Israeli dance troupe LEV presents innovative ‘Chapter 3: The Brutal Journey of the Heart’ at Harbourfront Center in Toronto

Harbourfront Center celebrates its return to dance in person with the long-awaited Toronto debut of one of the hottest troupes on the international touring circuit, Israel’s LEV.

The company, co-founded/directed in 2013 by choreographer Sharon Eyal and her partner in art and life, Gai Behar, will present the Canadian premiere of “Chapter 3: The Brutal Journey of the Heart”. It’s the final installment in a trilogy of roughly hour-long works exploring the trials and tribulations of love.

Given all the pandemic uncertainty of ever-changing international travel restrictions and theater capacity limits, it’s a wonder Nathalie Bonjour, Harbourfront Centre’s Director of Performing Arts, was able to bring LEV to Toronto.

“It was a very complicated process,” Hello quietly underestimates.

Visits are planned and booked several years in advance. Bonjour originally scheduled LEV for April 2020 as part of Harbourfront Center’s ‘Torque’ series of cutting-edge international contemporary dance. In 2018, she traveled to the Edinburgh International Festival in Scotland to see the second part of the trilogy, “Love Chapter 2”. This was the work that Bonjour had planned to present in Toronto. Then the pandemic froze international tours. By the time it started to resume, LEV had moved on to “Chapter 3”

“In a way,” Hello says, “I’m glad it turned out that way. Chapter 3 offers a sense of closure, which is perfect as we finally begin to emerge from this pandemic. »

According to Eyal, it is not necessary to have seen the previous parts to appreciate the third. “You can see just one, or see them all. It makes no difference. Everyone is alone.

Despite its rather off-putting title, “Chapter 3” is actually an utterly compelling and accessible work that, in its scaled-down tour format, features a maximum of seven dancers dressed in hand-painted faux body art suits with Blood red heart patterns on each chest. These alluring suits are by Maria Grazia Chiuri of Christian Dior Couture.

The world premiere in Germany in 2019 featured nine dancers. It was recently performed by a cast of six at its North American premiere in New York; the gender mix may also vary.

“The number of dancers changes often,” says Eyal. “The work can adapt to many different spaces. As for sex, for me it is not so important. Work is about people.

With a varied and appealing score by Ori Lichtik, frequent musical collaborator of Eyal, which includes Latin and African rhythms, almost folkloric melodies and edgy choral passages, “Chapter 3” is a work of pure dance, stripped of all the dull pretensions of so much Western Europe. contemporary dance. In fact, Eyal doesn’t even think about what she does in contemporary dance.

“Perhaps it’s the new neo-classical dance,” says Eyal, referring to one of his choreographic idols, the late grandmaster George Balanchine.

“Chapter 3” quickly builds a collective momentum that is wonderfully sustained throughout the scene as the dancers sink into deep heaps or open their arms as if to embrace the universe. They prance with their feet arched high or swing their hips and slung their shoulders in vogue. The movement is precise, down to the smallest detail and, unsurprisingly, reminiscent of Gaga, a language of movement developed by Ohad Naharin, Eyal’s former artistic director at Israel’s Batsheva Dance Company, who strives to connect the inner emotional impulse to the outer physical movement as authentically possible.

Eyal is no stranger to Canada; neither does his company. As an outstanding dancer at Batsheva, where she also cut her teeth as a choreographer, Eyal has performed on several of her Canadian tours. LEV – the company’s whimsical name plays on the Hebrew word for heart – first toured Canada in 2014 and then every year from 2016 to 2018. Perhaps it helps that the troupe’s tour agent is Menno Plukker from Montreal.

The Canadian connection goes further. “OCD Love,” the first installment of Eyal’s trilogy, was incubated during a creative residency at the Banff Center in Alberta. One of LE-V’s principal male dancers, Darren Devaney, was born in Edmonton and danced for several seasons with Ballet British Columbia before moving to Tel Aviv.

“I feel close to Canada,” says Eyal, even though she can’t be with the company in Toronto. “But,” she adds, “my heart will dance there.”

“Chapter 3: The Brutal Journey of the Heart,” Fleck Dance Theatre, 207 Queens Quay W.; March 3 and 5.


Michael Crabb is a Toronto-based writer who reviews ballet and opera for The Star.

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