David Ian Lee · November 18, 2009
Presented by LeeSaar The Company in a vast performance venue at Performance Space 122, Prima features four lithe and distinctly modern female dancers in a 45-minute presentation that combines elements of ballet and jazz with krump, rave, and dance styles of an indefinable nature. The choreography is attributed to Lee Sher and Saar Harari, yet a highly organic aesthetic suggests a more collaborative nature of the work, as does the crediting of the ensemble as “creating dancers.”
The dancers—Jye-Hwei Lin, Hsin-Yi Hsiang, Hyerin Lee, and Candice Schnurr—are simply breathtaking. Three very petite women and a third whose athletic physique might be described as ever-so-slightly more Baccanale than Balanchine, they move with fervent intensity and ease. Several sequences of Prima take place in absolute silence and feature periods of magnificent stillness; launching out of these moments, the perfect synchronicity of the company is a thing of wonder. They seem almost preternatural, able to perceive one another’s movement utilizing a sense not granted mere mortals.
Some of the movement of Prima suggests demure femininity, such as the astounding leg extensions by Lee, or the girlish coquetry of Lin (who is featured, in one solo, in a dance of only her fingers, flashing and twisting with blinding fluidity). Other images conjure defiance and strength, most notably in the work of Schnurr; interestingly, Schnurr occasionally replicates a gesture suggesting enforced supplication, her arm twisted into supination as though by an unseen aggressor. Most revelatory may be Hsiang, whose body is capable of contortions and compactions that defy all common understanding of human biology: Her initial appearance is in a segment that alternates between sensual hip grinding and undulating, then spasms and wrenched body positions reminiscent of J-Horror cinema.
When the women dance to scored music, the selections are from DJ Filastine’s album Dirty Boom, and run the gamut from reggae-fusion-hip-hop to the sounds of science fiction films and police actions: The tone is carnal, pulsing, and oft delightfully offsetting. Joe Levasseur’s lighting design utilizes several dozen instruments hung sans-gels, allowing the playing space to glare astonishingly bright or be reduced to sexy silhouettes and shadows with a snap of the fingers. Coco Bofo’s costume design wisely drapes the four women in street garb, more suggestive of L train hipsters than practitioners of dance found in stuffy studios and barre classes: the dancers wear skinny jeans and feminine, taut shirts possibly shelf-picked from Urban Outfitters.
I recommend Prima without reservation to audience members in astonishment of the mechanics of the human body, those struck by things beautiful and mysterious, and anyone in search of a deeply moving theatrical experience transcendent of language. Folks liable to get hung up on narrative and direct intent may want to take a pass, but for anyone else, this modern dance conception makes for a perfect evening’s entertainment and enlightenment.
NY TIMES / DANCE REVIEW
Seeking New Sensations
By GIA KOURLAS
Published: November 21, 2009
There are four prima dancers — or, at times, prima donnas — in the latest collaboration by the Israeli artists Lee Sher and Saar Harari. At the start of “Prima,” performed at Performance Space 122 on Thursday night, Hsin-Yi Hsiang arched her back and pressed her hands into her ribcage. With her rear sticking out in stark exaggeration, she made her way toward the back of the darkened stage by wiggling her hips in a manner more ferocious than sensual. At times, it was as if she were possessed by outside forces or aftershocks; in other moments, she seemed to be going through the motions.
In creating such movement — a sort of flamboyant awkwardness — Ms. Sher and Mr. Harari are strongly influenced by another, more experienced Israeli choreographer, Ohad Naharin, and his Gaga movement training, which aims for its practitioners to push past habits to discover new sensations in their dancing. The performers in “Prima” seek such abandon and oddness in choreography that emphasizes jagged edges, but they rarely sustain it.
The dancers, including Jye-Hwei Lin, Hyerin Lee and Candice Schnurr, wear jeans and T-shirts credited to Coco Bofo. Seated in chairs or moving in unison with the precision of soldiers (Ms. Sher and Mr. Harari served in the Israeli Army), the dancers introduce themselves in a moment in each of their solos. Ms. Lin is the most dramatic, practically hissing her name: “I’m Jye-Hwei.”
Throughout “Prima,” the line between violence and sexuality is cynically blurred, as dancers hold their arms up, as if at gunpoint, or crawl on the floor like strippers. While Joe Levasseur’s lighting, with its sudden, spooky blackouts, provides the uneven work with the most depth, silence is juxtaposed with music from D.J. Filastine’s “Dirty Boom.” The NY Times.
