(Dance Review) Vertigo Dance Company soars at PS21

Vertigo Dance Company (courtesy PS21)

Vertigo Dance Company
One. One & One

Review by Seth Rogovoy

(CHATHAM, N.Y., July 28, 2022) – One. One & One by Vertigo Dance Company begins with sounds of rain and dirt being shoveled and dogs barking off in the distance. The curtain opens to reveal a woman standing with her back to us, a beam of light shining down on her on an otherwise dark stage.

Then a man comes out with a white bucket, from which he delicately pours a thin line of soil across the stage.

A woman bends so far backwards she almost does a complete wheel, stopping short of supporting herself with hands on the floor. She slowly bends back up and returns to a standing position.

More dancers appear, all fully dressed in earth tones of beige, brown, and gray.

A woman stands on one leg while her back leg rises behind her to the perpendicular, executing a perfect arabesque. Then she slowly makes her way across the floor through the dirt with her feet never leaving the ground.

A small pack of male dancers surround her and take turns lifting her. She falls backwards into their arms, and they carry her upstage where she holds a T pose and then falls sideways and is caught – a kind of catch and carry as well as a trust game. She walks forward and three men follow, braiding her hair while she keeps moving.  Three other dancers perform headstands with their backs to us. Why did I ever give up practicing yoga?

The music composed by Avi Belleli varies in volume and style throughout, but has a definite tonal center that says “Middle Eastern.” The music changes from quiet, astringent violas and develops a pulsing, almost techno beat, inspiring the corps of dancers to move in unison before splitting off into solos and pairs.

The soundtrack includes spoken Hebrew words, just individual words, not sentences.

Then the music turns fierce, into a kind of hardcore electronic dance music, and the movement accordingly becomes more frenzied, until finally the sound drops out, leaving only a steady, even pulse.

The music takes on an Indian flavor with a harmonium-like drone beneath a bowed oud playing melody underneath Bjork-like wordless vocals.

A female duo moves in unison, placing hands and arms forward and interweaving with each other. The same goes for their legs, bending in unison, in and around each other, forming larger shapes as the two slowly become one large biomorph.

A row of men shake their arms and hit themselves, seemingly more for sonic effect than anything else.

More lines of soil are spread across the stage.

Out of a mass of pounding industrial sounds emerges flamenco-style acoustic guitar. Everyone makes exaggerated moves that suggest machinery.

Suddenly soil gets poured wildly all over until it covers the entire stage floor. A woman dancer rolls in it, as others move backwards through it with arms in a V formation. A nod to Mark Morris?

The music becomes more recognizably “Middle Eastern” in melody as dancers jump and spin and perform folk dance-like movements, kicking through the soil.

The music turns jazzy and men dance on the soil-covered floor in unison, like creatures that have emerged out of the soil.

Men and women alike run across the stage and jump onto each other, or into each other’s arms. A mating ritual? It’s sexy, whatever it is.

A man and a woman perform a stylized pas de deux, with each lifting and swinging the other.

These dancers are phenomenal, in their strength and endurance over the course of the 60-minute performance, and in their pinpoint unison syncing. Before the dance even ends, I want to see them again.

Because Vertigo Dance Company is Israeli, it is all too easy to think about the dance in terms of violence and war and occupation. But what interests choreographer Noa Wertheim is the earth and love and growth and evolution and farming and communalism. She is taking back the idealism of the kibbutz, and maybe what we have just seen is simply a day in the life of a communal farm, rendered exquisitely in her choreography by these astonishingly powerful dancers.

A few dancers leap and appear to pause mid-air, defying gravity, before heading back down to firm footing.

By the end of the dance, they are birds, gently flapping their wing-like arms as they soar in place and the music grows ethereal as it slowly grows dark and nightfall descends.




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