YelleB Dance Ensemble at Joyce SoHo

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He is the rare contemporary dance choreographer these days who does not have interactive and multimedia goals. (Video is the new setting.) The YelleB Dance Ensemble, a predominantly Israeli group, has such lofty goals: the program notes describe an ongoing collaboration between choreographers Ella Ben-Aharon and Edo Ceder, videographer Adi Shniderman and the architect Matthias Neumann.

But it’s hard to use the video for effective, rather than decorative, purposes, and their new “Pericardium” (the name of the multi-layered membrane enclosing the heart), performed Thursday night at Joyce SoHo, does not fare better than most. . .

It begins, however, with an interesting division of space. The stage and seating area are divided by black curtains on either side of a central aisle, creating a hallway through which the audience must enter. At the end, a woman holds a Rorschach test for each spectator to interpret. Apparently depending on the answer you are directed to the left or right of the curtains.

Credit…Andrea Mohin / The New York Times

Arbitrary segregation is probably a reference to the political forces that divide populations, sometimes families, through obscure or meaningless rules. (The program suggests the Israeli separation barrier, in particular, but it’s a phenomenon hardly exclusive to Israel, though it resonates particularly with its artists.)

When the play begins, the audience on the right side sees only Ms. Ben-Aharon; those on the left only Mr. Ceder. The idea is not entirely new: in “Déserts, Désirs”, in 2006, the Moroccan choreographers Bouchra Ouizgen and Taoufiq Izeddiou separated the audience by gender and kept them apart throughout.

In “Pericardium,” Ms. Ben-Aharon and Mr. Cedar pull down the curtains early on and spend the rest of the room dancing together in front of or behind a transparent screen that stretches across the stage. Their movement is fluid and gestural, full of small convulsive tics, pointed and bent legs and an inventive use of floor work.

It’s attractive to watch, subtly lit by Joe Novak, and set to a score by Yoed Nir and Odeya Nini that mixes melancholy violin, deep and vibrant sounds, and harmless sound effects (scratching noises, banging, deep female vocals). The video that intermittently plays across sections of the screen features hands folding paper, dancers holding various objects and, at the end, floating words (“memory”, “dream”, “cue”, “condensed” ) which look a bit like screen savers.

But these elements are never quite consistent. The idea of ​​walls or barriers between individuals and populations seems theoretical rather than integral, and after many serious dances together and separately, the piece begins to resemble a familiar couple saga. Mr. Ceder and Ms. Ben-Aharon offer engaged performances and often interesting compositional ideas, but “Pericardium” is never as deep as they obviously want it to be.


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