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Flash Review 1, 5-13: Claustrophobia
Monitoring the "Hall" with Yasmeen Godder
By Gus Solomons jr
Copyright 2003 Gus Solomons jr
NEW YORK -- Five lonely
strangers find themselves in a dingy dance hall after a nameless
war in Yasmeen Godder's "Hall." The windowless room has a few mirrors
on its walls, a linoleum floor, a modernistic chandelier above,
and of course a mirror ball that spins languorously at the start
and end of the piece. In this stark setting the refugees try desperately
to relive past joys and bond new emotional ties.
Godder, a graduate of
NYU/Tisch School of the Arts, has been working in Israel and America
for the past few years. Since its creation in 2001, "Hall" has been
performed regularly in Tel Aviv and toured Poland and Hungary. "Hall"
made its U.S. debut at the Kitchen, May 7-10, and will also be seen
at the Spoleto Festival, USA, later this summer.
Godder and the rest
of her dance crew: three women, one man, are fierce movers, and
the characters they draw have distinct, disturbing psyches. Shaven-headed
Shahar Brown wears trousers and projects male energy. She could
be a lesbian character, or a tomboy -- or just a woman playing a
man. Godder leaves the answer to our speculation. Brown tussles
with Yaniv Cohen, whose long black wig gives him an inordinately
low brow. His character is a sleazy peacock.
Later Brown duets with
Kama Kolton, also bald, but small and fragile, wearing high heels,
which she wears on her feet or on her head or covering her breasts
like a bra. During their dance in a corner of the room that supports
them, Brown appropriates the high heels and mimics Kolton's previous
actions with them, trying to gain -- or mock -- her femininity.
Kolton drapes Cohen's
hair over her baldness and strokes it lovingly as if it were her
own. Cohen foxtrots and tangos with Iris Erez, all the while checking
himself out in the mirrors on the walls and a compact mirror Erez
carries in her mouth. In a pretty green dress with hair brushed
into a bun, Erez is the most outwardly "normal" of the five. Cohen
on the other hand is a constellation of tics. He sputters like a
temperamental automobile, lurches around with beautifully modulated
awkwardness, like a drunken gazelle, doing an odd secret semaphore
with his hands.
Even in its silly and
indulgent moments, of which there are some, the piece works because
of the feisty confidence of Godder and her performers. They dance
fearlessly, both physically and emotionally. Godder's opening solo
is a volatile essay. She clamps her arms around an invisible obstacle
and pokes it furiously with her hands, runs a victory lap like a
triumphant athlete, biceps flexed, halts abruptly and gazes in our
direction with a quizzical half smile but is seeing the fourth wall
of the hall. An Arabic song, a theme song for the work, by Israeli
recording artist Dikla accompanies her.
Godder exits the hall
and returns wearing a spray of red roses tied to her chest with
red ribbons. Re'ut Ben-Ze'ev in clear plastic mules and a cocktail
dress joins her to sing Dikla's song live. She strides about the
space: a vivid presence with a lusty, rich soprano voice. When she's
done, she rushes out just as Godder offers her the flowers in vain.
The form of Godder's
work is reminiscent of Pina Bausch's oeuvre, and though more modest
in scale -- and certainly in length -- it has surprising, disturbing
emotional power. Artistic consultant Itzik Giuli has helped to shape
a strong scenario. Jacky Shemesh furnishes a subtly modulated light
design. The sound score is a collage of selections by Robert Kaplowitz,
Karni Postal, and Ran Slavin.
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