BODY TRAFFIC at the Spui Theatre in The Hague

Tonight’s programme offered an aperçu of the work of BodyTraffic, a company based at The Joyce Theatre in New York. We were offered four distinct pieces, each by a different choreographer – Israeli Barak Marshall, Sidra Bell, hip-hop inspired Victor Quijada and Richard Siegal whose work has been performed extensively in Germany and France.

Barak Marshall’ s And at midnight, the green bride floated though the village square … a title which reminded me of Chagall’s paintings, opened with a sad looking woman holding a bunch of flowers as a mournful bell tolled. Immediately, we were propelled back to earlier, happier times, with young men and women energetically and cheekily dancing to joyful Yiddish and other ethnic songs and music – tensions, arguments and confrontations between men and women were explored, some illustrating the powerlessness of the women.

I particularly liked the occasional interruption of a man entering with a microphone, explaining to his female partner that the stupidity of animals justified their slaughter and the manner of cooking them – all of which had sexual overtones and seemed to reference his view of how a woman deserves to be treated. At one point there came the loud bleating of sheep and the women were unceremoniously dragged onto the stage on ropes.

In Beyond the Edge of the Frame, choreographed by Sidra Bell and presented in black and white, I could not help but see the long shadow cast by West Side Story. It brought home to me that this game changer from the late 1950s was still alive and well in the subconscious recesses of today’s choreographers. Allusions to gang shootings ended when two of the boys seemed to struggle to stay alive, bathed in red light.

Victor Quijada’s Once again, before you go, began with two male dancers circling each other like suspicious animals. The tension increased when a female dancer joined them, alternating between the men, apparently trying to calm the confrontations. Again, this piece was a study of the change of dynamics and focus between men when a woman appears. I wasn’t keen on the dim lighting in the latter part of this piece – the two dancers danced beautifully but with the stage in near darkness.

After these studies of male-female relationships came the final, upbeat jazzy sweetener – O2Joy, choreographed by Richard Siegal. To the music of Oscar Peterson, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and Glenn Miller the company had the opportunity for some exuberant fun.

The eight dancers performed with zest and precision and although there was quite a lot of outstanding solo work it was in the ensemble sequences that the company excelled. Altogether another very satisfying evening at the Holland Dance Festival.   Astrid Burchardt   3rd February 2018

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