Cue the sounds of the crickets and birds and frogs. It signals entry into a mysterious world where everything is not quite what it seems. Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar’s roaringly good Corps de Walk is likewise the kind of stage work that defies expectations. The first inklings that we are entering the natural world are quickly dispelled. As the lights (by Torkel Skjaerven) slowly come up, we see a cluster of dancers. The gathering looks distinctly otherworldly, with snug white leotards and slick white-pasted coifs and skin, an intelligent indigenous species who appears to have a symbiotic relationship with each other, perhaps functioning in a group-mind structure. Within this dreamscape – I honestly felt that I had been launched from my day-to-day into another reality – this mystical coven appears to be engaging in a ritual reminiscent of Sacre du Printemps. Except, here, no one is cast out. As they move forward in unison, in a kind of strut-walk, the perfectly aligned formation of bodies (the title also alludes to the “corps de ballet”) prompts predictable ideas about automatons and the general herding phenomenon in our global cultures. But there’s far more here than at first meets the eye – the overall arc in the piece eventually reveals that this space is anything but neutral.
Before I go too much further in my praise, let’s not forget who is dancing: the excellent Carte Blanche, Norway’s leading contemporary dance company for close to a quarter century. Now run by Artistic Director Bruno Heynderickx, the company boasts a dozen dancers for this piece. The six men and six women, who look so cool, are very much a warm-blooded group. Their precision and concentration makes everything they do look breathtakingly easy. There is restraint and expressive phrasing throughout, and these terrifically skilled dancers bring power and control to the task. There are all kinds of delicious moments to savour – little explosions of movement in the body, a hip thrust, a lick of the finger, hands resting just in front of the hips, a cock of the head or a fleeting smirk. Honestly, part of the pleasure of Corps de Walk is that the piece, for all its well-structured qualities and superb dancing, has a deceptively subtle sense of humour. And then there’s the balance, constantly alluded to, between symmetry and asymmetry.
The Israeli-born and based Eyal – who danced with Batsheva Dance Company in Tel-Aviv (she was associate artistic director there for over a year and was the company’s house choreographer from 2005 until last year) – is a much sought-after dancemaker. Behar has produced live music and underground artistic events as well as techno raves. Together they have been collaborating to co-create a number of performances for Batsheva, as well as the well-received Killer Pig for Carte Blanche. Last year they formed their own company, L-E-V.
Of particular interest is how Eyal gets the performers – who sport icy-blue contact lenses, giving a vacant quality of their eyes – to embody a kind hemmed-in vibe. As a dancer revealed in the post-performance chat, the lenses obscure their peripheral vision. Eyal has the dancers create shifts in the upper body that are supple, fluid, while a rigid lower body dictates another punctuation in the movement. Apart from her accomplished layering of movement, one of Eyal’s choreographic signatures is her ability to activate the dancers’ core so that the movements are not coming from the extremities.
Finally, there is the choreography’s close connection with DJ Ori Lichtik’s loud music score – with excerpts from a host of electronic, industrial and classical sources, including David Byrne, Claude Debussy, Noize Creator, Aphex Twin, Tuxedomoon, Einstürzende Neubauten and Coil, to name just a few elements – which, simply put, fuels the all-consuming feeling of this hypnotic, must-see dance. Further, Lichtik’s constant use of African guitar reinforces the idea that an ever-present heartbeat still pulses within.