Full-Fledged Mystery in Light and Shadow: LeeSaar at PS122’s COIL Festival
by April Greene
My friend from Israel was able to give me some help with the monologue delivered in Hebrew and some background on the Israeli pop music featured in LeeSaar’s production of Geisha at PS122 last month, but I still walked away with plenty of questions about the dance. Which was fine.
Jye-Hwei Lin and Saar Harari in Geisha. Photo by Justin Bernhaut.
LeeSaar the Company was formed by writer and actress Lee Sher and dancer and choreographer Saar Harari in their native Israel in 2000; they relocated to New York in 2004. Much of their work deals explicitly with politics, geography, violence, and war. While Geisha shares some of these themes, they are presented coolly and mysteriously, allowing the dancing and the dancers to surface as the most potent stuff of the evening.
The piece more or less alternates between phases of dance and music, opening with a long solo by Taiwanese dancer Jye-Hwei Lin, clad in only a tight pair of jeans. She is the definition of impressive, taking up the whole black stage to silently, determinedly shift from embodiment to embodiment, power to power. She moves fiercely from feline strut to getaway dash, and from pandering sweetie pie (backs of hands to chin with a Cheshire smile) to suicidal jail breaker (a caught look followed by a self-inflicted blow to the chest and subsequent stillness). Her movements, abruptly angular but flowing with grace, reveal emotion after emotion but keep meaning close to the vest.
Before Lin is joined by her masculine counterweight, Harari, there is a musical intermission. Sher, dressed in a short red kimono and stylish turban, comes stepping lightly out from stage right in a spotlight, wielding a big silver mic. She performs an impressive lip synch to 1980s Israeli singing star Sharon Lifshitz’s “It Is Difficult Without You,” a classic-sounding big-reverb pop ballad. Near the end, she strolls up through the crowd, mouthing the words longingly into select men’s eyes, and even takes a hand or two in the process. She is given a genuine round of applause after the epic final notes.
We rejoin Geisha’s darker half when Lin reappears on stage, this time with Harari, who is also wearing only jeans. He, too, shifts—between dizzyingly fluid hip-circles and authoritarian arm slashes, his moves, at times sexy at times nearly grotesque, but consistently powerful. Lin and Harari’s chemistry is enthralling. They quickly become each other’s shadows, adversaries, confidants, irritants. They mirror or watch one another as each runs from side to side only to abruptly stop, and they kick and chop precisely in all directions—out of aimless aggression or truly engaged in battle is not always obvious. They rarely touch but remain cognizant of their twin presence.
A second song, this one by Rita (whom my friend would describe as the Barbara Streisand of Israel), also presented by Sher in lip synch, is preceded by a short recitation in Hebrew. I would learn that it began something like, “How is it out there for you, audience? It sure is scary up here.” Sher wraps this ballad with a glissando of luscious hand waves and kisses to the crowd, enacting real diva self-satisfaction before striding offstage.
When Geisha ended, all the songs went silent, all the red and black flashes went dim, with Lin and Harari…having run out of options? Or having decided to join forces? Maybe neither of the above. It’s difficult to say, but when Geisha ended, I felt as if I had come face to face with a giant multi-faceted jewel—some sides illuminated in my view, some quite hidden. And that was truly fine. Brooklyn Rail
Damn near all dance is about relationships in some way or another, but few pieces exploit the idea of how the space between two human bodies can be both a charged field and a cold void like LeeSaar’s Geisha. The Israeli group (by way of New York) is known for its spare scenes and powerful, sinuous movement, but Geisha, a lengthy duet for company co-founder Saar Harari and Jye-Hwei Lin, pares the work down to its essentials, even stripping its dancers bare to the waist. It’s a nice touch, as each of their sultry undulations and articulations reveal a new, wild ripple of muscle, beads of sweat catching the diffused light as they dance in tandem and in opposition. They never once manage to touch—to connect—in the work’s hour-long run. Geisha is an often silent, nearly meditative experience, one that will test some audience members’ patience. A respite comes from company co-founder Lee Sher, who intermittently crashes the dance duel with surreal, passionate renditions of Israeli pop ballads. “People in Israel are very emotional about the songs…because they [know them], the first one was really big in the ’80s,” Harari told WW. It’s a more disconnected experience for Americans, who can try and decode the Hebrew lyrics along with Lin’s strident chest-slaps and stutter steps and Harari’s go-go dancer hip gyrations—bold movements that pepper the work’s smooth flow like sexy, startling little hiccups. “When we work we try to express our sensations and just take it out in the studio. Then we start to see what it is,” Harari says. “There’s no storyline. It’s who we were when we created it.” That said, who this pair was—and is—is a mystery worth watching unfold. The Willamette Week
By Susan Yung
It’s been a few years since LeeSaar, a small company begun by Lee Sher and Saar Harari of Israel that settled here, first made a splash in New York; they received a Guggenheim Fellowship this year, among several laurels. Their work hasn’t lost much of the uniqueness and power that might have been due to its novelty, as seen in a double bill (called February) at La Mama. One half is a short play written and performed by Sher, who is an engaging presence. The other half is a dance, One Day, choreographed by Sher and Harari (they also designed the sound and costumes) for Jye-Hwei Lin and Hsin-Yi Hsiang.
