Zvidance stirs up the marriage debate
Two new dances Zvidance presented at Dance Theater Workshop May 24-28 are about the here and now, in choreographer Zvi Gotheiner’s personal voice and one of wider communities. His “Les Noces” (“The Wedding”) is redrawn for our century from Bronislava Nijinska’s eponymous 1923 classic.
The focus of “Les Noces’” on the society over the individual may hold a personal meaning for Gotheiner who was born and raised on a kibbutz. His version is released from the strictures of earlier times and has a different outcome, a lighter poignancy. If Nijinska’s left us with a dread feeling about the couple’s matrimony, the Zvi dance acknowledges how far we’ve come from there.
While the original was made in a post-revolutionary, pre-feminist Russia, Gotheiner’s is post-Stonewall. The raids and riots that are a symbol of gay rights feel especially relevant now as we battle for the right to marry. Though Gotheiner’s “Les Noces” doesn’t try to replicate the famous movement motifs in the original, it riffs on its revolutionary spirit.
In a simple stage set of several black lacquered benches, Nijinska meets Ohad Naharin in Gotheiner’s dance to the Stravinsky score. Gotheiner danced with Batsheva and quotes choreographer Naharin’s ritualized movement; it’s a natural complement overlaid on Nijinska’s creation. Gotheiner’s own gay milieu and his kibbutz upbringing are other layers that congeal in this “Les Noces” for our time. It’s memorable, monumental, in no small part due to the ten Zvidancers esprit de’ corps, musicality, and sureness.
Mark London’s evocative lighting starts out with red horizontal stripes that pin the dancers in the space of the black box stage. The rigidity of the original is suggested. Kate Irish’s costumes are uniform undershirts and trousers for the men and silky slips for the women.
One scene evokes the prototypical Stonewall bar with couples kissing, literally joined at the mouth and steering toward private corners, in and out of hot spots created by the streaks of red light. After this the cast pairs off. The bride and groom are Jae Man Joo and Kuan Hui Chew (there is one other hetero pair), two pairs of women, and one male couple. The mating arrangement looks stable and the final community of lovers is bathed in the golden glow cast by London’s design. Two couples lie under the benches—now conjugal beds—set end to end they are also the wedding walk. The bride and groom tread carefully as the bells chime so as not to disturb the sacrament.
“Les Noces” is about the community and not the individual. It’s in “12A” that we meet the dancers—in playful child’s games––duets with words and movement. For example Chew and Rommel Salveron endearingly “converse.” He repeats “Have a nice day. Have a nice day… Have a nice trip.” She chides over and over, “Rommel, don’t break the china!”, while they turn over each other with straight-leg extensions. In an earlier solo he rattles off a list of his daily meager expenditure, “$1.75 slice, wonton soup.” He’s saving for a trip to P-town with his boyfriend. Ying-Ying Shiau, from Taiwan, relates her mothers superstitions and the proverb, “It’s better to believe it’s true than not to believe anything at all.”
They make funny faces in the stark light stretching their mouths and then form a chorus conducted by Jimmy Everett in which they let out a blood-curdling scream. Once was enough from Tere O’Connor.
Highlights are Chew’s brief mouthing of Scott Killian’s excellent score and Everett’s mimetic chatter movingly isolated in his hand.
In a final riveting solo Joo does a tai chi-like sequence with a middle section of agitated movement and a third very intense contracted journey away from us; its defined rigor is chilling to the alternating cacophonic electronics and sweet strings in the score.
The cast is completed by Samantha Harvey, Elisa King, Barbara Koch, Kyle Lang, Jocelyn Tobias, and Wen-Shuan Yang.