Yossi Berg and Oded Graf “BodyLand” Review by Celina Russell, Oregon Live
Yosi Berg and Oded Graf’s ‘BodyLand,’ presented by White Bird, celebrates the male body in all its imperfections (review)
Burpees, thrusts, mixed martial arts, high-intensity interval training and Cross Fit: much has been made lately of the western world’s counter-intuitive intent to suffer. Is it for a sense of personal achievement, or has the very inertia of our mostly comfortable lives, nestled within a chaotic world, finally begun to make us uneasy?
A breath of hope, however wheezing, is at the heart of “BodyLand,” a 60-minute performance that maps the bodies and memories of Israeli choreographers Yossi Berg and Oded Graf and their company, the dancers Soren Linding Urup, Pierre Enaux, and Robin Rohrmann.
There are inflatables here and bawdy jokes, delicate embraces in the pas de deux, and a brief crescendo of observations on the European economy. But good-natured humor, along with an ebullient joie de vivre for the human body in all its masterful imperfection, trump the serious card before the night is through.
Appearing out of the dark dragging a foil blanket, with ruffled hair, gray gym shorts, and silver high tops, Berg begins the show with a pre-schooler’s evaluation of his body parts. It’s ritualistic and repetitive, but even in the simplest of motions Berg is a charismatic and immersive performer. Each body part, of course, has a story, even when it’s not told.
It’s not a subtle introduction, but the audience Thursday night was game, laughing heartily and with ease.
Even better was the immediate transition to a game of jump rope, in which each dancer joining Berg on stage for a rousing three minutes, the joy of jumping in unison obvious on their faces as everyone else in the room declined to resist bobbing their heads to the(spoiler) beat.
Then a solo, a single body morphing into its spirit animal, a preying mantis perhaps. A duet, its dramatic dancerly flairs paired with a bonding game of hazing for men. The dancers speak, their personal histories blending into a tirade of cities pitching into a mild mannered roar. And, tableau, filled with caresses, teamwork, and light shoves.
“BodyLand” is fun, if a little serious at times for what’s effectively an emotive bro dance. Sparse and effective, the stage lighting designed by Andreas Buhl tends toward floating the performers in an open dark, as if they are apparitions without time or space.
But with their pasty skin, untamed hair, basic T-shirts and supportive knee sleeves, like a gang of white boys looking for some pickup basketball, the dancers are grounded in a space that’s intimate and always specific: their own bodies. Rather than the bland handsome males of ballet corps the world over, Berg and Graf have decided that their faces matter, and that personality is inevitable.
It’s worth saying that’s a brave stance. When confronted with the overwhelming truth that even the most seemingly organized of our human interactions are filled with chaos and uncertainty, it’s OK to start with liking just one person at a time.