One of the most powerful aspects of past works by LeeSaar has been its intimacy. No doubt this was in part due to the confines of the small theaters I’ve seen them in (such as PS 122’s two spaces), where you could hear them breathing and practically feel the warmth from their bodies. But I wondered how it would translate to the cavern of La Mama’s Annex. With Joe Levasseur’s lighting, the choreography did just fine, often taking place in one zone or another, as defined by light and darkness. Levasseur showed a resourceful invention by placing a strip of aluminum foil where footlights would be in a larger house, and bouncing light off it to ligth the dancers from below.
It’s also interesting to see this quite personal style of choreography transferred to other dancers without the specific background and training of the two choreographers, who went through Israel’s military training. It doesn’t suffer; in fact, its volatility and frenetic dynamics soften into a solid vocabulary less linked to personal emotion. The deep plies remain, as do the darting kicks and bouts of stillness.
The two dancers differ in many ways – in stature, quality of movement, pathos. Lin is willowy and open, while Hsiang is more compact and emotionally ambiguous. When they dance together, their respective nuances emerge. And while the piece is under a half-hour, it seems just the right length to avoid too much repetition with a vocabulary that is still in development.
Sher’s short play, Little island, offered a good, if odd, counterweight to the dance. She portrayed an old world, but young, woman named Martha Who, with an unidentifiable European-like accent. A call to the police, in the wake of several previously made, finally yields a visit for her urgent complaint: it’s too quiet. Anomie, absurdity, and abject loneliness all fall around her as thick and soft as the snow blanketing the play’s exterior.
Presumably, Sher’s theatrical experience contributes to the sense of drama inherent in the dance section. Both choreographers performed in past dance works to great effect. Harari in particular personified their coiled, combustible style. While their presence is missed in the dance, it is also nice to see such idiosyncratic movement interpreted with such positive results.
THE VILLAGE VOICE
By Deborah Jowitt
Some mysteries you fret over; others are best left unsolved—just savored for their strangeness. Actor-writer Lee Sher and dancer-choreographer Saar Harari call their performance February; that’s the first mystery. Think cold? Maybe. That umbrella title covers Little Island, a short play by Sher, and Harari’s One Day (Sher is also given credit for its choreography). Is there a connection between the two works? Maybe.
“Martha who?” That must be what the unheard voice on the telephone is asking. “Martha Who, yes, that is my name,” says the woman sitting stiffly in the middle of a white sofa. This woman (Sher) might as well be marooned on a real island. The only other furniture is a free-standing door and a potted tree that Joe Levasseur makes very important with his lighting. Martha Who is wearing a nice black velvet dress and pretty shoes, but she’s not going anywhere. She also seems to be pregnant, and you can try to figure out whether this is the character’s condition or the performer’s (the latter, I think).
Everything about this woman is formal and dignified. Sher enunciates her sentences carefully, drawing out her words in a low, accented voice that’s musical but varies very little in pitch or rhythm (Little Island was written in Hebrew and translated by Noa Shabti and Neil Wacks). For long moments, she stares straight ahead, expressionless, almost numb. She telephones the police, which she has evidently done a number of times; she wants an officer to come over as soon as possible. Why? She doesn’t say. She also calls her doctor and asks him when he’d like to see her (note the way she phrases the question); she itches all over. You wonder why she suddenly sticks her feet straight out and wiggles her toes, but after a while she starts talking to an invisible masseur about a vacation in Brazil she may or may not have taken.
There’s a knock at the door, and a policeman (Walker Lewis) is standing there, which stuns her for a second. While he’s certainly solid looking, he’s a dream officer in terms of his behavior. When she tells him that “It is quiet here. I think something is wrong,” he endeavors to find out what kind of quiet and, after pacing for a while, decides this is a serious case. He accepts her invitation to stay, have some dinner, keep her company, but he’s radioed to proceed to an accident. Why is he played by an actor, while the masseur is more clearly imaginary? Does Martha Who’s power of imagination wax and wane?
