The American Dance Festival presented another world premiere of a work it had commissioned on June 30, when LeeSar The Company performed Grass and Jackals. Choreographed by Lee Sher and Saar Harari with the seven women who dance it, Grass and Jackals is both a visually thrilling and emotional experience for the viewer. The music is a complex soundtrack of song and instrumentals; a sense of longing is part of the musical tone. The sleek dancers (of similar size, with long dark hair) wear long-sleeved, high-necked bodysuits in dully gleaming black (costumes by Naomi Luppescu), which Avi Yona Bueno (Bambi)’s extraordinary lighting turns into a symphony of tone and reflections as the dancers move. The women also wear thick emphatic black eyebrows, which lend a grotesquery to their appearance.
The movement style is Gaga, the flowing style full of unexpected moves and unleashed corpo-emotive energy, developed by Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin. Sher and Harari are Israeli, though they have been in New York for nearly a decade, and they both teach Gaga. Their dancers provide a beautiful example of the style’s power.
Grass and Jackals is the first really surprising dance of this year’s Festival. Always I hope for, but rarely encounter, a dance that is as resistant as this one to verbal dissection. There’s an emotional journey of some sort through a difficult terrain; some battles, some adventures, some sphinxy pauses, some launchings toward freedom. The dancing is amazing throughout: the pliant dancers make astonishing shapes and do unexpected things. Both the choreography and the dancing are fresh and honest, very much present in the moment, but attuned to distant voice of myth and archetype. The work is understandable, but not with words. I both giggled and sobbed during the dance, and was nearly panting with hopefulness at its end.
The work closes with a scene of metamorphosis, in which one dancer peels away her black suit to reveal a golden one beneath. The light changes, the blacksuited dancers return–and a shimmering begins at the proscenium as a sheer curtain of glimmering threads descends between us and them. It is very beautiful to the eye and galvanizing to the heart.
The program repeats tonight and tomorrow, July 1-2, in Reynolds Theater, 8 p.m.