Belgrade Dance Festival 2012 hosted Israeli choreographers Oded Graf and Yossi Berg with two plays Animal Lost and 4 men, Alice, Bach and The Deer. Berg has worked with DV8 Physical Theatre from London and collaborated with top world choreographers like Jiri Kylian and Graf has worked with I am sure we all know, Kibbutz Dance Company and Noa Dar Dance Company. Both choreographers started collaborating 2005, and ever since then they built a reputation in a very physical dance theatre. The driving force behind the performances in Belgrade is Israeli reality – daily life in Tel Aviv and the general reality of living on Planet Earth now. I have chosen to review Animal Lost over the other one only because of the masks and the idea of what mask represents in the play. Their goal in Animal Lost was the most likely, to explore stereotypes of social clichés and follow the instincts. What happens if the instincts triumph over social clichés of the civilization? In this performance, they use stereotypes to mirror society. If everybody takes off his or her masks, what will be left? Still there is another common mutual aspect of this play, Animal Lost in general talks about humanity and how human can be beastly. Even if their dance or better say physical movement theatre on the stage since so simple, imagine how hard that must be doing it under a huge animal masks.
We are all complex people and process of transformation from a man into a stereotype is always there, and animal heads turning dancers into a common society stereotypes. An individual only exists as a social being, and within there is a context of individual historical development; the composition of individual personality and the structure of his behavior turn out to be a quantity due to a social evolution. In nowadays in different societies the entire psychological makeup of person depend directly on the development of technology, the degree of production development in the society and structure of that social group, or in our case society we belong to. Research in the field of ethnic psychology has been established by the theory of historical materialism and those are factors of the whole psychology of contemporary man.
We have here six dancers dressed in bright colors, twisting the hips to a rhythm range from Israeli folk chanting to a modern music of techno rhythms, which creates a hectic atmosphere of modern time and social behavior pattern. In old civilizations sometimes the animals assumed human forms to ensure their descendants retained their human shapes. Many civilizations in the world explored the subject; for instance in North and Central America, some parts in West Africa and Australia, every male in the community acquires at puberty a tutelary spirit. In modern society, this spirit acquiring may mean turning individual into a stereotype. Nevertheless, together with the beginning of social and historical human life and the fundamental changes in a lifetime conditions and technology we all had to adapt to the very character of human evolution course that radically changed due to an advance of society, technology and changing of a living conditions. Resolving contemporary psychological theory, the biological human type has changed remarkably little by little, during the course of the historical development of man, to be reduced into the one similar to a beast.
So masks on! The long leggy woman with a horse mask tells a horse jokes into a microphone. The dancers´ bodies are carrying masked heads of horse, pig, rabbit, bird…you name it! This is bold, ambitious and bizarre work with nonsense that comes together with certain sensuality. The movement vocabulary here is based on dancing by free association, switching of and on with shifting from one idea or dancing style to another, and yet, still seeming to make some sense. These dancers seem to accept their “animal” natures – something primal and paradoxically, but very human. The scenario may seem ridiculous, and may seem somewhat unclear when it comes to dancing technique but the audience enjoyed in the very idea. This is parody and the show fluctuates from the field of usual stereotypes to a new insights. The biological evolution has come to a stop and contemporary species of ‘man’ is directed by the essential factors, which direct the process of evolution that have either completely fallen to a sub-dominant part of new and more complex laws governing human social development. And to go back to animal masks in the show, the struggle for existence and natural selection, a driving forces of biological evolution within the animal world, also apply with a modern societies today (if we are talking about human evolution): we lose our decisive importance as soon as we pass on to the historical development of the country. There are factors that mediate between psychological and technological progress and are very simple and instinctive, depending of how we observe it. Today much more complicated relationship of psychological and technological factors can be observed in developed society, which therefore has acquired a degree of complex class structure in Israeli society as well as in any other society (degree depends of the country). And class structure builds different stereotypes in one society.
The play Animal Lost also refers as a preview to a sexuality standard and tackles into subject of identity and sexuality with humor. It is tragic-comic to see a perfect female body with Horsehead presenting herself as “I’m an American comedian,” and it is vanity today revealed in all their naivety of a double modern standard I’m- too- sexy- for- my- body that can be seen as a psychological superstructure of contemporary man. This is not direct but very complex material that comes together with different spiritual factors. The dancers fight, kiss, flirt on stage, they are longing for love. We all do today! There is a tears, sadness, joy, laughter in the intimate dance structure; and technically, it is all in motion.