When another knock comes, she guardedly opens the door. Who’s there? A multitude: friends, relations. She calls them joyfully by name, cries “Come in come in!” Are these members of a desired absent group? A family? If you think again about Martha’s black dress and the frightening quiet, you can believe these visitors are the remembered dead, and be suddenly moved for a tragedy you’re on the verge of understanding. Then the lights go out.
Harari’s One Day is performed by two extraordinary women: Jye-Hwei Lin, who’s tall and willowy, and Hsin-Yi Hsiang, who’s shorter and slightly sturdier. Both from Taiwan, they attended the University of Illinois at the same time and have presented their own work at Danspace; Lin performed in Harari’s 2007 Geisha. The title of the due is apt. Watching the dancers, you can believe that all the thoughts and responses of a day are passing through them and animating their movements. Sometimes we hear a recording of Mitsuko Uchida playing Mozart, sometimes snatches of other music (AGF, Perez Prado & His Orchestra, Alva Notobut). But mostly we hear the women’s breathing, their footsteps, and on occasion, their voices—as when Hsiang talks animatedly in one of the Chinese languages and Lin, bent over, hands resting on her knees, responds with a few words.
Harari presents these two fascinating performers in a state of almost constant flux—now poised and dancerly, extending straight legs into space; now clumsy and spraddle-legged, their heads jutting out at odd angles as if they’re craning to find something. Modes of behavior and reactions wash over them like water coming out of a showerhead. At times they swagger, waggle their hips almost lewdly, or strut like models. Once, for a second or two, Lin—elbows, knees, and hips akimbo—resembles a Balinese dancer. Once she settles into a martial arts stance. There are moments in which both women seem to be trying to fit their mobile bodies and limbs into oddly shaped crannies of space (the effect is curiously sensual). At first, they throw or stretch their movements away from them, rather than gathering the space in.
They dance in unison. They perform different steps simultaneously. I can’t recall them touching. Twice Lin leaves the stage. For the most part, they’re absorbed in their own thoughts and explorations, but at certain points, they, or just Hsiang, come very close to the first row or spectators and confront them with a sexual bravado. Tough or tender, they’re amazing. And mysterious. But these mysteries don’t need to be solved. In our hearts and our own bodies, we know them.
EVA YAA ASANTEWAA
There should be more butts in the seats for LeeSaar The Company–at The Annex Theatre at La MaMa, continuing tonight at 7:30pm and ending with a 5pm peformance on Sunday.
If you don’t go, you’re missing One day, a duet with Taiwan-born Jye-Hwei Lin and Hsin-Yi Hsiang–intense, exacting channels of an intense, exacting vision, two performers who clearly have inspired Lee Sher and Saar Harari to sharpen all their tools. Both women are fairly recent recruits to the company; Lin’s performance in the company’s March 2008 work, Geisha, was one of the highlights of last season. The evening includes Little Island, a brief play by and featuring Sher as a woman whose isolation–amid the pleasantness of an all-too-quiet house–compels her to reach out in odd and sometimes amusing ways.
BY Alyssa Alpine
LeeSaar the Company — a partnership between actress/writer Lee Sher and dancer/choreographer Saar Harari — brings a split bill of dance and theatre to La MaMa. Founded in the directors’ native Israel but based in New York since 2004, the work is clearly influenced by Batsheva Dance Company and Ohad Naharin’s Gaga approach to movement. At La MaMa, LeeSaar the Company presents two separate works that are rich with meaning. Sher’s short, one-woman play, Little Island, portrays a lonely woman in a New York apartment, while the arresting One Day oscillates between narrative and abstraction in an intense duet performed by the mesmerizing Jye-Hwei Lin and Hsin-Yi Hsiang.
THE NEW YORK TIMES
Dance in Review: LEESAAR THE COMPANY
By ROSLYN SULCAS
Published: December 8, 2008
LEESAAR THE COMPANY
La MaMa E.T.C.
The double bill ”February,” by LeeSaar the Company, is worth seeing for an important reason: it’s a lesson in the way theatrical lighting can transform a dance work. It’s worth seeing for other reasons too, notably the dancers Jye-Hwei Lin and Hsin-Yi Hsiang in ”One Day,” the second part of the piece, by Lee Sher and Saar Harari.
The first part, ”Little Island,” is a play written and performed by Ms. Sher, who trained as an actress. Seen on Saturday night at La MaMa E.T.C., it’s a mysterious portrait of an isolated woman who repeatedly calls the police. When a policeman (Walker Lewis) finally turns up, her complaint turns out to be that it is ”too quiet.”
