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The Plain Dealer, Zachary Lewis  |  October 30, 2014

Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company looks to offer universal experience (preview)

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- There is no correct interpretation. There is no lens through which some will perceive more than others.

With Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company, the 17-member troupe next in line on the DanceCleveland series, all viewpoints are valid. Not even the group's director has a lock on what his work is about.

"It's not about understanding, right or wrong," said Rami Be'er, longtime artistic head of Kibbutz and author of "If At All," the evening-length work it will present here next weekend.

PREVIEW

Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company

When: 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 8, and 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 9.

Where: Ohio Theatre, Playhouse Square, Cleveland.

Tickets: $25-$55. Go to dancecleveland.org or call 216-241-6000.

"Each spectator can tell his own story about what he sees on stage. It's all eyes connected to himself, through the piece. I want to give people the freedom to make their own associations."

One thing "If At All" a sliver of the company's vast repertoire definitely isn't: culturally specific. One need not hail from north Israel, home to KCDC, a noted dance school and a secondary student company since 1973, to derive meaning from the piece.

No, the 65-minute work, to be performed without intermission, is more universal than that. There is no narrative, per se. What it concerns are simply the nature of existence and the dynamic relationship between the individual and society.

"Human beings, as they are, are my inspiration," Be'er explained. "All materials in life are my materials. They all come into my work."

No one would know better than Be'er if there were, in fact, a concrete narrative. That's because, unlike most choreographers, Be'er exercises control over nearly every aspect of his productions.

He doesn't just make dance, in other words. He conceives whole environments. For "If At All," in addition to the choreography, Be'er, a trained cellist, oversaw both the lighting and costume designs and drafted the soundtrack, a wide-ranging mix of indie rock and electronica.

"What I bring is a proposal," said the director of Kibbutz, last seen here in 1998. "I create a world and then invite the viewer to be part be part of a journey. I leave him with himself, with his own feelings and memories."

Hence the director's reluctance even to talk at length about his piece. Asked about his style of choreography and for a rough outline of what transpires during "If At All," Be'er retreated, not wishing to exert too much influence over the experience.

All Be'er would say is that his dance is physically demanding, especially over the span of an hour, and that it calls for the whole body, not just fancy footwork. Everything else, he said, will be clear in the moment.

"I don't like to describe my work," Be'er said. "I believe good art has to speak on its own from the stage. When the curtain goes up, something has to catch you."

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