White Bird Dance: Love, L-E-V-style

The Israeli dance company returns to Portland with a tense dance about Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

By HEATHER WISNER

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder—heartrendingly described in Neil Hilborn’s OCD: A Love Poem—provides the framework for Israeli dance company L-E-V’s hourlong piece OCD Love, which opened last night as part of the White Bird Uncaged series. The dance looks and sounds like Hilborn’s poem, which inspired co-artistic director Sharon Eyal, reads: a series of repeated phrases suggesting a longing for connection and normalcy, and the agony of watching both slowly elude your grasp, despite your best efforts.

L-E-V co-artistic directors Eyal and Gai Behar have built their choreography around movement tics: jittery legs, shuddery torsos, ritualistic gestures. There’s a tick-tick-ticking sound as the curtain rises on a lone dancer, her musculature accented by a stark contrast between light and shadow. (The piece is shrouded in what’s described as “water-based haze,” similar to a smoke-machine effect.) She moves in slow motion, contorting her limbs in ways that look impressive but probably aren’t comfortable. Eventually a second dancer her joins her, sort of: they dance near each other, but not with each other. These sorts of close-but-not-quite encounters recur within the various configurations of the company’s six dancers, who bring sharpness and clarity to choreography that could have gotten muddy quickly.

L-E-V, “OCD Love,” choreographed by Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar/Courtesy of White Bird

The ticking dissolves into a melody that in turn dissolves into thumping techno beat, courtesy of DJ Ori Lichtik. As the bass kicks in, the onstage action becomes more agitated. Two dancers wield a third, held sideways at shoulder level, as a battering ram to push a fourth off balance, and a twitchy confrontation builds between Shamel Pitts and Darren Devaney, who advance and retreat, chests puffed out, arms drawn back as if ready to strike, in each other’s faces but not quite touching.

L-E-V, “OCD Love,” choreographed by Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar/Courtesy of White Bird

“When you have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, you don’t get a lot of quiet moments,” Hilborn’s poem explains, and what looks like a fight about to break out in a nightclub makes sense in this context if you imagine the movement and the music embodying the noise and conflict in someone’s head.

The piece closes as one dancer attempts to physically manipulate another’s movements; he’s got her face in his hands at first, but as the curtain falls, she is bending backward, just out of his reach. We don’t know, ultimately, how it ends, and or even how it should end. Eyal, a former Batsheva Dance Company dancer and resident choreographer, has carried on that company’s tradition of technically adventurous contemporary work that leaves room for ambiguity. This is L-E-V’s second White Bird visit, and based on the audience’s enthusiastic reception on opening night, it probably won’t be the last.

Duet trailer OCD LOVE with music from L¬E¬V Sharon Eyal | Gai Behar on Vimeo.

OCD Love, 8 p.m. Nov. 17-18, Portland State University, Lincoln Performance Hall, 1620 SW Park Ave.

Nim Wunnan reviewed L-E-V’s first Portland performance.

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