LeeSaar/The Company
92nd Street Y Harkness Dance Festival
Ailey Citigroup Theater
New York, NY
February 16, 2007

by Susan Reiter
copyright ©2007, Susan Reiter

LeeSaar/The Company has been presenting its work frequently at P.S. 122 — premiering “Herd of Bulls” in fall 2005 and “Moopim” last October, with repeat engagements of each during the performance space’s January COIL Festival — and perhaps the inherent tension in its work requires the closer confines of that venue. Moving uptown to the relatively intimate Ailey Citigroup Theater, they offered sequences of both fierce, almost violent aggression as well as expressions of calmer, introspective possibilities, but much of the time one was left aware of what felt like vast gaping open space on stage.

LeeSaar is a joint venture of choreographer Saar Harari and director Lee Sher, both Israeli, who have been based in New York for three years. The program for “Part II” credits them as co-choreographers, with Sher also responsible for dramaturgy and text, while the press release identifies the piece as having been “directed” by the duo. Clearly, they collaborate closely, aiming to blend her theatrical expertise and his movement background. But theatrical tautness was lacking during most of “Part II,” which had a muted, indecisive overall texture.

Other than Sher, who entered from a stage right doorway to begin the hour-long work, the performers made their entrances and exits from the front row of the seats. This was even true of the excellent musician, Brandon Terzic, who joined the action partway through to sit upstage playing the oud. This contributed an element of surprise, the first time someone came on stage that way, but otherwise it was not clear why they took this approach, as the piece did not aim to be interactive or involve the audience in any specific way.

As recorded music (presumably, but not necessarily Israeli) with a gentle beat played, Sher made her way very slowly across the space, then stood stage left looking straight ahead, alternately clenching and releasing her toro while her hands balled up into fists. Harari then came onstage launching into a solo of crouching and springing, suggesting someone tensed in readiness and prepared for something dire to occur. Russella Fusco joined him and for a while they performed a purposeful, intent movement sequence — often advancing with their bodies close to the ground — in unison, although they did not overtly relate to one another. Most of the time, there was silence, with occasional sounds effect of distant thuds, possibly muted explosions.

With Ellen Cremer joining in to complete the quartet of performers, the action continued along its somber, inscrutable path, punctuated by pauses, occasionally accompanied by the spare, mournful music of the oud. Much of the time, they evoked a tense wariness, sometimes alluding to military drills such as when two of them dragged themselves along the floor by their arms, or seeming to mime the tossing of a grenade. Fusco had a solo filled with heavy thuds to the floor, where she twisted her knees sharply from side to side. Sometimes two or three of them overlapped but there was little sense of a joint enterprise. When Sher took the stage, she seemed in her own separate world — dreamy, perhaps disoriented, making small gestures around her mouth, whispering softly, undulating with quiet sensuality. Looming above the stage was a chandelier-like fixture that periodically glowed with golden light. But its cluster of round shapes somehow suggested a bomb or a grenade. Just before the final blackout, one of the women was looking up towards at it — possibly questioningly, or perhaps in anticipation of danger.

“Part II” — which Harari and Sher have stated draws on, and restructures, materials from their two earlier piece, definitely succeeded in evoking and sustaining a somber atmosphere of dread and unease. The performers’ purposeful intensity was evident, but t lacked a theatrical vibrancy that could have more fully engaged an audience rather than keeping it at a distance.

Photo: "Herd of Bulls", photo by Rachel Roberts, courtesy 92nd Street Y.

Volume 5, No. 8
February 19, 2007

copyright ©2007 by Susan Reiter

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