Review by Seth Rogovoy
(BECKET, Mass., Thursday, August 21, 2014) – They apparently saved the best for last this season at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, as LeeSaar The Company dazzled in its evening length production of “Grass and Jackals” in the Doris Duke Theatre last night.
So engrossing was the dancing, the music, the lighting, the visuals, the overall show, that it was only finally two-thirds of the way through that I suddenly remembered to myself, “Oh yeah, jackals,” which you might possibly want to keep in mind if you go see the dance – which you should – in the days that remain.
Not that it mattered a bit, but in hindsight I suppose it might have lent some context – which I believe to be totally unnecessary – to what you’re seeing.
The dance – and I use the term lightly, as dance is only part of what was a very theatrical performance – began with the seven female dancers on all fours, all dressed in black shiny leather-like unitards, moving together in a pack (oh, yeah, jackals).
One broke from the pack, rose on her legs, and moved downstage, where she seemed to assert her strength and individuality. The whole thing put me in mind of that classic “Birth of Man” scene from the film “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
The other dancers then all stood up and for the most part recapitulated the movements of the “leader,” mostly in unison but not exactly, allowing for some diversity. The movements and gestures, based in Ohad Naharin’s Gaga technique (you don’t have to know this, but it helps), spoke of a wide range of human emotions and characteristics, including, as I already noted, strength and independence, as well as sexuality, creativity, style, and fashion.
The range in the movement was astonishing. During minimalist, ambient passages of music, the dancers embodied the slow-motion passages with impossibly imperceptible movements of their own, only then to suddenly whip around a limb, twist, jump, or plunge to the floor, as in a fit but always with grace and beauty.
The dancers all had Groucho Marx-like huge eyebrows painted on their real eyebrows – or maybe they were a reference to the Icelandic pop star Bjork, who boasts considerable eyebrows (real or not) of her own. In any case, the brows brought unity to the diverse corps of seven dancers, as well as helping to set off their faces, which along with their hands and feet were always shining brightly in contrast with their full-body black outfits (designed by Naomi Luppescu), given the brilliant lighting design by Ani Yona “Bambi” Bueno.
Changes of music and backlighting allowed for different scenes with scenes – one flapper-era jazz-like number gave each dancer a moment center-stage to flaunt herself, whether it be in a frozen pose, martial arts movements, rubbery vibrations (a Gaga trope), faux ballet, Monty Python-like silly walks, or Michael Jackson-like locking.
A scene played to state-of-the-art dubstep club music heated up the joint, with one dancer appearing in a yellow body suit and the whole vibe taking on a much more sexier ambiance.
There’ll be no spoilers here, other than to say that the ending was thematically suggestive and an awesome technical achievement.
Kudos to company directors/choreographers Lee Sher and Saar Harari, and to Jacob’s Pillow for bringing LeeSaar back to the Pillow.