Tuesday, February 11, 2014

LeeSaar's Grass and Jackals

Photo: Yi-chun Wu
LeeSaar's Grass and Jackals leads us on a brief journey from dark to light, guided by seven mysterious, ninja-like dancers. At seven members, the company—led by Lee Sher and Saar Harari, who don't perform— is larger than ever, and in its Joyce debut, it has chosen to go bigger in all respects, notably with set elements and lighting (by the noted designer Bambi). As the weight of these production pieces increases, the reliance on the dancers' interactions seems to proportionately diminish—more beauty for perhaps a bit less soul.

But the beauty is undeniably moving. The sinewy dancers slink, crouch, stand perfectly still, and confront us repeatedly with direct gazes. Their eyebrows are painted like Groucho Marx's, hair taut in ponytails, in a highly stylized yet minimal aesthetic. As practioners of gaga, made prevalent by Ohad Naharin, they succeed more than others who work in this style, keeping quirks and superfluous additions to a minimum. Their hips move freely, legs float in extensions, knees are ever bent and loose. They lean forward on splayed knees, or in splits, examining us. Quick rabbit punches and chuffs remind us of the Israeli Army stints the two choreographers underwent before moving to New York. A certain degree of this steeliness pervades the movement and underlying kinetic drama. The soundtrack is an eclectic melange of acoustic guitar, uptempo dance, shimmering ambient, and pop tune ("Princess Crocodile," incidentally the title of LeeSaar's upcoming work at BAC.)

Photo: Yi-chun Wu
The backdrop looks like an intricately textured cutaway cliff; it is lit with varied gemstone colors. The lighting can often capture only the dancers' faces, or it can expand to suffuse the whole enterprise with sunrise gold. After a false ending, in which the seven lie in two diagonal lines, contracting slightly and collapsing again, one dancer, now in a butter-hued unitard, wafts her arms and moves with such rich intent that she appears to be underwater. Filaments begin to drip onto the stage apron, morphing from a liquid to something else, like cobwebs caught in a breeze, forming a transparent curtain wall. It is so beautiful that even after the curtain falls, the audience sits tranfixed.

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