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  • Writer's pictureTalia Zur Baruch

Vertigo Dance Company | MANA: The Tension Between Whole and Hollow

Updated: Oct 23, 2021

MANA (“container of light” in Aramaic)

Written by Talia Baruch Dance debut: December 2009. video clip Choreographer & Artistic Director: Noa Wertheim General Manager & Artistic Director: Adi Sha’al Music: Ran Bagno Stage & Costume design: Rakefet Levy Lighting: Dani Fishof Still photography: Gadi Dagon

MANA dances the tension between container and contained, external and internal, whole and hollow. And what comes first, container or contained? In the contrast between light and darkness, does the Sun rise to fill-in the absence of Moonlight, or is it the absence of Moonlight that inspires its source of light? (Based on the “Zohar”) This timeless tale follows the flow in black and white, dark and light, with few specks of ruddy-warm. The backdrop of the seducing stark night stands in still mystic contrast to the milky-white house, symmetrically centered in its simple, stable form at the stage center. In a moment, the geometric shapes will act out the diabolic dialogue between feminine and masculine, circular and linear, curve and crevice. They’ll draw-in the drama between the forces of light and darkness, forever entangled to balance each other in the life's eternal loop.

On Stage, we see:

Feminine: circular, soft black balloon, hanging like a full moon up above the house

Masculine: linear, sharp-angle triangular roof, edgy rectangular door, protruding

Feminine: curve and crave in sensual, spiral hip-stirred movements

Masculine: stride, high-strung, across the stage, connecting the dots in linear pathways

Both forces aspire to escape the hollow and reach the whole in their quest to be both content and container. The visual image threads throughout the dance--a black balloon attached to a dancer, outstretched, pulling her up in a vertical line, her white legs long, strong, trotting like a circus horse in a royal parade.

At first glance, the fully draped orthodox robes signal reserved modesty. But then, a teasing toe peeks under heavy garment, a pure white shoulder escapes, curving contour, tight waistline, a hip jolts in sensual reveal. The free-fall back bends and suicidal leaps shatter the quiet, restrained recital.

The music dresses the dancers like a fitted gown, in sync, in tune. I play the soundtrack CD over and over and give in to the lyric mood quietly setting in. Ran Bagno, a long-time Vertigo artistic collaborator, wrote the score and played all the instruments, except for the drums, tapped by Dani Makov. I sit with Bagno over Cappuccino on a sunny winter day in Tel Aviv and ask him about the creative process of piecing this show’s score. “Unlike some other dances, Mana isn’t a collage of fragmented scenes,” he says, “rather, it’s composed as a single, comprehensive piece. When Noa reached out with the concept of a ‘container of light’ I struggled to find just the right musical instrument to fit in…until I stumbled over my kid’s old, abandoned guitar. Something about its virgin, broken, acoustic sound was perfect for the muse.”

Watching the fluid flow of movement on stage, I’m reminded of Alexander Calder’s art—capturing compound sketches in a single line stroke. MANA carries the visual aesthetics of calligraphy: ink brush forms a black blotch on snow white paper. Then, in a skilled hand, it drifts, lifts up high, lays low, and spirals all the way through…

Vertigo Dance Company founded the Eco Art Village, where they live and create in a little utopian planet of clean air and fresh manure. This might explain why their work is genuinely untainted, raw and earthy.

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