Vertigo Dance Company made its debut at Jacob’s Pillow last week as part of the Pillow’s 80th anniversary season. Performing Mana, a 60-minute exploration of light and darkness. The ensemble of ten dancers is an impressive cohesion of style, integration and alignment. At its best, the company, and the piece itself, moves with ease and propulsive forward force. The symmetry of bodies in space – lunging, leaping, rolling, pushing and pulling – is effortless, a considerable achievement for such a long and sustained creation. This is not a series of duets and trios that permit dancers to exit and recoup their energies. To the contrary, the ensemble is effectively onstage throughout (and yes, there are exits and entrances, but they seem secondary to the rest) and they never show signs of wear, tear or anything in-between.
Vertigo, and Israeli company now in its 20th year, has embraced a design for Mana that is as captivating as the dance. Lit by Dani Fishof-Magenta, set and dressed by Rakefet Levy, this proves a model of dance and design that are wholly organic – neither appears to serve the other and neither dance nor any single design element is a secondary function. The costumes beautifully embrace the movement of the dancers and the choreography that they execute. Lighting is strong, present and entirely in keeping with all else.
Ran Bagno’s score is tuned to dance and is always surprising without ever being intrusive. The whole is, as evidenced by the work, far greater than the sums of its superior parts.
Leaving the Ted Shawn Theatre after the performance, I wondered why, with all these strengths, the piece didn’t linger very long. How could so much imagination not stimulate my own for very long? And having considered this, I know that the lack of an emotional way in to the choreography and its source is the primary cause. I find that watching any performance – dance, theatre, music – without having an emotional response limits the possible impact for me. In the case of Vertigo, I feel that the work, impressive as it is – and it is very impressive – remains at a distance and that I am not invited to enter its world.
I can say without any qualification, that the audience felt quite connected, totally involved. A standing ovation is, as we know, nothing unusual in our current climate, but a standing, cheering, shouting audience – and this is how fairly to describe the Pillow audience I was part of – is beyond the commonplace.
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