Maria Kong dancers in Open Source ©Ascaf

Maria Kong dancers in Open Source ©Ascaf Avraham

The Norman & Annette Rothstein Theatre, Vancouver – March 5, 2016

Open Souce is part of the Chutzpah! Festival.  Catch the final performance March 7th at 8pm.  

With Open Source, Tel Aviv-based dance company Maria Kong explores the themes of free will and fate through the concept of virtual reality.  Played out like a video-game, a character named the ‘All-Time Gamer’, performed by Ori Ben-Shabat, presides over four characters performed by Anderson Braz, Artour Astman, Amit Tine and Asami Ida.  The program’s description helped to understand the brief plot, that the characters played by Braz and Tine are about to be married.  Ben-Shabat’s romantic interest in Tine causes him to intervene, igniting the conflict between fate and desire.

Music and audio effects feature dominantly in the performance and are well matched by the theatricality of the dancers.  Their snappy, elastic and athletic manner is full of contrasts – fine and articulate in one moment, blunt and direct the next.  Ida is particularly captivating with her hyper-real, coquettish caricature, snaking impishly through scenes and with her dance partners.  Crazy, vulnerable and tenacious, her complex characterization entices further exploration, perhaps in a future Maria Kong production?  The music shifts between busy, break-beat percussion, mellow piano notes and bass tones that give plenty of textures to complement the dance.

Ben-Shabat, dressed in a black pants and hoodie, remains in the shadowy peripheral except the moments he steps in to manipulate the plot.  Yet, with each re-assembly, the story unravels by each character’s palpable intentions.

Identities are in flux, and each vignette shifts perspectives.  Astman is an equally animated match to Ida and together they represent the inner desires of Braz and Tine – partnering with them in wild and dynamic duets.  In other moments, the show proposes that Astman and Ida might be the real characters, and Tine and Braz, the facade.  Frequently, dance phrases downstage are mirrored by another dancer upstage, further examining the idea of concurrent realities.

Lighting effects, designed by Shachar Werechson, are used sparingly but dramatically.  In one scene, a bright and narrow spotlight shines onto the middle of the stage, dividing it into two halves with Tine and Ida on either side.  They tease one another across the threshold before crossing to the opposite sides.

Open Source features special gloves, created by the Maria Kong team, which uses wireless digital technology to trigger sound through hand movements of the wearer, Ben-Shabat.  With a wave of his arms or flick of his fingers, his control over sound dictates dancers’ movements and interprets his power over them.  It’s a novel device that enables intricate synchronization of sound and movement, though parts of the show seemed to only flaunt the technology without serving the narrative.

Thankfully, the show is redeemed in a touching duet from Tine and Braz, to a recording of the song, Sirata, by Senegalese singer Habib Koite.  Notes of the guitar play delicately as Tine and Braz (he is intensely present in this duet) slither on the ground in a soft dance while enamoured with one another in long stares.  Ben-Shabat retreats upstage to observe, relinquishing Braz and Tine to fulfill their own destinies.

Maria Kong dancers in Open Source © Alexander Sherbakov

Maria Kong dancers in Open Source © Alexander Sherbakov