A Return to Pure Dance

In his dance work 'Undivided Void,’ Rami Be’er elevates his composition to the pure essence of a master.

Choreographers have a habit of giving their works enigmatic titles. They allude elliptically to a conceptual point of departure or a wellspring of ideas, but also leave the choreographer completely free to flow with the discoveries that arise during the process of creation, without being committed to a specific theme.

In his work “Undivided Void,” Rami Be’er – the artistic director of the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company – grapples with his ambitions and frustrations as an artist who is constantly trying to touch wholeness, yet finds that the closer he gets, the more elusive the perfection he seeks becomes. Always, there is the presence of what’s missing. (This theme is perhaps more apparent in the Hebrew title of the work, “Heser Hashalem,” which could be rendered “the absence of wholeness.”)

Be’er’s recent works show a return to pure dance. For the time being, possibly, he is sated with huge, dominant sets that create a platform for body movements that engage them in dialogue. Be’er has returned to movement, to composition. Not that these were ever lost, but they had been somewhat sidelined. In “Undivided Void” it’s the movement that dominates and exists in its own right. The lovely set, which is built in the course of the work from walls of natural wood, encloses the dance and leaves a small window – a kind of long, narrow slit. Behind it advances the torso of Renana Randy, which is a mere part of the whole (the rest of her body is hidden).

Suffused with a modest beauty, this work displays the control and artistic maturity that mark Be’er’s compositions, here elevated to the pure essence of a master. His compositional skills lie in his ability to move large groups of dancers in a fixed space, the clarity of the 
structures and the counterpoint in the movements of groups of dancers. Each group possesses its own movement motif, usually short – the duration of a word – and it is repeated with minor variations that accumulate power.

Be’er is also adept at gradually structuring a bloc of dancers that swallows everything in its path. Intertwined within the strength of the group – the dominant stage element – the duets and trios offer solutions of motion that tend to spring from a movement or compositional limitation that Be’er sets himself. This is where he fashions the more complex pearls of the great necklace of his work. The ensuing totality is, like putty, sliced into segments of varying size at the appropriate time, transitions that are surprising in their sharpness.

The idea of yearning for a pure essence is also reflected to a degree in the costumes. At first, the dancers are clad in layers of everyday attire, but later they are left wearing only tight shorts, bras for the women and open shirts for the men, all in black and white, without the colorfulness that characterized many of Be’er’s works in recent years. A shiny red stain of color in the form of a marionette from a puppet theater that is suddenly thrust from the slit in the wall brings home the work’s austere and delicate character in terms of colors.

The dancers are superb, achieving the full potential of each movement and honing it down to its minute details, as though polishing a gem. Standouts are Eyal Dadon, who opens the work with a solo of rapid, flexible movements of the palms of his hands, as though trying to catch something magical and elusive; and Ben Bach, who also performs a fully flowing solo number that displays high technical ability.

One of the group segments reflecting the stylistic difference of this work takes place in a ritual atmosphere. Circles of different sizes are created, with the dancers advancing in walking steps that call to mind a hora (Romanian) folk dance. The arms are thrust softly forward, a gesture possibly of supplication or prayer, or perhaps of longing for a light filled with the grace of transcendence, a reaching for wholeness.

Those who were thrilled by Be’er’s gigantic productions in the past may be disappointed by “Undivided Void.” But in this work, the choreographer appears to be searching less for external wholeness and more for the wholeness within, and therein lies its beauty.

Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company presents Rami Be’er’s “Undivided Void,” Monday, 10 February, at 20.30, Heichal Hatarbut, Modi’in. Tickets: (08) 973-7333/1.

Sarit Uziel
Sarit Uziel