A CIRCUS IN A SHELL
by Donald Hutera
What is Oyster? An abundance of colourful images and mysterious feelings: light and dark, simple and sophisticated, ridiculous and powerful. A seamless dream of motion vignettes, curiosities and wordless characer sketches. Charming, sometimes freakishly peculiar and yet strangely familiar, this piece of theatrical enchantment has been performed more than 100 times internationally since January 2000.
Born in northern Israel in 1969, Oyster’s creator Inbal Pinto began studying dance in her early teens. She created her first work twelve years ago. Subsequently dividing her time between performing and choreography, she was a member of Batsheva Dance Company. Wrapped, a three-part work lasting just under an hour, has become something of an international calling card for her eponymous company. (It was seen in Dance Umbrella 2000 and Woking Dance Umbrella 1999.)
Pinto’s choreography for Oyster makes reference to modern, classical, street and show dance, plus acrobatics. But her style - highly rhythmic, with an ungainliness that nevertheless achieves true grace - is unique. She and creative partner Avshalom Pollak, both in their early thirties, share a masterly imagination. They manipulate a troupe of six dancers and four actors (one a 65 year-old actress) almost like puppeteers. In Oyster they draw freely upon the worlds of live performance - theatre, music hall, circus - plus, says director Pollak, “movies, cartoons, marionettes and life. The opening image, when you see a dancer jumping on one leg, was taken from a real situation. Inbal had a roommate in dance camp who used to tie her leg to the bed every night so she would be more flexible.” The pre-recorded soundtrack skips deftly from Pagliacci to tango, Yma Sumac (an amazing, multi-octave novelty singer) to Harry James’ big-band sound, with throat singing thrown in for good measure.
Pinto doesn’t believe her work is representative of any particularly Israeli sensibility. “Everyone is very individual. You cannot say Israeli.” So from where do her ideas originate? “I’m not really influenced by dance. More by films or books, or people. The people on the stage are human beings, but completely different, too. Extreme. Their world is not reality. It’s like a children’s dream. And yet I’m trying to take movement from daily gestures. I don’t think to make something funny. Actually, I start from something sad and make it grotesque. Most funny things are sad things.”
WHO: INBAL PINTO DANCE COMPANY
WHEN: TUE 1 - WED 2 OCT
WHERE: THE UCL BLOOMSBURY THEATRE
ON SALE: FROM 17 JUN
TICKETS: 020 7388 8822
This interview was posted by Stuart Sweeney on behalf of Donald Hutera and first appeared in Dance Umbrella News.
Donald Hutera writes regularly on dance and arts for The Times, Evening Standard, Time Out, Dance Europe, Dance Magazine (US) and Dance Now. He is co-author, with Allen Robertson, of The Dance Handbook.
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