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Photo credit: Daniel Kaminsky
Photo credit: Daniel Kaminsky
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Tel Aviv Dance: 'Black/White' Reveals Masculine Shades Of Grey

Picture of Ana Harmon
Updated: 23 December 2016
Rachel Erdos‘ dance production Black/White utilizes an all-male cast to heighten the variations of masculine identity in two contrasting pieces. The six dancers are continuously pulled between violence and intimacy; the political and sexual relevance is especially poignant in Israel, a country known for simultaneous machismo and emotionality.

Hevel, a 25-minute long dark and smoky piece, opens the performance and features six representative figures engrossed in a Fight Club-esque atmosphere. American 1990s rock band Modest Mouse’s epic track The Stars Are Projectors propels the men through space, as they run, tumble, slide, and manhandle each other, all for the sake of some unknown end. In a recurring theme, one dancer is cast aside as the remaining group unifies in some action. Facial gestures and glances are often cues for unified responses.

The male cast includes Snir Nakar, Yoav Grinberg, Avi Mazilah, Harel Grazutis, Ishai Karasenti, and Liron Ozeri, and each one of them impressively alters between extreme physical states of hard and soft. Erdos’ choreographically complex compositions and energetically fluid partnering are well executed by her squad. She seems to have enjoyed the challenge of choreographing for dancers of the opposite sex.

Photo credit: Daniel Kaminsky
Photo credit: Daniel Kaminsky

Half way through Hevel, there is a shift into a quiet, vulnerable, even sanctified atmosphere. The men seem desperate for intimacy, often finding each other in momentary embraces, yet they continue to fall into spurts of violence and ridicule. At one point, a dancer aggressively pulls down the suit pants of another, creating a pang of discomfort in audience members.

By the close of Hevel, the men have returned to aggressive states, accompanied by the violent beat of Rage Against the Machine’s American rock hit Killing in the Name. The song’s coda, “F**K you, I won’t do what you tell me,” dramatizes the undressing of all the men on stage as the lights slowly go black. Are their bare bodies a sudden glimpse of vulnerability, or are they preparing for a brawl, hesitant to dirty their suits? A palpable tension seems to dissipate as Erdos’ next piece, The Man Upstairs, provides some relief.

Photo credit: Daniel Kaminsky
Photo credit: Daniel Kaminsky

Dancer Snir Nakar spreads his palms wide, catching a stream of red-orange sand cascading down from the top of Machsan 2 to a mellow track by Alberto Shwartz. He begins to move his hands up and down, briefly holding and releasing sand, reminiscent of the Jewish ritual Netilat Yadaim (hand-washing). This movement is exaggerated and repeated with increasing speed and vigor, characteristic of Erdos’ movement. The Man Upstairs poses less challenges to the audience, as it creates a more maternal and supportive environment. This piece feels like a cool down session post intensive workout.

One dancer is often tasked with supporting the weight of the other two, requiring trust, coordination and dependability. There is an emphasis on the dancers’ heads – perhaps Erdos is expanding the religious notion of the ‘man upstairs.’ The trio seems to be pulled between a force above them, perhaps the source of the sand, and themselves in devising where faith should be directed.

Erdos, a native of Newcastle upon Tyne, England, is now a well-established voice in the Tel Aviv dance scene and a recent recipient of an Independent Choreographer prize from the Ministry of Culture. Check-in with Erdos to stay informed about upcoming performances.