The subsequent dance section, ”One Day,” is equally opaque, but rather more compelling. This is due largely to Joe Levasseur’s extraordinarily beautiful lighting, which flares and glows in unexpected bursts or swells of light and dark across the stage, lending a poetic mystery to the explosive martial-arts kicks and undulating bodies of Ms. Lin and Ms. Hsiang.
The repetitiveness of the movement vocabulary and even pacing of ”One Day,” set to Mozart as well as jazz and electronic music, mean it palls toward the end. But Mr. Levasseur’s lighting gives the work a fascinating theatricality and rhythm, and the focused interiority shown by Ms. Lin and Ms. Hsiang is never less than remarkable to watch. ROSLYN SULCAS
THE NEW YORKER
The Israeli duo Lee Sher and Saar Harari bring “February,” a new two-part evening, to La Mama. The first part is a one-sided conversation written and performed by Sher, a chilling evocation of needy isolation, while the second takes Sher’s and Harari’s exploration of violence-tinged sensuality from last year’s “Geisha” a step further, with the aid of two powerful Taiwanese dancers, Jye-Hwei Lin and Hsin-Yi Hsiang.
by Catherine Thomas, Special to The Oregonian
Saturday September 06, 2008, 4:41 PM
Photo courtesty of PICALee Sher slinks through the audience, belting out Israeli pop songs to imaginary, adoring masses.
Bare-chested, clad only in form-hugging low-rise jeans, LeeSaar The Companydancer Jye-Hwei Lin walks onto the spare, dimly-lit stage of Lincoln Hall to total silence, her gaze on the audience as she crouches, hands on knees, flashing us a big grin as if for a snapshot. She’s riveting, melting from pose to pose across the stage, a constant flux of sinewy curves and martial arts fierceness: arms curling in fast jabs, back arched in an extreme lean while her hands hang limp, moving from taut, slow convulsions to harsh belly slaps to soft floating palms and one long stretched-out leg to the precise detail of her thumb jutting up from a clenched fist. It’s a solo that reads less as the gender-role statement the dance’s title — “Geisha” — suggests than as a dance of deep interiority.
Into this meditative space walks Lee Sher (who choreographed the piece with dancer/co-director Saar Harari), wearing a red silk dressing gown and crooning saccharine Israeli pop songs in the spotlight. She’s a karaoke habitue with pop star dreams, a little too fawning, a little too awkward — despite her vocal gifts and lusty delivery – to rise above the ordinary and grab the gilded ring. But she tries, with the emboldenment of the desperate. Victim of her own delusion, she slinks through the audience clasping hands, reads aloud a letter in smooth dulcet tones, blushes coyly to taped applause and an imaginary adoring audience.
Sher’s synthetic interloper magnifies the sincerity of the dance unfolding onstage. When Harari finally enters — like Lin, topless and in jeans — he exaggerates every swivel of hip until he’s set his full body into one long undulating roll, one hand glued between his legs while Lin watches. Together, they’re lovely, cycling through the movement and shadowing one another and creating their own rhythm in the silence. Snap, slap, footfall. Vehement head shake, snaking torso, wracked walk, thumb to lip, in and out of darkness until the dance fades away.——————————————————————–
92nd Street Y Harkness Dance Festival
Dancer/choreographer Saar Harai and actor/playwright Lee Sher arrived in New York City in 2004 from Israel with few resources outside of their impressive collective talents.LeeSaar The Company opened the festival with Part II, a new work based on two previous works, Herd of Bulls and Moopim. Not having seen either of the earlier works, I entered their world mid-story.A door opens, a yellowish light pours on to the empty stage. It’s not remotely sunny—more like a warning light, a state of alert, danger, and uncertainty. Sher enters looking traumatized and in a trance as if something has just happened offstage. She attempts to speak but the sound is extinguished, as if pulled back inside her. (Interrupted sound forms a reoccurring motif.)
The door remains open throughout the performance—a telling sign, that all is not safely enclosed. The portal seems less like an escape hatch and more like a means of surveillance.An explosive duet between Harai and Russella Fusco follows.
