Pulse, Praise, Pondering: Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company Returns to ATL

Words by Sydney Burrows | Images by Eyal Hirsch

When the curtain opened on Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company, the loud techno music, blinding lights, and  15 frantically moving dancers on stage immediately transported me out of Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center and into another world. The inhumane movements and strange music combinations somehow blended together to create an aesthetically pleasing, though occasionally confusing, hour-long experience.

Currently under the direction of Rami Be’er, KCDC came to Atlanta for the first time last October, to perform at the Dance Theater at Kennesaw State University’s Marietta campus. Their incredible lines and expressive movement were much talked about, so I was curious to catch this fall’s reprise — brought about largely due to community connections, since Western Galilee and Sandy Springs became Sister Cities in 2015.

Through use of detailed floor work and expansive movement, the piece took advantage of the large stage and showcased the dancers’ impressive technique. The lighting design varied based on the number of dancers on the stage, and occasionally the white rays portrayed soloists as angelic, reminding me of prayer. Thanks to the lighting design that enveloped the groups in a harsh rays, while cocooning the soloists in warmer hues, and the musical choices that clearly opened and closed each section, varying drastically in both tempo and style, there was a stark contrast between the warmth of the soloists and the cold power of the groups.

When dancers broke out into duets or solos, their movement and energies were drastically different than those of the group sections. Some duets were intimate and purposeful, created to portray a relationship and a connection. Other sections were calming, giving the audience a chance to catch our breaths. In one solo, the dancer stretched her body to her extremes – shaking like her own bones were breaking. Her movement seemed to make the space around her crackle. Her body felt the music as if its bass were her own pulse. Throughout the evening, the entire ensemble never lost this pulse, the music integral in each turn or jump, providing the backbone to each section.

The highlight of the evening was a section with only men — complete with vocals, stunning technique and portrayal of a body’s capabilities, and a balance of vulnerability and strength. The dancers alternated between low, staccato movement with guttural sounds and lighter, feminine hip motions and hand gestures. Even the feminine movement exuded power, especially paired with the group of half naked muscular men. There were also some surprisingly moving moments of forced humor, during which the lights would become extremely bright, and the dancers would flail to banjo music. Briefly, I felt like I was at a hoedown. These sections were obviously absurd, but they provided a sense of relief that let me catch up to the darker parts of the piece.

Although KCDC generally performs non-narrative works, I still found myself searching for meaning behind the movement and the text used in the piece. Entitled Horses in the Sky the work concluded to the song of the same title by Silver Mt. Zion. During one section, a dancer also speaks the lyrics. He reminded me of a preacher on a television screen: exaggerating his words and tempting the audience to join him in his crusade. Another dancer ripped red tape off her mouth and placed it on the stage during an agonizing, slow solo. I knew that there was a connection, but I couldn’t quite find it. Perhaps the dancer with the tape represented those who were silenced, and the chanting man was speaking on their behalf.

I left the performance feeling aesthetically content, and in awe of the dancers’ abilities. They were true athletes, and inspired me to track down an extra ballet class and schedule some time at the gym. As for the overall theme of the piece, I felt as though I was being convinced of something. Of what, I can’t say. Between their collective movements and poised gestures, the dancers were a group that seemed to know more than the rest of us and I desperately wanted to be a part of their world.

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