The Jewish Connection Project is a dance that starts with the individual to then regain a sense of collectivity, a vivacious and inspiring dance that unites and rediscovers a lost harmony.
Ido Batash and Lisi Estaras (Les Ballets C de la B and Monkey Mind) present a constantly evolving performance, showing feelings of uncertainty and frustration infused with comical elements, in a powerful journey from disorientation to harmony.
The piece opens with Lisi and another dancer standing still on the stage, looking in different directions. Ido and all other performers slowly join in from the audience at different times, as to perhaps make clear from the beginning the intention to establish a universal connection with everybody.
The whole piece is tremendously potent and builds on frequent body contacts, exquisite interactions, jerky moves and trembling hands, at times improvised but most often executed in cleverly-constructed unison, all emphasized by eerie and ironic facial expressions. Ugly and graceless dramatic gestures, often exaggerated, like smelling each other, scratching the face, or biting feet and wrists, culminate at the end in a warm collective hug. Contorted movements that reveal conflicting emotions and allow a positive tension to emerge.
Other sections see dancers moving with explosive vitality, or sinking down the floor, upset and terrified, after what seemed to be a gunshot. And later, the crescendo of strongly performed emotions comes to completion when dancers group together in a line, illuminated by a bottom front light, they sway, hold their breath and bend to show their backs, until a murmur and a sweet music break the silence.
Music plays an essential role in The Jewish Connection Project. Reduced to a minimum, with sea wave sounds mixed with irregular hammering noises at the beginning, it then turns into a special soundscape made of sublime Wagner’s symphonies in contrast with fireworks, gunshots and recordings of dialogues that sound too much like a quarrel. A mellow rhythm that finds its fulfilment towards the end with Maribeth Diggle’s stunning lyrical singing. At that point, movements are almost imperceptible, dancers grouped together direct their intense gaze to the audience and, accompanied by noble music, express a final peaceful feeling.
Ido Batash and Lisi Estaras question complex issues of our era through their signature dance vocabulary, and present a grim reality of incredible emotional impact with astonishing expressiveness, always trying to find a balance between fragility, uncertainty and hope. The Jewish Connection Project is audacious and weirdly wonderful.
Reviewed at Operaestate Festival on 21 August