They are not kidding about the program note stating “we seek the extreme within ourselves.” Fusco and Harai fling themselves in taut lurching movements. They tear up the space with their slicing movements. At other times the space itself is doing the tearing, as if invisible forces push pull, shove, and yank. Mid-air hurls look fearless and unplanned. It’s at once brutal and terrifically exciting with crisp unison and escalating tension. A battle mounts with an unnamed enemy. The two dance with a raw visceral conviction combining virtuosity with sheer dare-devilish gusto. Rare moments of release provide momentarily relief.During another of Harai’s duets with Ellen Cremer, the feeling oscillates between tenderness and revolt. He cradles her in his arms, she slips off. Comfort is temporary.There’s much about boundaries that is of interest. When the performers are not dancing they are sitting in the front row in a continual state of alert, nearly guarding the stage area. They are among us and yet not fully disengaged from the stage space. Several times during the show Harai catapults himself out of an audience seat onto another dancer. It’s an aggressive brand of dance making for sure.Part II is a spare, uncluttered work. A lone bundle of work lights makes the set, while Brendan Terzic’s period folk music (played on the traditional Middle Eastern oud) punctuates the silences. Bruce Steinberg’s lighting carefully isolates intimate moments that hone in on the delicacy of the piece. Sher whispers into Harari’s ear. She speaks in code but the tenderness of the moment comes through. Carefully selected choices throughout make for a streamlined, albeit difficult to decipher, work; there’s no fat on this dance. Sher and Harari strike a curious balance between explosive action and delicate reflective moments. Even seductive moments dot the terse climate. Still, the atmosphere feels fearful and unsafe; there’s no rest for the weary here.
There’s a curious rhythm to their work—the way things start and abruptly stop. It’s both effective and unsettling, yet always engaging. The performers—ferocious all—never let a second go to waste. Sher and Harari don’t just grab your attention; they wrestle it to the ground.
Nancy Wozny for CultureVulture.net
The New Yorker Dance
LeeSaar The Company -Moopim
The Israeli contemporary choreographers Saar Harari and Lee Sher moved to New York two years ago and promptly made a name for themselves with last season’s compelling “Herd of Bulls.” This week at P.S. 122, they début another unflinching, intensely personal piece—with a title, “Moopim,” as abstract as the unintelligible syllables that pour from Sher’s mouth throughout the dance. While a downstage musician invokes the Middle East with the traditional Arabic oud, five dancers (four female, one male) move through a separate, interior world—a sometimes violent place, where dancers drop recklessly onto stiff backs and pound the floor with the backs of their thighs. Juxtaposed against the bare-bones set, the performers’ ferocious, in-your-face honesty demands attention: when they undulate, they’re frankly sensual, and when they struggle, they mean it. (150 First Ave. 212-352-3101. Sept. 27-30 at 8:30 and Oct. 1 at 4:30. Through Oct. 8.)
Review No. 57Posted: January 21, 2006
LeeSaar The Company PS 122
January 19, 2006 through January 23
Saar Harari’s Herd of Bulls received respectable notices when first shown at PS 122 last October.Recently, LeeSaar The Company reprised this work during COIL, the theater’s winter dance festival, which concludes on January 24. Performed by Harari, Rossella Fusco, Shamel Pitts, and Lee Sher, Herd of Bulls draws upon–perhaps exorcises–the choreographer’s harrowing experience as a commanding officer in Israel’s Special Forces.Dressed in drab clothes and fixing us with dead-eyed glances, none of these dancers looked steely strong at first, but then they sprang into action. For the next hour, most of their movements referenced brutal physical discipline, hair-trigger reflexes, and the kind of trauma and apprehension that keep a body on high alert. They took aim with imaginary weapons, raked the air with their fingers, nearly wrenched their shoulders and arms from their torsos, and slammed their bodies into the floor. Fear sizzled off their flesh like electricity. They slept fitfully, snapped awake with a start and a gasp. Occasionally slow, massive undulations of the shoulders, back, and hips made them resemble monstrous pythons. I imagined young soldiers swinging into a dance club to relieve their tension and to connect sensually with someone–anyone–and perhaps that was Harari’s intended image here.The physical separation between performers and audience held for sure, but the threat remained. This herd could have rushed close enough to trample us or spray us with sweat. At one point, feeling their dancing in my gut, I experienced a sharp, involuntary contraction. Even the dancers’ audible breathing made me wince and cringe. No place to retreat, not even somewhere in one’s head.What has Harari wrought? Herd of Bulls, while certainly effective, even gripping, isn’t exceptional in its approach. A good number of contemporary dances have employed discordant, relentlessly violent movement, deploying dancers of similarly deep commitment and bulletproof stamina.Herd of Bulls stands out because of its backstory, not its movement. Harari’s story gives his dance direct connection to real-world violence; gives it consequence and undeniable power. Now let’s see what’s next for this intrepid artists.LeeSaar The Company performs Herd of Bulls again on Sunday and Monday, January 22 and 23, at 7:30pm. For more information about these or other performances in PS 122′s COIL festival, see www.ps122.org.©2005, Eva Yaa Asantewaa
The Village Voice
LeeSaar Doles Out Guns, Butter, and a Herd of Bulls
LeeSaar the Company, by Susan Yung
November 8th, 2005 6:35 PM
Performance Space 122
Saar Harari’s dance and Israeli military training seemincongruous—if not physically, then karma-wise—but after Herd of Bulls works up a head of steam, it makes perverse sense and gives “task-oriented” choreography a new twist. Movement modulates from leopard stealth to precise ensemble drills to electrifying explosiveness. Wearing navy fatigues are Harari, intellectually and physically sharp; Rosella Fusco, a ferocious presence; and the genial Nile Russel.
