Bodytraffic delights as Chutzpah! kicks off in style

On a night when the snow made a late winter’s comeback, my wife and I trudged down to 41st and Oak, to the beautiful Norman and Annette Rothstein Theatre at the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver.

Bodytraffic runs from February 22 to 24.
Dancers from Bodytraffic perform as part of Chutzpah! 2014.

On a night when the snow made a late winter’s comeback, my wife and I trudged down to 41st and Oak, to the beautiful Norman and Annette Rothstein Theatre at the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver.

We took our seats twenty minutes before showtime, with almost every seat taken or reserved. The place was packed for the premiere, as Bodytraffic opened the 14th season of Chutzpah!, the Jewish performing arts extravaganza that has become a staple of late winter here in Vancouver, and the unofficial early kickoff to spring.

  • Sign up for Vancouver Observer e-news here for a chance to win 2 tickets to one of the following shows at Chutzpah! 2014: Donald Sales/Project 20 and Ate9 Dance Company (March 1), Uri Gurvich (March 2), Imperfect Dancers (March 6), Dudu Tassa (March 9).

The show was a three-part affair, the work of three talented choreographers coming together with a group of dancers who have wowed sold-out crowds around the world. Guests welcomed and sponsors thanked, we settled into the night as the house lights went black.

The show had something for everyone in the crowd from nineteen to ninety. First up was the eclectic “And at midnight, the green bride floated through the village square..." choreographed by Chutzpah favorite Barak Marshall. This was a new work and a world premiere. A dark comedy about jealousy and tension within a large Jewish family, the dancing is interspersed with three hilarious dialogue pieces in the form of sexual innuendos disguised as traditional recipes told by a male dancer to a female dancer. But the subtle undertones of malice and manipulation added a dark, almost disturbing element that frames the piece firmly as a moral tale. The dance of the ten performers speaks to sexual tension, gender roles and unrequited love – and ends with a raucous Jewish wedding that appears to have a few murders in it. Unabashedly irreverent, the piece offers plenty of laughs among the lessons. It makes you think as well as smile, and leaves you with mixed feelings.

 

But the highlight for me was the second act, “Dust”. The work of internationally renowned choreographer and musician Hofesh Shecter, it is an incredible melding of spoken word, light, rhythm and music and frenetic, expressive movement. You must experience this piece to appreciate how beautifully integrated the elements are. It opens with what seems an eternity of a drumbeat, yielding to a hypnotic trio moving under three red spotlights. I can’t describe the movements technically, and I am loath to reveal too much about this piece, for the sake of not spoiling it if you are planning to see it tonight or tomorrow. But the sense of explosive power underneath the frenetic, spastic movements is reminiscent, as my wife put it, of a movie like World War Z or District 9. The dancers alternated between zombies and angels, really exploring the whole range of human emotion.

I was transfixed, barely able to write more than a few scribbles on my pad, writing without looking as I jotted down words like “emotion”, “tension”, “dynamics”, “yearning”. The paper became a mess.  It is a story of the human condition, the different roles of men and women and the search for meaning that grips us all. The male dancers scurry around the stage like a pack of rats, the protagonist alternating between exultant hope and crushing despair. A recurring theme in “Dust” is the inexorable pull towards death we are all heir to. It is not a dark piece per se, though there are elements of darkness to it. Oddly, I was actually uplifted by the end. It felt real.

I spoke with Hofesh Shechter after the show. He cited his personal background experience as a factor in his choreography choices. He described the images in “Dust” as a kind of primordial diorama of human society. “I think growing up in Jerusalem, in Israel, you kind of observe society and culture in a different way”, he said. “In this choreography, things really came together in the sense of looking at human beings as being something really quite pathetic.”

He continued, “The women have this kind of explosive power, something very dangerous and animalistic. A lot of thoughts in this piece about how we organized ourselves, did it come from our animalistic instincts or is it from the head?”

 

One interesting tidbit: The voice you hear in this piece is all Hofesh. He made these recordings, using various accents and effects, to create this immersive soundscape that is as hypnotizing as it is jarring. “Dust” is truly a gem of a performance.

And then, to top it all off, the last twenty minutes are good old-fashioned fun, from Richard Siegal’s delightful “o2joy”. It’s a swinging good-time homage to some of the great classics of American jazz. The fusion of styles is superb – from swing to ballet and contemporary, the dancers know their stuff. I guarantee you will be grinning from ear to ear during the lip-syncing of “All Of Me” by Ella Fitzgerald.

See this performance Sunday February 23 at 2PM and 7:30PM, and Monday February 24 at 8PM. Tickets are available at www.chutzpahfestival.com or by phone at 604 257 5145.

Sign up for Vancouver Observer e-news here for a chance to win 2 tickets to one of the following shows at Chutzpah! 2014: Donald Sales/Project 20 and Ate9 Dance Company (March 1), Uri Gurvich (March 2), Imperfect Dancers (March 6), Dudu Tassa (March 9).

 

 

 

 

More in News

Remember the #KMFace photos that mocked Kinder Morgan claim that facial expressions were a form of "assault"?

“You can see the expressions on faces. Picture 10 is important for that,” said corporate lawyer William Kaplan referring to photo exhibits.

The VSB is closing an adult education centre despite NDP/Green promise to restore program funding

The VSB’s appointed trustee is pushing ahead with closing the “Mainstreet” adult education centre at Gladstone Secondary at the end of the month despite NDP & Green pledges to restore funding.

B.C. Liberals make pitch to continue government as a minority in legislature

British Columbia entered a new stage of political uncertainty Wednesday as the final vote count from an election held more than two weeks ago confirmed the province's first minority government in 65...
Speak up about this article on Facebook or Twitter. Do this by liking Vancouver Observer on Facebook or following us @Vanobserver on Twitter. We'd love to hear from you.