“And at Midnight, the Green Bride Floated Through the Village Square …,”: BodyTraffic and the Gotham Dance Festival at The Joyce Theater
BodyTraffic, founded in 2007, is a Los Angeles based contemporary dance company which commissions works for its classical trained dancers from choreographers from around the world. It is the brainchild of two New York dancers, Lillian Barbeito and Tina Finkelman Berkett, who migrated to the west coast. The company presented three works by three choreographers in three distinctly different styles on June 6th and 7th.
The highlight of the evening (and the only saving grace) was the World Premiere of “And at Midnight, the Green Bride Floated Through the Village Square …,” a dance-theater piece by the Israeli choreographer Barak Marshall. It was sheer genius!
When “And at Midnight, the Green Bride Floated Through the Village Square …,” started, I did not know what to expect and feared for the worst. But what I got was the BEST…it is an exciting, somewhat dark foray into Yemenite traditions and the plight of women, those unmarried, seeking marriage or in a marriage already.
Women are objectified, moved around like furniture, hog-tied and dragged and usually kept separate from the men. You can hear the echo of Pina Bausch’s influence via the pedestrian movements, the use of voice and the structure of the dance.
The movement aspects of the work center on the upper-body and use of the arms and hands in perfect sync with the rhythms of the music. The musical soundtrack is a collection of Jewish love songs and hymns from the Yiddish, Ladino and Yemenite tradition.
“And at Midnight, the Green Bride Floated Through the Village Square …,” is based in part about a family of eight sisters and one brother who were neighbors to Mr. Marshall’s mother’s family. Their house was labeled “The Burning House” because of all the fighting, screaming and cursing that could be heard at all hours of the day and night.
It is not a linear work but rather a series of vignettes that flow together to create the whole. The curtain opens to Margalit Oved, Mr. Marshall’s mother and who is a noted actor, singer, dancer and choreographer with a long and distinguished history in the theater. Here she seemed the perfect Grandmother, dishing out advice and tales of great wisdom. She calculates the time all nine of her siblings were in her mother’s womb, 81 months, 2430 days, 58, 320 hours, 3,499,200 minutes and 209,952,000 seconds, emphasizing the time and toil it takes from a woman’s life for the birth process and how it as so easily taken for granted, especially by men.
There is a lot to smile about or sometimes out-right laughter in moments of sheer absurdity of the sexual tensions and sexual frustration of the dancers. There is the slow seduction of Melissa Bourkas by Hai Cohen as he recites a fish recipe in his best sultry voice into a microphone that has been brought front and center just for this purpose. It seems to work as Ms. Bourkas with one hand over her heart, longing upon her face answers Mr. Cohen, with yes, yes, yes every time he pauses in his recitation.
Guzmán Rosado is not as fortunate as he tries to seduce Frances Chiaverini with his pigeon recipe. But alas, Ms. Rosado’s recipe seems very derogative of the pigeon (i.e. read women…), even cruel of which Ms. Chiaverini does not buy into. All Mr. Rosado gets is a slap in the face.
Later we find Mr. Rosado setting on a bench, reading his morning paper, content and all alone. The women gather and help each other primp and fuss then are lead over by the men and seated beside Mr. Rosado. When he does not look up from his paper or even notices the one that’s been seated she is promptly carted off by the men and then they seat another, waiting for his decision of which to take.
Finally we get to the wedding, the longed for and greatly anticipated event. Tina Finkelman Berkett, in her green bridal dress appears, hesitant and somewhat unsure of what to do or what will occur. She does not seem to be thrilled for the husband that has been selected for her and immediately turns her bridal veil into a gun and guns down all in attendance. Such is the message in the finality of marriage and any hope of the freedom.
Mr. Marshall’s “And at Midnight, the Green Bride Floated Through the Village Square …,” is work that is fresh in its originality. It is true exploration of Dance-Theater with winning results. The way hi is able to create characters and weave tales into a suspenseful and sardonic work for one so young shouts talent. The fact he is so young then what wonders will he give us in ten, twenty, thirty years from now? Bravo Mr. Marshall and bravo BodyTraffic.
Gotham Dance Festival should be congratulated for their artistic vision and bringing such amazing work to the Joyce. Thank you.