The Israeli dance ensemble Vertigo, with Sian Olles and Daniel Costas, brought its dark and dramatic "One. One & One" to PS/21 in Chatham. (Photo by Steven J. Taylor)
Noa Wertheim describes her work “One. One & One” as an “individual’s wish to be whole whilest being challenged constantly by a fragmented reality within the personal, existential and spiritual realms of one’s being.”
But the dramatic piece, as performed on Friday night at PS/21 by the amazing Vertigo Dance Company, is so much more. To me, the hour-long work, was a powerful indictment on the direction of the world at large, one where societies across the globe are ravaged by war and climate change – and each one (and one and one) is a victim.
This excellent Israeli dance ensemble gripped the viewer with its poise and presence. And with music composed by Avi Belleli, which swung from beautiful to frightening, the work held sway.
The piece opened with Sian Olles centerstage, twisting and reaching with her limbs like a strong sapling seeking the sun. Upstage was another dancer who steadily and neatly shook out a bucket of soil. In gray and brown costumes, by Sasson Kedem, that referenced the everyday worker, the line of dirty made one consider farming, the neat rows of a field with Olles as the elegant tree in its center.
The serene scene quickly turned when the ensemble of nine took the stage for what felt like a fashion show catwalk. They strutted to the edge, stared at the audience and quickly turned around to strut off the other way. If "One. One & One" is about individuals, here the one showed the superficial side – a side that the world wants to promote strength and sass.
However, it’s all a cover for what followed, a violent search for meaning and unity as well as endless self-reproach as one navigates a dirty world – literally portrayed by the soil that was by now spread over every inch of stage.
There were many raw moments in the dance including when Olles threw herself again and again at Daniel Costa who seemed to ask for her as he slammed his hands on his chest, beckoning her. He caught her mid-air, protecting her in a flight she seemed compelled to make. This was repeated with all the cast including a section where the women caught the flying men.
All this sent my mind reeling to war and ecological destruction as the music startled with explosions and the dirt dust plumed around the dancers who were falling and staggering. Yarden Oz’s solo, in which she could barely stand and eventually fell lifeless into the others dancer's arms, was especially compelling.
In the end, all but one, Etai Peri, rose above the gritty world like graceful birds or swaying trees. Wertheim signals hopes for not just one, but all.