The pleasure of a gift – whether in giving or receiving – is as much in the concept of a gift as in the object itself. Think ‘gift’ and close your eyes. For many of us, this concept comes with a very specific image: a beautifully wrapped box, tied up with ribbon. Put a wrapped gift in front of anyone, and if only for a moment, the person becomes a child once more, full of wonder. The joy and delight of anticipation, contemplation and the eventual unwrapping – either carefully, or with reckless abandon – this is the giddy whirl of feelings set in motion by Inbal Pinto and Avshalom Pollak’s Wrapped.
Pinto and Pollak return here to a work that was originally created in the 1997 Curtain Up Festival at the Suzanne Dellal Centre, and received the Bessie Award (New York Dance and Performance Award) in 2000. Rehearsed and reworked with their current ensemble of dancers, Wrapped comes to vivid life onstage: a world unto itself, playing with the tension between what is hidden and what is revealed; the distance between expectations and encounters; the music, choreography and drama of this human body. Wrapped conjures a world imbued with a sense of nostalgia, the memory of childhood holidays, songs of the old country, the elegance of silent film stars and the belly laughs of vaudeville, the feeling of being very small in a place that is big, full of images, movement, sounds and mystery.
Wrapped is an unveiling of the unexpected, from the first duet with its astonishing union of grace and whimsical body percussion, to the final mischievous flash of color. The work begins in almost complete darkness, only two pairs of bare legs are visible from the knee down, and Oh! how those legs can dance! Performing a series of gestures in quick time, there is no background music except the rhythm established by movement, the small, swift moves punctuated occasionally by a grand gesture, as a leg extends up into the dark. Soon we see the legs belong to two young ladies sitting on a very red modern sofa, with an end table attached, on which perches a delicate tea cup.
In their pale, full-skirted dresses they might be two young socialites, or ballerinas on a break, deep in a conversation conveyed entirely through movement. Posture ever so slightly hunched, neck forward, gestures accompanied by a tongue-clacking rhythm, the brilliance of their performance is in its casual acknowledgement of the amazing repertoire of the human body, including the gestures and abilities one is urged to suppress or conceal in polite society. Scratching under the arm, between the toes, the sneezes, coughs and hiccups of these lovely limber ladies in their chiffon skirts are as hilarious as they are endearing.
The flocked wallpaper behind the girls disappears, and the work opens up into a dream world, somehow reminiscent of a holiday display window come to life. Paper hats (like the kind you fold out of newspaper), a huge propeller, tiny evergreens and an enormous gray wall at the back of the stage. Three women in bright, bright, red dresses conjure images of folk dances and stories of dolls come to life. A couple emerges, dressed in drab long johns, he carries her awkwardly onstage, held horizontally against his body. The subtle asymmetry of stance and gesture tells a story as they move, each in his or her own idiosyncratic path, sometimes encountering one another, losing sight of each other once again, then re-discovering each other in the space. It’s like the physical expression of the weirdness of all relationships. Once they even dance in each other’s arms, yet this too is somehow not as it should be, it feels funny, it looks funny. Is this love?
The soundtrack is sheer delight, an essential expression of this world, its desires and absurdity. One of my favorite moments is Fats Waller’s Your Feet’s Too Big; another comes a bit later, when the music of the body is further explored in the subtle difference between the breath as it enters and leaves the body through the nose or the mouth, the rhythm of feet as they stamp the floor, the fluid sway of the body. In another scene the clucking of chickens juxtaposed with ornate gowns, solemn gestures and vastly differing proportions makes a hearty contribution to the humor of this bizarre realm.
I want to stand up and cheer for the cast of incredibly talented performers who brought this work to vibrant life: Joseph Aitken, Zvi Fishzon, Ariel Gelbart, Noga Harmelin, Marta Luiza Jankowska,Chris Jäger, Cordelia Lange, Amit Marsino, Moran Muller.
The pleasure of immersion in this imaginative world is such that one is reluctant to leave. It’s a vast, gray world they move in, wrapped up in winter coats, dancing to an inner rhythm, swayed by dreams and music, sometimes there is a quiver, a stumble, a hiccup, and sometimes a flash of red is revealed. Yearning for wonder, longing for love; love that is sometimes lost and sometimes found.
Choreography, costumes, set & music design: Inbal Pinto, Avshalom Pollak; Lighting design: Shai Yehudai, Felice Ross, Yaakov Baresi; Music: Chaplin’s City Lights; Fats Waller; Norma; Esteban Salas; Beethoven – The Emperor; Art Tatum and Ben Webster – Bring in Da’ Noise Bring in Da’ Funk; Benny Goodman – The King of Swing/St. Louis Blues. Original cast: Ram Dekel, Yaara Dolev, Moria Dvir ,Sahar Itamar, Amit Goldenberg, Barak Marshall, Galit Nemirovsky, Yossi Pollak, Inbal Pinto, Veronika Sandoya, Michal Sharon, Niv Sheinfeld, Idit Solange, Noa Zuk.