With its 35 dancers out in full force on the stage of Southam Hall, les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal under the spell of choreographer Ohad Naharin has created a synthesis of some of his past work bringing together the musics and dancers of many origins. Almost the way Peter Brook integrated the Hindu epic with actors from all the continents, Naharin’s company Batsheva Dance, actually founded by Martha Graham, has become a meeting place for dancers from around the world, and now, Naharin’s recent creation sends us into a spiral of hybrid creativity that sets one’s head spinning.
This meeting of differences, becomes a corporeal poetics of disruption of transformation, proposing lyrics with new meanings, discordant melodies, rhythms and sounds that suggest a postmodern imagination buried within that enigmatic title Minus One!! Such an accumulation of differences inevitably produces something new. And that is what strikes us immediately.
The religious origins of the thirteen verses of this cumulative song Ecchad Mi Yodea emphasized the spiritually based secure knowledge of One God but relocated in this frantic performance of a whole mixed community of artists teetering on the brink of collapse, sharing their dancing talents as they disrupt the conventions of each piece of music. The knowledge of ONE God taken from the Haggadah of the Passover meal is no longer a secure knowledge. The force of creation is henceforth multiple, hybrid, rhizomatic, frantically revolving, sharing and reworking
After teasing us with a playful moment in front of the house with the lights up, there is a roaring vibration that sends us off to the contemporary heavy metal sound of Dick Dale, and a new order of life in the world, (Hava Nagila), reminding me of the way Thalheimer (from the Berliner Schaubühner ) introduced his frightening version of Tartuffe at Montreal’s Festival TransAmerique last year. That moment suggested the opening of new creative path as the voice off of Eve ( Hava), whispers to us that out of the illusion of beauty, there is a fine line that separates madness from sanity, the panic behind the laughter and the coexistence of fatigue and elegance as the suggestion of Asian movement set the bodies up against flowing material as one finds in may Chinese or Japanese performance. And the stage erupts suggesting that If ONE means God, as the lyrics of the Hebrew song suggest, Naharin’s disruptive reading of the music, as well as the lyrics of all the traditions intertwined , tell us that perhaps “One” is no longer possible because of the broken rules, as everyone lets lose, oversteps all boundaries, changes the meanings and seeks something new. In each sequence we see how this effort becomes overwhelming…clothes flying off in a huge heap, bodies tremble and thrust themselves in all directions, playful pas de deux become sites of research with moving body fusing folklore, lusty impulses and ironic contradictions as highly disciplined lines of moving bodies are pushed to the limits and collapse. Where is the fine line between exhaustion and elegance? Everywhere on this stage as the bodies seek liberty from all the music and every dance tradition.
A frantic orgy of popular dancing and hugging, set to the music of Somewhere over the Rainbow grows out of traditional Hassidic dance performance turns into a most extraordinary uniting of various expressions of collective pleasure!! Latin American Cha cha cha turns into a slow form of acrobatics, Mambo’s become Scottish jigs as a long circus style figure on stilts emerges out of some invisible Cirque du Soleil aesthetic and pierces the air with her vocal leaps from the lowest of tones up to the highest ranges of the feminine voice that only Ima Sumac could achieve. Que Sera Sera becomes a fun filled study of multiple couples while the discordant sounds of the musical mixture veers towards a serious moment of a Dance theatre confession, where voices off of various dancers, separate themselves from the chorus line, advancing like a human steam roller, spitting out and then absorbing each individual who tells his or her own story. The personal accounts of the difficulties of becoming a dancer, stress the hardships, the breakdowns, and confirm the whispering voice at the beginning telling us how creativity and madness are not far apart.
One assumed this was to be a seamless association of many numbers but to my mind it quickly became evident that each piece stood out in its own right, some more powerfully than others. Those multiple breaks were a fine way to titillate the spectator, leaving the audience wondering what was coming next since the titles of the musical numbers in the program only told part of the story. The rest was left to the imagination of the choreographer and that was impossible to predict.!! And the result was an evening of enormous excitement and great pleasure.