Juxtaposing the physical with the philosophical, the tender with the tantalizing and the political with the profane, Bodyland is a performance with bounce and balls. Yossi Berg and Oded Graf delve deep into the body, without neglecting any of its surfaces or connotations, including the body politic. In their signature fusion of dance with text, Yossi and Oded prove time and again that you can be entertaining without compromising art, funny without cliché and intelligent without being didactic. Their texts and timing are as tight as their bodies, all used to full advantage here.
The body is at once a physical entity and a cultural construct, capable of leaping tall buildings in a single bound (well, some of us) as well as abstract thought and myriad emotions. In a sense this apparent meeting of opposites reflects the work itself: Bodyland began in meticulous investigation, asking questions and probing feelings, and the outcome is an intensely physical work. This talented international ensemble (Denmark, France, Germany, Israel) of five men (including Oded and Yossi), presented a creative exploration of the way in which our bodies reflect our life experiences and are shaped and influenced by our culture and country. The mind, that mysterious entity, is part of the body as well, and it too, is entirely individual and yet permeated with the voices of its surroundings.
In the opening sequence Yossi walks out onto the empty stage with an enormous deflated foil balloon (later to be revealed as a giant silver foot). He stands in silence, looking outward, then places his hand on his chest, in a gesture that has become more symbolic than material: hand on heart. He names the place: heart. The very act of naming enfolds the complexity of the situation, the body touches, names, reflects upon itself. A cumulative circle of word and gesture emerges, repeating, retreating and rediscovering the refrain – heart, brain, butt, cheek, arm, arm… and the childlike wonder of surprise: fingers. Playful, sensual, defiant, sincere, comic, anxious – a world of thought and emotions condensed into poetic movement.
Ending in a defiant statement that elicited a round of applause (no, I refuse to give away any spoilers), the dark stage filled with a dance beat and one by one the men came onstage jumping rope in perfect time to Rihanna’s We Found Love. Bodyland is a feat of endurance, reveling in the abilities and pleasures of the body, as well as its weakness. The dancers leap, touch, embrace, tumble, push and arc their bodies, muscular, graceful, aggressive, pliant.
Each dancer is literally identified with his nation, body as geography, reminiscent of school trips where a hapless volunteer is made to stand in front of the group with the teacher pointing to body parts made to stand for geographic locations. In this instance, it is all taken to hilarious and sometimes erotic extremes, with movement and gesture illustrating national landmarks, traits and customs. Information and myth-information is delivered with equanimity, acrobatics and the occasional chorus line kick.
Bodyland is replete with feelings, aches and urges, images monumental and fragmented, light and colorful as a balloon, and as fragile. Taking on sensitive and controversial issues with acuity, humor, and integrity, it is an illuminating and entertaining work, and confirmed my belief that every man should own a pair of silver boxer shorts.
Bodyland was performed at Warehouse 2 in Jaffa Port on December 5, 6 & 7, 2013. Next stop Bora Bora, Aarhus, Denmark on December 11 & 12. For tickets, call +45 86 19 00 79.
Conceived and directed by Oded Graf & Yossi Berg; performers: Soren Linding Urup, Pierre Enaux, Robin Rohrmann, Oded Graf and Yossi Berg; music: Julia Giertz; dramaturgy: Carmen Mehnert; costumes & stage: Sille dons Heltoft; costume assistant: Camilla Lind; lights: Andreas Buhl, Ofer Laufer; stage manager: Noa Rosenthal.