Niv Sheinfeld/Oren Laor and Same Planet Different World MCA Performance Review – Electric, Humorous, Intimate --- Touching


Walking into the Museum of Contemporary Art’s performance space we first glanced the chairs set on the stage that announced this variant of “new”—the MCA Stage calling card-- was going to be a more intimate one.   Arguably already the best space to see dance in Chicago, this seating arrangement signaled a barely there boundary between performers and audience.



Three works—“Stripped”, choreographed by Same Planet Different World’s (SPDW) Joanna Rosenthal Read, and from choreographers Niv Sheinfeld and Oren Laor first a piece for SPDW, “Vanishing Point”, followed by their update of a 1980’s dance classic originally created by Liat Dror and Nir Ben Gal—were each exciting and engaging in their own way.  This was one of the most accessible dance performances on Chicago stages in memory.



Read explained in the program notes that “Stripped” is a lamentation on how technology is changing us and our experiences in the world.  The moment that sparked this work was when Read realized she was more engaged with her smartphone than with her infant child.  The five Same Planet Different World dancers (Sarah Gonsiorowski, Omar Hernandez, Joe Jensen, James Nemecek, and Marley Schmidt) start in a circle beginning with slow moves that later build into frenzy and diagonal streaks across the stage. “Stripped” riveted attention with energy and moves that always surprised and engaged. 



One minute we are hearing techno beat and seamlessly it seems to have become the “The Lamb” by William Blake sung by the Choir of King’s College.   



Most memorably, the dancers in turn seem to be consumed by full body shivers that then seem to propel them into the air.  Perhaps this was meant to mirror the hum of technology creating brain buzz.  It reminded this reviewer of High School biology experiments on frogs forcing their muscles into tetany followed by twitches.  Truth to tell, the great variety and whimsy in “Stripped” is equally intriguing even if we forget or never know that technology is its theme.



With all the dancers’ hair let loose and Janis Joplin’s loud crooning in the air, those of us in the first row seemed to be just at the “Vanishing Point”.  



We were sitting just inches from where the charging SPDW dancers stopped their gallop from across the stage. 






This was 60’s music and 60’s moves laced with pirouettes, splits, and more run, run, running. 



The music stops, the dancers stop, and Sarah Gonsiorowski yells to the back, “Can you play it again?” and it resumes with the same high tilt energy as before.  Later, without music, three of the dancers do repeats that build a pattern from ready-on hold-release-repeat.  They mesmerize. 





Then time slows and a Tai Chi slowed in quicksand finale by Marley Schmidt rivets our attention and shines a spotlight on the dancer’s skill. 


Call it dance or call it theater, “Two Room Apartment” took us on a sometimes comical and ultimately poignant exploration of intimacy. 



This was a two-men update to a classic modern dance originally done by a man and woman depicting their life in a two-room apartment. 



It began with the two dancers—Sheinfeld and Laor—using masking tape to delineate the rooms.  Initially they each stay in their own rooms, with repeated gestures that string together into dance sequences. 



Forays are made into each other’s boxes and then the drama builds when Laor gets naked and his repeated gesture is then jumping into Sheinfeld’s arms to be held like a baby. 



What was laid bare by his nudity was not only his body but even more so how the repeated gestures from the opening sequences were now revealed as equally intimate sequences.  




How charming when Laor, re-clad in underwear, begins prancing about the two rooms and stuffs a shirt in his drawers for ribald laughs.  My only question was whether he knew that he was playing to a Chicago audience where some would think he has a distinct resemblance to one time dancer and current Mayor Rahm Emanuel.  You’d have to be inert to not be tickled by “Two Room Apartment”, but Chicagoans, perhaps, got a little extra.



You can count on MCA Stage to bring Chicagoans performances that are different and almost always home runs.  The current schedule of dance, music, theater and more runs through May 1, 2016.  For tickets or information visit the MCA Chicago website or call the Box Office at: 312.397.4010




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