Posted by: viewfromtheriva | January 19, 2011

The Split Ballet’s incredible Touch

Program cover for Touch, by choreographer Rami Be'er

In a city of treasures (the 1700 year-old palace of Diocletian being the crown jewel), the Split Ballet is a joy to behold.   After seeing how the company handled Yuri Vamos’  Romeo and Juliet last year, I knew this company was something special.  This season they are doing Touch, a new work by the Israeli Rami Be’er, one of the most celebrated and iconographic choreographers today.

Born in 1957 in Israel on a kibbutz (a sort of collective farm) he is the artistic director of the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company and in demand all over the world as a guest choreographer.

He has developed his own unique concept of dance, one that combines not only movement, but music, props, costumes and lighting.  Like Terrence Malick, Martin Scorcese, Ridley Scott, Fellini and other directors known for their visually sumptuous, edgy films, Be’er’s ballets are cinemagraphic.

As Be’er says, “…I try to construct an entire concept before I even enter the studio. In the work process, I address each segment from all angles – be it space, music, lighting or movement..”

Indeed, in the credits for Touch, Be’er is not just the choreographer, but the costume, lighting and sound designer.

Touch begins before the curtain rises.

On stage is a cube with a lemon tree growing out of the top of it.  Inside is a leotarded women whose body so perfectly fits the inside space that she can literally rotate 360 degrees as she tries to find her space—or escape?

When the curtain rises, the music erupts like a Rammstein concert–in your face, boot strutting, hard edge and way loud.

After an opening sequence where a solo dancer is dramatically revealed under series of sequential overhead spots that direct your eye and your mind to the unfolding tableau as he moves on his belly across the stage, rising and sinking to the music, the entire company appears, dressed in underwear and rags that become hoods or shawls depending on the movement.

Marching in seamless waves stretched across the stage, what is this procession of dream walkers coming to the front of the stage and then stiffly stopping to pose, legs out, arms up, then repeating with another wave of humanity and different poses?

As the chorus line of dancers assumes new shapes, and the music shifts to a different drama, the emotional sense also shifts.  Couples pair off and come together and apart with terrific kinesis–bodies, hair, arms flying,  legs twitch, shake uncontrollably (but oh so controlled!).

A male dancer splays his feet, inhales, slowly writhes and literally grows taller; dancers run together, are caught, hurled to the ground, roll into each other, entwine, knees and elbows become fulcrums as they unwind and rise and move off to replaced by others.

The constantly eerie, harsh, aggressive music is relentless but the dancing is so mesmerizing, it never gets in the way–somehow managing to balance between chaos and beauty.

And what music! From Olivier Messiaen’s Oraison, considered madly modern when it was written in 1937 to Susan Dietrich’s (The Space Lady) eerie Moosick from Planet Gaga in 2005.

There’s even work from The Books and Radiohead and a final choral coda from SMZ (“…everybody gets a little lost sometimes…” ) which continues until the final curtain.

There were so many magical moments–a stunning, romantic pas de deux;  a Gene Kelly moment as one of the terrific male dancers walked up, balanced and rocked down the side of a chair (tossing off this charming bit of acrobatics as if it was nothing more than skipping across the street); watching the entire company silently move to the rear of the stage just before the end of the performance and calmly tear down the scrim, revealing the wall, ladders, ropes and other backstage rawness as if to say, the magic is over, but we are here…and then standing there one by one, at angles to each other, and one by one facing us, stepping back or to the side, picking up their costume and majestically walking off stage.

Sittting in Split’s 19thC jewel box Italianate theatre, with its endless balconies, silk walls and painted ceiling and watching such gorgeous 2011 work, with a full blown snowstorm, lighting a la Ridley Scott and a ballet company obviously in love was incredible.

If you love ballet, get on a plane, come here and be Touched.

Enjoy our new Croatian vacation portal

Read more about Croatia at secret dalmatia’s unique blog

Coming to Split?


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