A Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On

by Leigh Witchel

Let’s face it: a dance about Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is going to be repetitive. And twitchy.  “OCD Love,” had a pounding beat and some some fierce dancing, but a nonstop hour of contemporary dance angst felt like trudging through a chunk of the DSM-5 manual.

“OCD Love,” created by the Israeli team of Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar, who go by L-E-V, was inspired by a viral video of Neil Hilborn’s poem, but took his geeky rant of desire and dysfunction, and set it in a different, yet familiar surrounding: the dark, smoky landscape of contemporary dance angst.

The costumes were skimpy and the music moved from threnody to disco. The sleek styling is part of the group’s background; Behar was a party planner and part of the Tel Aviv nightlife scene.

In the shadows, six people danced, usually in slow motion, and always alone even when they were together. The piece began with a long, slow solo for Mariko Kakizaki, stretching and leaning, moving a leg and curling into herself. Darren Devaney entered, his arm extended as if he were looking at us, yet he wasn’t aware of anything beyond himself. The two reached seemingly towards, but actually past, each other, encountering but never connecting.

L-E-V in “OCD Love.” Photo © Yi-Chun Wu.

There were striking moments: two men carried on a woman held stiff as a log, and then used her as a battering ram to butt into Kakizaki. Later, the full cast created a similar group that smacked into the last man in the line like the cocking of a rifle, as if they only way they could connect was through a wave of indirect cause and effect.

All the cast moved beautifully, especially Devaney, whose gaunt and insectile form melted or exploded into strange curves and lines.

“OCD Love” was visually evocative, but too much on the path of least resistance: Most of it was about as predictable as a Senate vote. From the incessant ticking and thudding in the score to the tiny movements that repeated and repeated, to the structure of angst-ridden solo against monolithic group, it was exactly what you would imagine if you had been asked to do an interpretive dance on mental illness: repetitive, tortured, ginched, twisted . . . and obvious. The work more petered out than ended; in a blinding light Devaney backed off from Kakizaki, who arched back while the others massed and rotated.

If you don’t have OCD, sitting through “OCD Love” could feel as wearing as dealing with the real thing: transformed into this dance, the self-absorption of mental illness didn’t feel distinct enough from self-indulgence.

copyright © 2017 by Leigh Witchel

“OCD Love” – L-E-V
The Joyce Theater, New York, NY
January 11, 2017

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