Deganit Shemy at the River to River Festival

There’s a strange, fascinating little nook in the financial district, not far away from our offices. It’s a haphazard, multi-level outdoor space tucked next to the John Street United Methodist Church–essentially an alley, but euphemestically a “courtyard.” This afternoon, thanks to Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s Sitelines series, a part of the River To River Festival, it also became a stage.

Israeli choreographer Deganit Shemy’s 2 kilos of sea takes full advantage of the courtyard’s quirks: Dancers drape themselves over walls, bang on metal handrails with sticks, climb lampposts. As in most site-specific works, the dance was in part about the space–exploring it, exploiting it.

Yet what I love most about Shemy’s dances is not their use of space; it’s their use of people. (And I don’t mean bodies, necessarily.) At the opening of sea, the six smiling, giggling dancers cavort through variations on folk steps, accompanied by what sounds like a carnival calliope. Then the music darkens, and the frolicking devolves into something stormier, stickier, more mysterious. These dancers aren’t innocents–at least not anymore–and their moods change suddenly and violently. A hand held to an ear to conceal a whispered secret suddenly becomes a stranglehold; tickling becomes poking, becomes stabbing. Shemy’s people are taking a beautiful walk along that all-too-clichéd–yet all-too-real–line between pain and pleasure, love and hate, happiness and unhappiness. They’ve glimpsed paradise–and then lost it.

2 kilos of sea will be performed at the John Street United Methodist Church, 44 John Street, through July 15th. Visit for more info.

About Margaret Fuhrer

Margaret Fuhrer is Dance Spirit's editor in chief.
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