A critical mass that cannot be ignored
Yossi Berg and Oded Graf are two of the more productive creators in the group of independent choreographers and they very often maintain connections, appear, create and teach outside of Israel. Their last production “4 Men, Alice, Bach and the Deer” is a project that was supported by the Opera and the Museum of Modern Art in Dresden, Germany, and The Lab in Jerusalem. Hillel Kogan and Irad Mazliach are also dancers/creators; the two joined Berg and Graf in this work and created a male critical mass on the stage that cannot be ignored. They are strong, experienced, calm, and appear to be enjoying themselves quite a bit, feeling very comfortable with the assemblage formula, being sewn with loose thread and moving around in the currents between choreographed snippets about an exhilarating subject: what is a man made of – man in an era when hunting is no longer PC [politically correct].
In movement, in singing and in the accompanying text that describes the phantasm of the masculine heaven consisting of a refrigerator full of meat and beer, the body of a Greek god, a giant plasma screen and a perpetual erection. Who can beat these four men, to the doorstep of whose isolated house on a snowy mountain comes, uninvited, a delicate Alice riding a bicycle. Alice, the female character in the story, is in fact a phantom, an unseen ghost whose name alone, when mentioned, is sufficient to break the occasional alliances within the male foursome. She is perhaps an ideal, perhaps an existential threat.
The short evening – if we refer to the dimension of time – is replete with stimuli and it corresponds with the world of animated video games, the products of an alternative reality of two-dimensional superheroes straight from the pages of comics. Our boys not only dance and act, they also recite texts and knead them into songs in a variety of styles, and primarily support the fantasy that wildly exaggerates in dealing with the essence of stereotypical masculinity, defining it in terms of power, control, and yearning for virility that marks them as alpha males (if only).
Yossi Berg and Oded Graf together with Hillel Kogan and Irad Mazliach are portrayed with inherent mischievousness, humorous winks and a spirit of nonsensical wild behavior in the charming sense, like a gang of poodles that enjoy playing the parts of sentry dogs. The evening has a few too many departures in different directions that are not always completely investigated, yet it has segments that are full of charm, and undoubtedly one of them is a sort of duet, or a chest to chest struggle like two deer protecting their territory – a segment that is somewhat reminiscent of the male duet in “The Rite of Spring “ by Maurice Bejart. In this scene by Hillel Kogan and Yossi Berg, the struggle begins with a resounding “Yes” from Kogan and a “No” that is no less decisive from Yossi who uses a soft voice, possibly in the role of “Alice”. Each one entrenched in his word sprayed from his lips only a few centimeters from the lips of his rival/beloved and when the pace increases, the power accumulates, the words fade, are mumbled, lose one direction and find another pronunciation, a different one, steered by vocal associations. The meeting of backs leads the scene to territories that become more and more erotic, and funnier, and end with groans and grunts that are completely animal.
Underneath all of this revelry, pretense disillusionment, there is a solid foundation of love, talent, and basic captivating humanity.