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The Kitchen, NYC
September 23–25, 2010
Reviewed by Siobhan Burke
Shuli Enosh and Inbal Aloni. Photo by Tamar Lamm, Courtesy Godder.
In an age of sensory overload, what has the power to make us feel deeply? Sex? Food? Violence? A combination of all three?
In Singular Sensation, Israeli-American choreographer Yasmeen Godder delivers the latter. According to press materials, Godder set out to explore “how we find . . . a true thrill or deep connection to sensation” in a culture that bombards us with “excess of all kinds.” As if testing how much stimulation her audience can handle, she barrages us with bizarre, disturbing scenarios, as her five fiendish performers veer between assaulting, seducing, even trying to consume one another. But ultimately, so much is shocking in this highly reactive, hyper-active world that it ceases to shock at all.
At first, the dancers, their idiosyncrasies, and the mysteries of how they’re related (friends? enemies? lovers?) are intriguing. Tension builds as they enter the space one by one: first, the compact, scruffy Matan Zamir, who, with a fleet slap of his chest, sends his body into heaving convulsions, as if detonating from within. Inbal Aloni soon joins him—feisty in a purple velvet dress, flicking her fingers demurely in front of her face—then Shuli Enosh, who looks like she’s hiding a naughty secret. Sara Wilhelmsson—platinum blonde, leggy, sporting sequins—pierces the air with long, blood-red fingernails, which she proceeds to bite off, chew up, and spit out. (She seems to have a thing for sharp objects: Later, reappearing as a kind of deranged stripper, she takes a glinting pair of scissors to the two oranges covering her breasts.) Tsuf Itschaky, the last to arrive, jostles Aloni’s limp body, as she emits little spurts of laughter—or are they whimpers of fear?
Such emotional volatility courses throughout Singular Sensation. The alluring dancers, who are skilled actors as well, ride a fine line between pleasuring and torturing each other and themselves, by turns helplessly infantile and maniacally over-sexed. Inventive uses of liquid and semi-solid substances—sticky green goop, red Jell-O—suggest synthetic innards of bodies turned inside out. The electronic score, edited by Gabriel Kricheli, fuels the performers with its strident rumbles and throbbing beats, creating the sense of a toxic space about to implode. Through all of it, no amount of absurdity exhausts these ravenous creatures.
But they exhaust us. Singular Sensation falls prey to the very phenomenon it calls into question: Godder gives us too much information, an onslaught without an organizing arc. Even the would-be climax—when four performers dress up the fifth (Itschaky) as a bumbling superhero (their version of a god?)—devolves into orgiastic chaos. Perhaps the brains we bring to the theater are already too stimulated to digest what she has to offer, but in the span of a frenzied hour, Godder leaves us feeling merely overwhelmed.