Dance review: The politics of body-mapping

Yossi Berg and Oded Graf opened White Bird's Uncaged series with a funny case of body politics

On Thursday night at Portland State University’s Lincoln Hall, White Bird launched season 15 of its Uncaged Series, with the return of Israeli choreographers Yossi Berg and Oded Graf and the U.S. premier of their “BodyLand.” Berg and Graff originally made their debut in Portland in the Uncaged series in 2011 with 4Men, Alice, Bach and the Deer. (I missed that performance but you can read a review by my fearless leader Barry Johnson and another by  Marty Hughley, formerly of The Oregonian and now allied with ArtsWatch, too.)

I also attended the master class taught on Friday morning by Graff and Berg at Conduit Dance. I am happy to report that the class was full, 25 students compared to the five that attended Phillip Adams class back in January of this year. The class and choreography appeared to be a synthesis of Berg and Graff’s combined experience as dancers and people in the world. It did confirm a few things I had surmised from the night before: 1) the choreographers enjoy that moment of dropping out of pedestrian movement into dance, and 2) tenderness, sensuality and high drama were common threads throughout.

'BODYLAND' by Yossi Berg & Oded Graf,/ photo   Christoffer Askmansmall

‘BODYLAND’ by Yossi Berg & Oded Graf/ photo Christoffer Askmansmall

“Bodyland” featured five male dancers from four different countries—Berg and Graff from Israel, Pierre Enaux from France, Soren Linding Urup from Denmark, and Robin Rohrmann from Germany. With this mix of perspectives and in the context of the United States and the current world political climate, I was expecting a highly charged, controversial conversation onstage. Instead, the hour-long performance was a mindful and carefully sculpted, visually and aurally beautiful, humorous conversation among the men, both as individuals and as representatives of their respective countries. Humor is disarming and it keeps peoples minds open.


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