It Is the Lighting That Shines in This Tel Aviv Dance Show

Avshalom Pollak’s ‘Slug’ is polished and enjoyable, though Inbal Pinto’s choreography is missed. Lighting designer Yoann Tivoli provides the evening’s real highlights.

A scene from 'Slug.' Choreography is the weak link.
Michal Chelbin and Oded Plotnitsky

For the first time since the Inbal Pinto & Avshalom Pollak Dance Company was founded in 1992, it is presenting a work in which Pinto was not involved. The collaboration between the actor Pollak and the choreographer Pinto has produced some wonderful pieces over the years – some of the most successful and original works to come out of Israel, which were also warmly received abroad. Over the years, the roles of the two artists have blurred, and in this latest work, Pollak is the choreographer. According to the program, “Slug” represents a sense of time, boundaries and home. What we see is a collection of scenes connected by Russian poems that have been translated into Hebrew, as well as poems in English – Throughout the piece there is a lone microphone that is moved about the stage, as performer Zvi Fishzon and others recite or whisper the poems into it.

As the curtain rises, we behold the beautiful set designed by lighting designer Yoann Tivoli, with dozens of bulbs suspended from the ceiling at different heights, evoking a sky full of stars. An enormous lamp hangs in a mysterious castle, where a slender and enigmatic old man (Fishzon) lives, dressed in an elegant suit of black and white. It occurred to me that perhaps he is a type of vampire, as the sounds of thunder and shattering glass seemed to call to mind this image. His presence is mesmerizing. Dancers fill the stage as he recites the poems.

The movement language is familiar – I would describe it as mechanic-puppet-like movement that is simultaneously very human and moving. The movement is rich in detail and incredibly polished.

Superb skills

As in earlier productions, all the dancers are superb. Some, like Fishzon and Noga Harmelin, have been part of the family of this company for years. The dancers seem to have taken an active part in creating the choreography, which is based upon their improvisations, but unlike in the past, this time such segments often did not go beyond a display of possibilities and were not fully integrated into surprising compositions that really showed off the ensemble’s superb skills. In this show, there were too many segments in which the movement, although clearly identifiable as coming from the Pinto-Pollak style, did not really take off.

The best segments were the brief solos by a small group of dancers, which I imagine they created while enjoying the freedom to go with their own imaginings and create their own language. Here, too, Fishzon stood out as a performer who is not just talk. His dancing was a burst of delight tinged with tension, with beautifully flowing movements that belied his buttoned-up appearance.

He was also part of an enchanting trio with two female dancers. This segment began with light touches and evolved into the entire ensemble waltzing, as in a movie scene. This charming section was reminiscent of earlier productions.

And all due appreciation must be given to lighting designer Yoann Tivoli, who created the piece’s most spectacular moments, as when the entire floor of the stage turned red, and the suspended lights flashed red, brown and orange. It was all intoxicatingly gorgeous.

“Slug” is a fine production, but I’m not sure it really leaves a mark like some of this company’s excellent previous productions. It has many of the laudable elements that typify a Pinto-Pollak creation, and the dancers are terrific, but the choreography is the weak link. Perhaps it’s part of an interim stage in which Pollak is establishing himself as a distinctive choreographer in his own right, but in this program, Pinto’s absence was strongly felt.

Inbal Pinto & Avshalom Pollak Dance Company presents “Slug” at Suzanne Dellal Center, Tel Aviv on Thursday, July 14, at 21.00, and Friday, July 15, at 14.00 and 21.00.