Niv Sheinfeld and Oren Laor touch the essence of love and mortality in a striking work, sensual, delicate and forceful in its visceral physicality. Inspired by Liat Dror and Nir Ben Gal’s The Third Dance (1990)*, Sheinfeld and Laor venture far and deep, taking the dance and standing it on its head, much as Gustav Mahler might encounter Elton John. The work reverberates with layers of meaning, emanating from the two choreographer/dancers, partners in life and work, creating dance together since 2004. Yet the love in this dance reaches beyond a pair of lovers, it also reflects on the love between mentor and student, the love that can blossom, even if only for the space of an hour, between performer and audience.
There is an elegance of composition in every aspect of this work: the movement language, the dancer’s relationship to the space and to one another, the timing, tonality, and soundtrack. As presented in Tmuna Theatre, the audience is seated on all four sides of a flat stage, with several rows of stadium seating on one side. It’s a black box setting, with a bare stage. Everything (and everyone) is visible, exposed. Sheinfeld and Laor emerge from among the audience, as if they had emerged from the collective unconscious, the hidden psyche coming out into the light. Coming down the stairs amid the rows of seats, they stand at the edge of the stage, facing the remaining three sides, gazing out and around. It is a gaze that encompasses a multitude of thoughts and feelings, an energy contained that is about to burst forth.
Niv Sheinfeld was a member of the Liat Dror and Nir Ben Gal Dance Company from 1992 – 1997, and there is a very organic relationship to the movement language of their work. There is something very grounded in the choreography of Liat Dror and Nir Ben Gal, a strong relationship to repetition, and a feeling of flow; all these are reflected in the sensibility of Sheinfeld and Laor’s work. Yet this dance is entirely their own in its surging energy, captivating sensuality, humor, and color. Vulnerable and playful, theirs is a dance willing to risk everything.
There is a strong connection between Sheinfeld and Laor. Although in the first part of the work they do not touch at all, their awareness of one another, and the forces between them, are almost palpable. The movement reflects aspects of a relationship. There is one who is still and one who is in motion, one who quietly gives direction and one who silently obeys; the balance of power is always in motion, shifting and changing. Sometimes they are in unison, and the shared movement heightens their individuality; a harmony that embodies within it, and embraces, difference and dissonance. Sheinfeld brings a bouquet of flowers to the stage, the archetypal symbol of love. Yet perhaps because this is not a bouquet of roses, but a riot of color, the flowers are reminiscent of a still life memento mori, a reminder of the evanescence of love and life. Much will happen with and to these flowers in the course of the work, by turns surprising, funny, violent, beautiful, and poignant.
It’s a physically demanding piece in which the very effort reflects its themes. Sheinfeld and Laor display a riveting agility and grace as they take the viewer on an intensely emotional journey. There is a vitality and wonderfully spontaneous feel to this work, yet it is precise in every detail, even to the deliberate sound of their shoes on the stage undercutting the romance of Mahler in the opening scene.
When they do come together for the first time, it is in the embrace of a slow dance, yet another image from the mythology of love. The expressive quality of their bodies and gaze conveys so much in those moments, sensual, affectionate, it is also full of longing. Yet the love that plays out on the stage is not all tender glances, flowers, and serenades. It can knock you down, rip you open, and tear you apart; it’s a wrestling match, desperate, erotic. Sheinfeld and Laor’s The Third Dance is an extremely intimate work, yet that intimacy somehow permeates their relationship to the audience as well. Torn and crushed, a carpet of flowers covers the stage in bright colors. The heart is fragile as a flower, and yet it endures; the dance prevails, finding beauty and wonder even in the ravages of time. Sheinfeld and Laor invite the audience into their intimacy – dazzling, heart-wrenching, exuberantly joyful, fierce, and tender.
*Sheinfeld and Laor have previously created Two Room Apartment based on the 1987 dance work by Liat Dror and Nir Ben Gal. Read the Midnight East review on this link.