• L-E-V Dance Company's 'OCD Love'. Photo: Prudence Upton.
    L-E-V Dance Company's 'OCD Love'. Photo: Prudence Upton.
  • L-E-V Dance Company performing Love Chapter 2. Photo: Prudence Upton.
    L-E-V Dance Company performing Love Chapter 2. Photo: Prudence Upton.

L-E-V Dance Company OCD Love and Love Chapter 2
Drama Theatre, Sydney Opera House
31 January and 1 February 2019

In Hebrew, lev means “heart”, so the themes underscoring the "Love Cycle" series that Israel's L-E-V Dance Company brought to the Sydney Opera House couldn’t be more appropriate. Created by the company's co-artistic directors, choreographer Sharon Eyal and former producer Gai Behar, the two works that make up "Love Cycle" (OCD Love and Love Chapter 2) were performed on alternate nights. This brief season, therefore, gave Sydney audiences the opportunity to see both works in the order in which they were created. And It was an intensely dark side of love that was explored throughout. 

OCD Love is based on a poem called "OCD" by American slam poet Neil Hilborn. It is about the initially intense attraction, and subsequent despair upon the breakdown of a relationship in which mental illness plays a key role. Weirdly beautiful and psychologically compelling, this hour-long work for six dancers doesn’t let up on the intensity.  Set to live music performed by unseen DJ/musician Ori Lichtik, the work starts with an underlying pulse that is gradually overlaid with various musical melodies. But the rhythm really never wavers.

This dance-drama contrasts passages of slow-moving highly controlled dance, with the kind of loose, flinging movements that convey emotional distress and a loss of control. There are splayed fingers and hyperextended arms with a correspondingly extreme flexion/extension of the shoulders and upper back. It follows a sort of pattern in that the choreography continues to switch between the two extremes... but it is impossible to predict when or how that switch will occur, so each time the audience is left holding its collective breath.

The stage is free of any set, and costuming is simple, but very effective. Black socks, bare legs and plain black leotards with thin straps against a black background mean that you don't notice the dancers’ feet or lower part of the torso as much as their arms and upper body. There is an androgynous quality to the costuming, as the male dancers wear almost exactly the same costume as the women (the only difference being that their leotard had one strap and a correspondingly asymmetrical neckline).

Choreographically too, there is no differentiation between the movements performed by the male versus female dancers. The men are just as likely as the women to perform high, strutting walks on demi-pointe, with the ensuing result that we don't get a fixed sense of gender from any of the dancers. Also interesting is the fact that the dancers do not respond to each other as individuals within a relationship, rather they are collectively demonstrating emotionally heightened states. This gives the work a kind of impersonal yet simultaneously intrinsically relatable quality, in that it cannot be associated with any particular relationship.

On the following night, Love Chapter 2 appeared stylistically very similar to OCD Love. The costumes (designed by Odelia Arnold in collaboration with two of the dancers - dancers Rebecca Hytting and Gon Biran) are identical except for a change in the colour of their leotards, from black to white, and the music is similar, but not identical – played again by Ori Lichtik. I experienced it as less startling, but still quite hypnotic to watch.

The dancers were listed only as a group so I cannot single any one out, but they were all technically strong, expressive and committed to the work. It was the intensity of the dancers’ focus and performance that gave both these works a mystical, ritualised quality. Here were dancers seemingly so immersed in the psychological dimensions of the work they saw nothing except each other. And we in the audience saw nothing but them.


Photos: Prudence Upton

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