The Arty Semite

Pondering Our Doom, Together and Apart

By Elizabeth Stone

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Courtesy of Shagan Arts

An electrifying dance performance by Israel’s Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company (KCDC) brought the audience to its feet on February 26 at Kanbar Hall at the Jewish Community Center in San Francisco.

The San Francisco performance — the last of an international tour — was of a work titled “Ekodoom,” choreographed by Rami Ba’er, who also designed the sets, lighting and costumes.

Ba’er refers to ”Ekodoom” as an introspection on both a shared ecology and our potential doom. While it’s tempting to look for a narrative or to discover the choreographer’s intent, Ba’er said that “I don’t like to interpret the piece in words with a narrative or story. I want the spectator to connect to himself through the piece — through his own associations, memories, feelings, and thoughts.”

Ba’er’s 15 dancers, many of them Israeli-born, moved through a series of vignettes, interspersed with recurring robotic line formations with punctuating movements of the shoulders, feet, head and torso. Male and female dancers showed equal formality and physicality of movement and intention, driven by the musical score brought together by Ba’er.

When the costumes and lighting cast shadows, the dancers’ gender was nearly indiscernible. The women, without losing femininity, showed their strength in a way that Israeli soldiers might — with fierceness, force and confidence — to stand side by side with the men. When the spotlight highlighted a soloist, or a couple who moved outside the formation, we were reminded that unity is comprised of individuals with their own thoughts, inspirations, sensitivities and independence.

In Martha Graham-inspired use of fabric, dancers re-appeared in heavy gilded robes with hoods, shifting from metaphorical blindness to carrying the weight of the universe on their shoulders. With slight gestures, the dancers framed their eyes, reminding us of our own perspectives on the universe.

Rami Ba’er has been the Artistic Director of KCDC since 1996, after having danced with the company previously. The child of Holocaust survivors, he grew up in KCDC’s Dance Village in Kibbutz Ga’aton in the Galilee, where he has worked all his life.

“For me, it’s what I offer to the individual that comes to the theater,” he said of Ekodoom. “I hope that when he sits in the seat, I offer him to be part of the journey.”

Watch a performance of ‘Ekodoom’ at the Ga’aton Dance School:


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