshy-translucent biblical-looking one-pieces; women covered their breasts while men exposed theirs. This music came off more like a terrific DJ-set than a score. Ori Licktik is present at live shows, reinterpreting his sound each time, allowing for improvisation. The dance takes off, never letting up, dancers becoming more heroic as they should be more exhausted. Rebeca Hytting slides into perfect splits, then contorts herself until she looks like a strange creature. My partner let out a painful moan as if she were attempting it herself.
Keren Lurie Pardes is the youngest seemingly uncorrupted member, yet when given the spotlight, she turns into the most seductive of the lot, even when granting fair trial to the men. Everyone to their own personality, no step looked identical between them; each had their own sensation of intensity and groove to guide them. It never looked messy though — totally solid.
Bambi and his lighting might be the unsung hero of this work however, because it was seemless. I noticed few light changes, yet moods were constantly evolving. Sometimes I focused long enough to catch subtleties, but much like a calculated DJ set, those moods blend and mix and cross-fade into one another and you don’t really notice until you’re in the middle of a different song. Similarly, there would be a new formation by the dancers and whatever lighting followed them wasn’t obvious, nor was their change into that formation obvious.
To be honest, I spaced out, gleefully absorbed visually while encased in thought. Although L-E-V seems like a highly intellectual gang of hyper-creative collaborators, it doesn’t have enough philosophical meat to really impress on me beyond the night. I am definitely following Ori Licktik to hear all his music though. I would be stoked to see L-E-V again or any of these dancers or creators in other projects another time.
As contemporary art has always challenged work that has life only in a vacuum, protected by the walls of the theatre from outside social grievances, it makes sense that street influences are being brought in more every year. It is a joy to see virtuosic ballet moves in fusion with the grunting motions of club music. From the most liberal political viewpoint, the theatre musn’t be the televison of the elite, and I think L-E-V is motivated in drawing new audiences there, so it will be compelling to see this project evolve. A show of great dance, delicious music, and seductive visuals does in fact make terrific television for everyone.
SARA | KILLER PIG is presented by White Bird Dance and runs October 16 and 17 at Lincoln Hall. More information is provided from the links below.