December 26, 2019
Water is one of those go-to images for dancers and choreographers alike. The first thing Gaga teachers tell you is to “float.” Onlookers love to describe contemporary dancers as “flowy.” It is, however, not without good reason. There is much to be extrapolated from such an all-encompassing substance, from how we indulge in washing ourselves to how our bodies yearn for hydration. Israeli choreographer Zvi Gotheiner embraces these images’ fertile and tired dual nature to venture deeper into the human-water relationship with MAIM – Hebrew for, you guessed it, “water.”
Physically, MAIM’s structure feels quite classical as it opens with a rousing bit of percussive footwork, phases into a medley of smaller groupings of bodies, and reconvenes for a tidy conclusion. This frees composer Scott Killian to utilize a combination of guitar and synthesizer textures, over which a Hebrew song occasionally soars. While the sound is engineered to morph, the dancers are consistent in their Irish goodbyes, departing the space as a family would a communal body of water due to the vibes of some other party.
While formidably danced, Zvi is concerned less with moves, and more with lived and observed experiences of water, as well as forging lived experiences of those observed. Audiences are likely to be taken back to physical science classes as movement fills New York Live Arts as space makes itself available to be filled by liquid.
Bodily relationships are chemically guided. Coinciding duets and trios evoke H20’s elemental ratios. Partnering has dancers holding onto each other while continuing otherwise solo movement, testing the strength of their bonds. When all are present, dancers weave from one side of a chain to continue the formation on the other side, finding sustainability through a capacity for both sturdiness and fluidity.
Further context comes from a video projection by Josh Higgason. Also in three movements, it shows a series of dry landscapes, prolongs a slow-motion waterfall, and displays various presentations of water with different degrees of human meddling. It is only during the waterfall that the dancing explicitly references what is projected – everyone takes a turn to conduct an expression of water, their blown up shadow a votive offering. On either end, the rigorous dancing and heavy footwork fluidly read as a contemporary rain dance during the dry clips, and as drowning during the wet ones.
MAIM, however, is a sort of rain dance – for humanity. When we see water, despite all its might, passing through a filtered pitcher, there is a sense of water’s daily domesticity as a profound roadblock to truly fathoming the drama of climate crisis. Still, the dancers’ final act of taking remarkably restrained sips of water fails to land as impactfully as it wants to. Despite the solid case made, its structural sequencing is too regular, which the work’s other elements have meticulously proven water to be anything but.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews