Recently I had the unexpected pleasure of escaping the walls of Juilliard and attending a performance at the Joyce Theater.
For those of you who don’t know, the Joyce is a small theater located in Chelsea. The space is special because it is well suited to dance. It has a proscenium stage yet still feels very intimate, and it's a bridge between uptown and downtown dance aesthetics, and international as well as U.S.- and NYC-based companies. I also love how it continues to innovate with its programming. I remember being stunned by a show where the whole theater had been changed to be four-sided, and the choreographers were invited to design a dance that celebrated the four-sided format. I have also enjoyed shows that feature small up-and-coming companies alongside more established companies, all on the same bill. A few years ago I started to volunteer as an usher at the Joyce, and my sophomore year I managed to see so many shows for free. I even got my friends and my mom on board! I really started to feel like a part of the wider NYC dance community.
A few Thursdays ago, my mother and my friend Kitty managed to get well-priced tickets for a company called L-E-V, which is very small and based in Israel. The head choreographer, Sharon Eyal, used to dance in the famous Batsheva dance company and was its house choreographer for a time. Now she makes work for her company as well as companies all over the world. One of the most interesting things about her work are her collaborations with Tel Aviv nightlife and multidisciplinary art event curator Gai Behar and with DJ Ori Lichtik.
The performance was a loose sequel to a work that came to the Joyce two years ago. The first piece was entitled OCD love—it was based on a poem. The show that I saw most recently was called Love Chapter 2. It’s hard to describe the movement quality of Sharon Eyal. I’ve learned a bit of rep at a summer program. It is extremely taxing both mentally and physically. For one thing you are counting the whole time! Every single movement is attached to a count; often even the eyes are choreographed! The second element that makes the work difficult is the intense physical sensation the work is based upon. Sharon creates work by improvising, and having her dancers film her. The dancers will then learn the movement from the video, and Sharon will sculpt the dance. The work is often in unison, yet if you take a second look you will see that each dancer is experiencing the movement in their own way. It’s similar to when you go to a club and everyone is totally on the same page with the vibe of the DJ, but they're all choosing where the moment hits them.
The piece was like being in a trance. After the show a dancer and Ori Lichtik answered audience questions. Many people asked what the piece meant. It was amusing to hear the dancer and Ori completely brush aside the need for meaning and for comprehension of the work. They both stressed that the meaning was within the experience, sensation, and emotion that it elicited within the audience and the dancers. Thus the work represented hundreds of different fantasies.
I walked out of the Joyce feeling exceedingly thankful for the dance community, for the ability to usher in so many different definitions of dance onto a single stage and to come together to question, analyze, and enjoy each one. I also left feeling inspired as a dancer. The honesty and humanity of the body exceeds our understanding and brings us together. My faith in dance as a language that can communicate more than meaning has been renewed.