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Flash Review, 1-20: Trolling With Pinto
At The Kitchen, It's a Small World After All

By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2000 The Dance Insider

Inbal Pinto is that kid in the fifth grade who always had a mischievous twinkle in her eye and a joke ready on her tongue, probably a practical one that she was about to play on the teacher, or on you.

The first time I saw the twenty-something, auborn-haired Israeli choreographer, she was riding a bike across the great lawn at Duke University, which the American Dance Festival takes over every summer. The bike had one of those little bells on it.

Pinto had been invited to ADF to take part in its International Choreographers program, by creating a piece on the students. I caught a bit of one rehearsal. Pinto had two or three of her young charges seated and executing some fancy footwork. My dancer colleagues could describe it more exactly, but it involved a lot of well-articulated beats, interplay between the pairs of legs, and one leg running up the other. The metronome for these beats was glottal stops mouthed by the dancers.

I did not see enough to indicate what, if anything, this inventiveness might amount to.

Flash forward from June 1998 to this Wednesday, and from a classroom in North Carolina to the black box theater of The Kitchen in Chelsea, and there's that same movement, accompanied by the same glottal stops. It's been much refined and elaborated upon, with the legs thrown into even sharper focus by their being the only thing illuminated at the beginning of "Wrapped," which Pinto's company presents through Friday. :( That glyph is not a comment on the show, but on the typically-for-dance limited run, which really leaves no room for word of mouth to spread.

But that's why we're here, so here comes the word, from my big mouth.

Don't know if this mouth could execute those glottal stops, emitted by Pinto and partner Maya Lewandowsky, which made up most of the score for the opening duet. As for the larger question of whether this is just inventiveness or if Pinto has a grand design, after seeing 95% of this show (more on that below), I'm not sure. This was one evening where a transporter might have come in handy; I would have beamed one of my dancer colleagues to the Kitchen to review this show. Not because I didn't enjoy it, but because they're better at enthusiastically dissecting the kinetics.

I suspect that if you're a dancer, you'll dig this show. If you're a pedestrian like me, you'll dig parts, but much of it might strike you as that weird modern dance thing you just don't get.

If you're into visual art, however, you might want to come just for the sets (by Pinto) and lighting (by Felice Ross, Ya'akov Beresi, and Shai Yehudai). They endow a magical world, populated by tiny tree sculptures (I recognized a pair of sea-horses with a heart between them, and a dog), occasionally bisected by a guilded curtain, and illuminated by everything from what looks like glimmering candle-light, to a solitary campfire-type lantern with a dragon fly buzzing around it, to a playland red for the first big troll number.

Troll because a couple of characters enter--as does everyone else, through a narrow keyhole-like portal upstage center--squatting, their knees concealed by wide gowns. It's a Babes in Toyland universe where everyone moves, pretty much throughout the piece, with the staccato rhythm of wind-up dolls.

The clearest section is one which starts with tall dolls entering one-by-one a stage whose depth has been fifthed by the curtain. Their sucked-in cheeks were not novel--I've seen them in dances by Alwin Nikolais and Pilobolus. More unique--and virtuosic--was the choreography for and its execution by the last, Lilliputian doll to enter, Tali Perez. Her cheeks are puffed out for the duration of the piece--and I don't know for the life of me know how she does it. (Let's just list the whole ensemble, who also included Ron Oren, Moria Dvier, Tali Perez, Shira Ganor, Nir Tamir, and Amir Joseph.) As soon as they have all entered, the Gregorian chants kick in, a perfect tonal canvas for Pinto's Addams family.

The choreography here is spare, the timing exquisite. Characters react to each other; one eats something and gets sick; finally, the smaller one scrunches down, to the crunching of her dress, and discovers a little radio, which she turns on to produce a tinny music first she, then the others dance to. The tall ones pick her up and turn her sideways; her little toes start flexing to the music. They exit bopping, until only one is left, a spotlight capturing her as she locks and pops inna hip-hop mode, making a perfect circle from the early music beginning.

From here on, the choreography rambles. I see the influence of Ohad Naharin, whose company, Batsheva, Pinto once danced in, in the group unison and canon patterns. Bereft of the political undertones of Naharin's schemes, much here seems like advanced drill team routines whose dance impetus is uncertain. A number to Fats Waller's witty "Your Feets' Too Big" is strangely unmusical.

Here I should make a disclosure: I awoke this morning with a medium-grade migraine. It receded enough by mid-afternoon to make me feel that journeying to the theater was safe (not to mention warranted; I did not spot many of my colleagues Wednesday, leading me to think this may be the only review which appears before the show closes.) However, it was at precisely the point where I point out that Pinto started to lose her focus that I started to lose my own physical equilibrium (due to the earlier migraine, NOT the performance). As a result, I had trouble focusing, and missed the last five minutes. So I'll conclude cautiously by saying that at times Pinto is genuinely inventive, her choreography well-executed, and the general atmosphere mesmerizing, but it is safe to say she needs an editor. And perhaps someone to ask that question: What's it all about, Alfie?

Personal note: Unlike my previous experience with having to leave a theater early (See Flash Review, 12-19: Who's Been Naughty and Who's Been Nice), The Kitchen folks were utterly sympathetic. So I can happily recommend this theater as a place which is not only safe for adventurous choreographers, but imperfect audients.

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