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Rajika Puri
Performance Reviews
The Joyce Theater
United States
New York City
New York
New York, NY

Inbal Pinto

by Rajika Puri
April 23, 2003
The Joyce Theater
175 Eighth Avenue (at the corner of 19th Street)
New York, NY 10011

Unexpected Delights: The Inbal Pinto Dance Company at the Joyce Theater

by Rajika Puri
April 23, 2003

One of the most delightful things about going to see a hitherto unknown dance company these days is that one can expect the unexpected. The idea of 'dance' has branched out to include so many different forms of movement-based art, and indeed popular entertainment as well, that it has become one of the most vibrant theatrical forms of today.

Dancers are often trained in a variety of techniques, so that it is not unusual to watch a ballet dancer who is also equally adept at classical mime and aerial movement techniques normally associated with the circus. Most of all, the mastery over their bodies that the new generation of dancers exhibits is often awesome.

The Inbal Pinto Dance Company in oyster - an hour long work which had its New York premier at the Joyce Theater, on April 22 2003, (having hitherto performed at Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival in 2002) - is just such an unexpected delight. Eight dancers and four 'performers' - most of them Israeli born and bred - wend their way skillfully through sequences that refer to several forms of popular entertainment through the ages. White faced, and wearing flaxen rag doll-like wigs, they capture in turn the flavor of commedia del arte, music hall turns, street performing monkeys, fantasy creatures at a carnival, as well as the mime and circus traditions mentioned before.


Choreographed by the inventive Ms. Pinto, who also designed the whimsical costumes and co-designed the set, the work is a collaboration with her life partner, Avshalom Pollak. A relatively young duo, they have only worked together since 1999, when oyster was premiered in France. Mr. Pollak, an actor and theater director is credited with direction and co-design of the set. He also edited the soundtrack.

Starting with the sound of wind howling, the acoustical accompaniment to the work goes on to an eclectic mix of popular world music. An Astor Piazzola sound track gives way to a pasodoble reminiscent of a bullring, which in turn cedes to a mambo-like rhythm sung by the amazingly high pitched Incan singer, Yma Sumac. Then, just as we are brought back into a familiar world with, say, an excerpt from the popular opera, I Pagliacci, or Harry James' swing perennial, "It's been a long, long, time", we hear the strange, compelling xoomei or (deep) throat-singing of Huun-Huur-Tu, a group from Tuva in Central Asia.

Accompanying this mix of timbres is an equally delicious blend of movements. One in particular, is a sort of recurrent theme in which dancers seem to collapse as if joint-less to the floor, rather in the manner of a rag doll or Petrushka figure. They convey a deceptive effortlessness but still brought gasps from seasoned dancers in the auditorium who very well knew how much strength and control it needs to put across that sense of ease.

By and large oyster has a light touch, conveying its commentary on human foibles and the human estate with enough humor to keep the audience both bemused and amused. Just before the end, though, the mood changes. The stage is left to a pair of dancers in pink tutus who have previously engaged in some cleverly beguiling sequences. At one moment they are hoist by a pulley-like structure so they can alternatively give in to, and pull away from, gravity. At another, they bend forward and away from us, so that their legs and bottoms alone convey what they have 'to say'.

Now, as a coda, these 'dancing dolls' give us a moment of pathos, and with it they win over what little of our hearts have remained our own. We feel ourselves not a little transformed. Such then is the magic of their dance theater.

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