Troupe co-founder Lee Sher has lost her trousers, compounding an already fragile vulnerability. She haunts the corners of the stage like a nighttime sylph, first emanating and then dispensing comfort and humanity. The other three stamp and chuff, flicking into combat-ready pliÈ squats, one thrusting arm socked in a fist, the other palm out. Fusco detonates into an airborne layout. Drawing a bead, do they point at the stars, aim a weapon, or both? Finally, dance a government can love—a soul-feeding killing machine.
The New York Times/ Arts
Dance Review | ‘Herd of Bulls’
In Soldier’s Violent Journey, Bodies Turn in Martial Fugue
By: Jennifer Dunning
Published: October 20, 2005
Saar Harari’s new “Herd of Bulls,” which opened on Tuesday at Performance Space 122, developed out of his realization that he had last been truly aware of his body when he was a soldier. A trained dancer, this Israeli modern-dance choreographer rose to the level of commander of a special combat unit in the Israeli army.Mr. Harari did not include any of this information in the frustratingly unrevealing program notes. You could probably get quite a lot from the hourlong pure-movement piece without knowing that its succinct moves and gestures came from a soldier’s intense emotions and quick-shifting physical states. But it is hard to imagine that the piece, performed by members of his five-year-old company, would be quite so haunting without that knowledge.Mr. Harari has described “Herd of Bulls,” set to occasional understated sounds and fragments of film scores and other music, as a journey through violence. The piece does not arrive at a final destination. But the choreographer’s ingenious plotting and moving of bodies in space creates a fugue of small, transitory arrivals as the dancers spill out and charge through the subtle, atmospheric shadows and moonlight of Katrina D. Maurer’s lighting.Three of the dancers – Mr. Harari, Rossella Fusco and Nile Russel – engage in propulsive martial calisthenics. They fall, rise and inch across the floor as if wounded, slipping through quick bursts of emotions. You imagine a soldier spotting a small flower in the battlefield when Mr. Harari stares down for a brief moment at his open palms as if suddenly contemplating the possibility of miracles.Lee Sher, the actor and dancer with whom Mr. Harari formed his company and who serves as a dramaturge here, is the fourth performer. Slender and sensuous, she twists and oozes through “Herd of Bulls” as if she were a fantasy of luscious, bizarre everyday life beyond the battlefield.”Herd of Bulls” will be repeated through Sunday at Performance Space 122, 150 First Avenue, at Ninth Street, East Village, (212) 352-3101 or ps122.org.
The New York Sun
A Long, Tough Trip for LeeSaar
By JOY GOODWIN
February 12, 2007
Lee Sher remembers the date: January 19, 2004. It was a blustery, bitingly cold winter day — the day Ms. Sher, an actress, and her longtime boyfriend, Saar Harari, a dancer, first set foot in New York City.”We had come from Tel Aviv, where it’s always warm, so we were walking down the street with no coats,” Ms. Sher recalled recently, during a break from rehearsal at the 92nd Street Y, where she and Mr. Harari were readying a piece for their company, LeeSaar The Company, for the Harkness Dance Festival. “The wind was so strong that day, I felt like I couldn’t breathe.”Ms. Sher and Mr. Harari — both 30 years old at the time — came to New York sight unseen. They nursed dreams of starting a dance company, and a belief that somehow their adopted city would force them into full bloom as artists. They arrived with $1,000 in cash, a few suitcases, a smattering of English, and two phone numbers they could call. Fortunately for them, one of those numbers belonged to an Israeli friend who worked in real estate; within three days, they had an apartment.The couple spread the blanket they had brought from home on a mattress left behind by the former tenants and wrote home asking for sheets. In the meantime, they used the empty space for dancing.”That’s where we started to work on our first piece for the new company,” Mr. Harari said with a smile. “It was easy without furniture.”Money trickled in from odd jobs. Mr. Harari, an accomplished dancer, found occasional work dancing with pick-up companies; Ms. Sher, a successful actress and playwright in Israel, worked in a shoe store.Money was scarce enough that they continued to rehearse at their small apartment. In warm weather, they danced in Central Park. There were many times, Ms. Sher noted, when they didn’t know how they would pay the next month’s rent. “But every time we said, ‘Okay, what are we going to do?’ a miracle