KIBBUTZ contemporary dance company InfraRed: Blistering Edgy Dance for Both Dancers and Audience

To say that the performance of InfraRed on Saturday at the Luckman Theater was a dance concert would be seriously underestimating the enormity of what took place there. It was just as easily a lighting performance with music, or a music concert with theater, but it was was also dance on a powerful scale that could both  shock and move you with the force of its imagination. There is a visceral power in this company’s performance of InfraRed that sets you on the edge of your seat and also pins you back against it at the same time. Rami Be’er, who is the current force behind the company as its Artistic Director, is deep at work perfecting his broad, self-made vision of evening length works in which he creates a complete world, a world where all of the design elements, music and dance function as one organism.

Be’er is not one to give you a neat package. You have to discover his work for yourself. InfraRed is based on In The Black Garden. It’s writing that evokes French symbolist verse, conveying vague itemized expectations: soldiers, colors, stares, lies, an invisible, hidden world. Along with a setting there is also a question– “Do you feel the pain “? And a statement—“You can get used to it”. This is where InfraRed starts but the meaning of the journey is up for grabs. The actual scenario circles around on itself, eventually ending up where it started: a naked man, huddled on the stage and staring down into a white light. You might conclude that InfraRed is his imagining, but that would be only the most obvious of starting points. This is a world inhabited by women in cocoons, elemental color, squads of ersatz military men and women, broken, hyper-extended bodies, a deformed master of ceremonies and companion, and finally one creature with a fantastical braid of hair that transits the stage periodically on all fours. She seems magnetized to the floor and her hands face backward. There is also quite a lot of blistering hyper-physical dancing in both solos and ensembles that is always risking something. It is movement fueled by a fierce social edge.

The opening tableau, a naked man huddled before a light (I thought of someone staring into an open fire), a woman emerging from a paper cocoon and a kneeling pair of cross-sexed twins gives us something ancient feeling and at the same time, menacing. A world of darkness, shadows and pounding white light eventually gives way to  new and colorful landscapes. Later, the floor is painstakingly rolled up a taken away. I recalled a similar gesture in Kylián’s  27’ 52” .  There the torn up floor remains an element of the dancing, here the action becomes a self-contained ceremony or rite. A layer is peeled away, the journey continues.

Be’er’s movement is a broad-based mix of contemporary ballet, modern idioms and eccentric gesture. This company dances with an exhilarating consistency of style that often makes sexual identity irrelevant. Shared costuming and obscured lighting further blur the perception of gender. The confusions are intentional.

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The program makes no specific credits for individual dancers and roles but I feel compelled to mention at least one ensemble, an exceptional trio of men who move in a continuous, interconnected sequence of  partnering. It was phenomenal. The dancers were Ivica Bago, Shay Partush and Oz Mulay. Also notable were Korina Fraiman (as the girl in yellow) and Nir Even Shoham, both separately and as  partners. The sound design for the very complex collage of music that included Nine Inch Nails, Bach and Sigur Ros among others was skillfully edited by Alex Claude. The transitions were beautifully imagined and along with the lighting design (Be’er) exerted a powerful control over the emotional content and atmosphere of the individual sections. The wardrobe design was by Maor Tzabar. His unisex military frock coats (see photograph) which appeared in black and red were striking and were beautiful to watch, especially in the large ensemble sections.  The Luckman Theater, with its technical capability, big stage and close seating, allowed InfraRed its full impact.

The contemporary dance scene in Israel is better known through performances in Europe than here. The company, based on a kibbutz in West Galillee  is now forty years old. Up to now I have only seen Be’er’s work on video. Recently I was involved in a series of master classes covering some excerpts of choreography by the Israeli choreographer, Ohad Naharin. Working through a section of minus 16, one NDT dancer described Naharin’s  version of how the dancers feel when they suddenly explode from their seats: ‘Imagine you are on a bus and suddenly a bomb explodes under your seat.  You get the feeling that the Israeli’s are risking a lot in their dance making. Watching this company in InfraRed you don’t doubt it.

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