To perceive light, one needs to emerge from darkness. That is part of the message sent by Vertigo Dance Company, now onstage at the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival.
Yet in “Mana,” an evening-length piece, the Israeli ensemble is laying out much more. The title is Aramaic for “vessel of light.” The shadowy work is an explosive study of contradictions, exploring the contrasts of not only light and dark, but also yin and yang, ancient and modern, violence and peace. And Vertigo dances it with a fierce commitment.
This contemporary dance ensemble is one of the great ones to spring from Israel. Like many from that country, the dancers thrive on a raw, frightening honesty impossible to turn away from. And in “Mana,” choreographed by artistic director Noa Wertheim, this group of 10 is daring, dashing and marvelous.
Vertigo Dance Company
WHERE: Jacob’s Pillow, Route 20, Becket, Mass.
WHEN: 8 p.m. today, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $64, $59, and $39; $10 for 17 and younger tonight and Saturday night.
MORE INFO: (413) 243-0745, www.jacobspillow.org
The dance begins in a fog. Micah Amos sits with his back to the audience, a single light illuminating him and the folds of fabric that make up the casts’ gray and black costumes. In the background, a silhouette of a building, with a large, central door is revealed. Another dancer, Nitsan Margaliot, is seen off to the side, watching Amos as he simmers in a low-slung solo.
In the statuesque Amos’ dance, the temperament of the piece is carved. His movement swings from bold, giant steps to short, fragile ones. He rotates his legs through the air — smoothly — but then slices it sharply with his hands. He shakes his fists at the heavens and then opens his palms as if asking for a handout. Low shafts of sidelight and vapors of dust cloud the air, radiating a heat that the audience viscerally perceives.
Amos is joined by men and women, from the now-open door, who look like they blew in from another century. With the women in headscarves, they appear as farmhands. They expand on Amos’ solo, often dancing in circles, lines and hand-in-hand. But it is the same in that it runs from fluid to staccato, gentle to harsh, loving and hateful.
Rina Wertheim-Koren, with a large, hovering balloon attached to her shoulders, tiptoes onto the stage. Unlike the other dancers, draped in layers of cloth and heaving and sighing, she wears trunks and a short-sleeved top. She is a frail anachronism, a symbol of youth and modernism that lures Margaliot from the crowd.
Throughout, the music by Ran Bagno is a mix. Bright and playful piano gives way to pounding percussion, again punctuating the disparities that the dancers portray with fervor. Most outstanding among the dancers are Wertheim-Koren, Emmy Wielunski and Eyal Vizner. All three personify the company’s audacity and willingness to dig into “Mana” with heart, soul and full body.