ZviDance breaks down the final wall

As soon as you walked into the ’62 Center’s MainStage for last weekend’s ZviDance show Zoom, you were aware that this was not a typical modern dance company. Directed by Israeli-born Zvi Gotheiner, ZviDance creates works that reflect changes in the modern age. Although Gotheiner is the artistic director, the dancers and Gotheiner form the pieces through a collaborative process.

An instant feeling of awkwardness took over as the audience filed into their seats while one dancer repeated a dance sequence on stage, even while the house lights were still on. If this was not enough to suggest a different kind of show, then the set design surely broke any forms of convention. A strong spotlight from the back left emphasized the negative space around the dancers. At the back of the stage, a broad screen projected a variety of images and words. Written on the screen was the phrase “Email pics to zoompics@me.com, text or message.” Additionally, the large digital screen placed the audience into a physical manifestation of the world of cyberspace: Pictures, dancers, words and sounds constantly streamed throughout the show, like one who surfs the web. The choreography and the design tried to embody the new relations and structure that faces our society because of the new age of mobile and wireless technology.

The dance sequences transitioned smoothly between each piece, as the dancers continually exited and entered the stage. Even the music played between the smaller dance routines blended and smoothly progressed from one style to another. The dancers took the audience from an eclectic and uneven rhythm of abstract tones to a familiar and moving Afro-Cuban beat. There was also an ongoing flux of dancers on and off stage: For example, as one dancer left, two swiftly entered to perform a duet. Even though the movements themselves flowed smoothly from one to the other, the dancers’ choreography would abruptly change to begin a different movement. At one point when the full ensemble of all ten members was on stage, a joyful vibe emanated from the performers as their movements became undulating, large and springy. Their interactions with each other were pleasantly civil, in a manner reminiscent of a traditional baroque line dance, and they moved both elegantly and with a sense of ease.

But once a more intimate dance sequence began – which included, at various points, one to three dancers – the interactions became less whimsical. Rather, their movements almost contradicted each other, one dancer freezing when the other began moving, and the motions between partners lacked any harmony. The formerly apparent grace of a tango or a swing dance was gone, and the dance seemed more like a game of “red light, green light.” As it continued, the dancers would move each other into positions that contorted their arms while exaggerating their aggressive spins and lifts. The dissonance between the two dancers was established as a motif that seved with subsequent duets throughout the show. These tense and uncomfortable duets were enhanced by the irregular flow of interaction: As one performer danced, the other refused to acknowledge the other, as if he or she was insecure or hesitant. In a sense, these duets transcended “virtual” cyberspace and questioned the reality of these relationships by imitating interactions that one can find when using various social networking sites.

The dance also raised the issue of interaction between the dancers and the audience. During the performance, ZviDance broke the conventional “fourth wall” and brought audience members into the experience. In addition to the texts (projected onto the screen) that questioned the audiences with phrases including “Wanna hangout” and “Do you like my smile,” the audience physically interacted with the dancers. One sequence involved no dancing; instead, a dancer stood on the stage with a laptop and her phone number displayed on the screen, inviting any questions or comments from the audience. Though hesitant at first, once the audience saw that their text messages were actually projected onto the large ominous screen, the messages started accumulating like a viral thread. The height of the audience-performer interaction climaxed when the dancers used their cell phones to call audience members; the audience was also invited on stage to talk with the dancers and take pictures on their phones. The distinction between the audience and performer, who was the spectator and who was being watched, blurred. These new interactions challenged traditional concepts of the viewer and object in a way similar to that of video chatting.

The diversity of the dancers emphasized how the Internet brings different people together: Despite physical differences between short, tall, male, female, skinny and muscular, they collaborated and interacted with each other as people do on the Internet. As any piece that Gotheiner and his dancers create, Zoom used the medium of visual performance to raise questions and thoughts on civilization. He did not comment on society’s cultural norms but instead simply tried to shed light on them in order to bring our current ways of living to the viewer’s consciousness.