happened.”A string of such miracles — and the duo’s prodigious talent — has brought LeeSaar The Company to relative prosperity from total obscurity in three years. In December, Mr. Harari, now 33, received a Six Points Fellowship from the United Jewish Appeal of New York, which provides up to $45,000 in living expenses and project support over two years. And Mr. Harari’s latest choreographic effort, “Part II” — co-directed by Ms. Sher — was chosen to open the 92nd Street Y’s Harkness Dance Festival, which gets under way this week at the Ailey Citigroup Theater.”Part II” combines new material with reworked fragments from the company’s two previous eveninglength pieces, “Herd of Bulls” (2005), and “Moopim” (2006), which made its premiere at P.S. 122. “Herd of Bulls” came out of Mr. Harari’s experiences in the Israeli military, where he served for five years as an officer. “Moopim,” in contrast, was steeped in bold female sexuality, at the urging of Ms. Sher, who firmly believes that “‘Sex and the City’ changed the world.” The new “Part II” places militaristic and personal movement side by side, in an effort to approximate the powerful contrasts typical of everyday life in Israel.”You go to the beach and see sexy girls, and then you’re on the sidewalk and you see guys with guns,” Mr. Harari said.”You drink a cappuccino while you read about another bomb in the paper,” Ms. Sher said. “In Israel, you laugh and cry together in the same moment.””And always, you hear the Arabic music,” Mr. Harari added.An oud player is one of the five performers in “Part II.” Its intermittent music adds to the hot, sweaty atmosphere as Mr. Harari, Ms. Sher, and two female dancers move between skirmishes with an unseen enemy and frankly autoerotic sequences. The trim, dark-eyed Mr. Harari lunges into the air and crashes to the ground with a dire, life-and-death intensity, sometimes in unison with another dancer. In the dance’s other mode, the slender, pretty Ms. Sher periodically appears — eyes closed, swaying, making strange plosive noises with her mouth or tracing a finger sensually over her lips.Urgency pervades “Part II,” as it does all of the duo’s recent pieces. Mr. Harari ascribes this intensity in large part to his military background. “My physical experience in the forces is a big part of how I dance, how I choreograph, and how we run the company,” he said. “We demand the maximum from the body.”Ms. Sher also served in the army, working as a kind of specialized social worker, bringing letters to a unit of 80 soldiers at the front and counseling them about personal issues. She befriended dozens of soldiers — including three who were killed in Lebanon. “It’s very Israeli, to serve in the military and then come out and live a civilian life,” she said. “And on the street you feel life and death, violence but also sex, danger next to fun.” The fact that Mr. Harari and Ms. Sher traveled more than 5,000 miles to a foreign, inhospitable city to create pieces steeped in their native culture strikes them as perfectly logical. “When you live in a place that you’re so connected to, it’s harder to find who you are as yourself,” Mr. Harari said. “Living in New York helps us to get away from our habits, our ties.””You have no mommy and daddy to cry to,” Ms. Sher said brusquely. “You can fall and nobody can be there. But sometimes you find more layers in yourself when you are alone.”Begins February 14 ( Ailey Citigroup Theater, 405 W. 55th St. at Ninth Avenue, 212-415-5500).
–List of Scholarships and grants:
– The Art Gallery Of Mosman-Sydney for the creation of “Ester”–2000
– The Mathan Foundation for the Performing Arts for “Ester”-2000
– The Rabinovich Foundation of the Arts for “Ester”- 2001
– The City of Tel Aviv scholarship for excellence in dance-2001- Excellence in Theatre from the Rabinovich Foundation of the Arts-2002
– The Ritz Foundation for the Arts and Culture for “Ester”.-2002
– The Rabinovich Foundation of the Arts for excellence in dance-2003- Excellence in the Arts Award- The American-Israeli Foundation- For the Arts–2000-2003
– The Jerome Foundation for “Herd of Bulls”-2004- Performance Space 122 production grant for “Herd of Bulls”-2005
– The 92Y grant for excellence in dance-2005
– The Israeli Embassy support for “Herd Of Bulls” and “Moopim”- 2005-2006- Performance Space 122 production grant for “Moopim”- 2006
– The Bossak/Heilbron Foundation grant in support of Moopim.-2006
– The 92nd St Y Harkness Dance Center- 2006-2007
– The Six Point Fellowship 2007-2009
– The Guggenheim fellowship 2008
-NYFA Fellowship in Choreography 2008
– TMU for a summer tour in Poland
-2008- NPN for the tour of Geisha in TBA Festivals, PICA.