Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

July 8, 2011

Carte Blanche

Jacob's Pillow, Ted Shawn Theatre, Becket, MA
June 29, 2011
by Emily List

Love, the second offering in a two-part performance at Jacob's Pillow by Carte Blanche, Norway's national company of contemporary dance, is described by a critic from Ha'artz as "pure dance, singing the praise of the human body's gift of movement." The performance on Wednesday night in the Ted Shawn Theatre featuring two works by Batsheva Dance Company's Sharon Eyal, Killer Pig and Love, feels anything other than a celebration of the human body. Rather, the movement in both pieces appears distorted and constrained. Rarely does the choreography allow the dancers out of seemingly uncomfortable positions, their shoulders tensely set around their ears, their backs rounded, their bodies low to the ground in deep-set second-position grande plies.

Within Killer Pig and Love, virtually indistinguishable save for a lighting change (Avi Yona Bueno lights the floor red) and the addition in Love of a few male dancers, the company undulates listlessly around the stage to the grating beat of what sounds like a clock, menacingly ticking away. Just as there is a sense of relief when the relentlessly loud, pulsating music stops, there is a moment in Killer Pig when a dancer explores the full range of her extension, grande jeteing freely around the space, and it is a breath of fresh air.

There is little range of movement, the company mostly contorting their bodies and rising up and down in unison on the balls of their feet. The choreography is largely a corruption of classical ballet movements, the dancers pirouetting with feet flexed and legs turned in, or performing grande batmas with rounded backs, flexed feet and hands.

The company maintains a connection with the audience but it is a hostile one. At one point in Love, the dancers cease all movement and stare out at the viewers with arms crossed as if offering up a challenge. Inexplicably at the end of the piece, the dancers abandon the audience, leaving the stage several minutes before the music ends. The greatest challenge is finding meaning within this performance that is executed with technical precision but no apparent joy or appreciation for the love of dance.