Chutzpah! Fest 2017: 4Men, Alice, Bach and the Deer - Yossi Berg & Oded Graf Dance Theatre

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4Men, Alice, Bach and the Deer | Yossi Berg & Oded Graf Dance Theatre | Chutzpah! Festival 2017 | Norman and Annette Rothstein Theatre | February 25 – 27, 2017

A life-size deer sculpture sat on stage to greet us as we took our seats. Wearing Mexican wrestling masks and suits with patterned button down shirts, four men take the stage and stand in a line facing the deer, doing the cha-cha. If it sounds strange, that’s because it is. But amidst the strangeness, there was some interesting commentary about masculinity.

TeI Aviv’s Yossi Berg and Oded Graf have created a dark fairy tale of four men and their search for the pinnacle of masculinity, set to Bach’s calm, serene music. They begin to tell the story: “Far, far away in a land…there were four men living in a big house…with a flat screen tv and beer, and meat.” They talk about living in complete harmony with nature, and having to stay away from anything connected to beauty or tits.  

Using exaggerated mime, large, expansive walks, and shoving each other around as if proving their masculinity to each other, the dancers begin to express different versions of masculinity. The masks come off and on throughout the piece as they move through different sections that show their lyrical movement abilities as well as vocal harmonies. The “Alice” in the title is a lost girl who comes upon their big house. Thrilled at the prospect of female company, they ask her to spend the night, and are beside themselves with joy when she says yes — so beside themselves that they spend a considerable amount of time repeating “Alice said yes” in various musical forms such as opera and rap.

Perhaps representing a masculine tendency to jump to conclusions when it comes to consent, it turns out that Alice actually said no, and two of the dancers hit their chests together arguing about this simultaneously saying “yes” and “no” as they words gradually morph into other sayings and then into grunts.

They talk about being lonely men, about money, and about power, and in a display of masculine power, one dancer, wearing bright red gloves, takes the head off the deer. He holds the deer head high amidst flashing strobe lights and rave music as they all cavort around the stage. The Bach music returns as the piece comes to a close with the dancer who decapitated the deer performing an emotional solo including lots of somersaults, handstands, and impressive flips. He rolls around the stage and comes to a stop centre stage, seated cross-legged and staring straight at the audience.

While there were some humorous moments and some interesting commentary on what it means to be a man, it was hard to find a singular message running through the piece. In the end, I think it left most confused and unsure about what they had witnessed.  

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