I originally wanted to describe Generations as a dance performance without music, but that isn’t entirely true. The one-hour contemporary piece, choreographed by Israeli artists Stav Marin and Neta Weiner and executed by the Fine5 Dance Theatre company, is set to a soundtrack of voices, whispers, and guttural sounds from the dancers, and occasionally a few notes of live accordion music. The sound reverberates under the high ceilings of the ornate theatre, with fine line drawings of a forest and simple chandeliers setting an elegant scene over the dancers’ heads.
Casual Clothes in an Elegant Atmosphere
As the audience files into the room, a cast of seven dancers in athletic apparel (e.g. track pants, shorts, tank tops) are pacing the floor and mumbling to themselves. Their circling steps eventually bring them together in moments of silence, where they pause in groups as if posing for a family portrait. The last of these poses finishes with the dancers perched on the lone prop onstage, a sofa in the rear corner of the room.
According to the Artists…
Generations deal with the weight of memory as it is transferred through generation within the structure of families. It examines the ability to remember and forget and raises the question of whether we have a choice in doing so.
The dancers of Fine5 represent a range of ages. The program explains that “some performers started their dance career around the time when Estonia got its independence in 1991 and some of these dancers graduated dance-studies this year.” Questions of age and relationships are explored through an interesting blend of contemporary dance, everyday movement, and elements of self-defense and combat training. One particularly powerful section seemed to represent a struggle with Alzheimer’s, as one of the dancers repeatedly screamed out what (or who?) they were looking for while fighting off any member that came to his assistance.
The Language of Movement
One of the interesting elements of a verbally-driven dance performance is influence of language. In the scene above, for example, I knew that that dancer was repeating a single word, but I couldn’t decipher whether it was a woman’s name (Eva? Emma?) or a single word that would have significance to a fluent audience. This distance, however, didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the piece but instead left me open to interpret the performance through more of the body language than the words themselves. One of the reasons I enjoy attending dance performances when I travel is the reminder of how much can be communicated without a single word.
Dance and Distraction
That stark difference in that experience came anytime the dancers did incorporate English lyrics. During one section, they chanted the chorus of Eminem’s 2002 song “Cleanin’ Out My Closet”: I’m sorry mama. I never meant to hurt you. I never meant to make you cry. Later, the music turned more towards my parents’ generation by repeating the famous Beatles refrain of We all live in a yellow submarine, a yellow submarine, a yellow submarine.
When I did understand the words that were spoken, I was shaken out of watching the movement. I spent about half the time that they repeated “I’m sorry mama…” trying to place which song the lyrics came from (my first instinct was Kanye West). In this respect, I almost felt lucky to be oblivious to some of the conversations or monologues relayed by the performers, even if it meant I missed out on slivers of meaning. Some of the most powerful sounds of Generations came from low moans echoed off the floor by one dancer while the others undulated to the rhythms.
The Big Finish
Ballets like Swan Lake are famous for a grand finale of never ending pirouettes performed by a spinning soloist. Generations puts an athletic twist on that concept, with a determined dancer seemingly obligated to repeat an endless number of back walkovers (I lost count after 35) until she is finally released by the support of another partner. The final poses of represent a fitting array of familial relationships, with a one couple intimately embracing, a trio sprawled comfortably across each other on the floor, and one stone-faced couple sitting tensely on the sofa, neither touching or interacting with each other. Generations and families come in all different shapes and sizes and this performance captures that essence brilliantly.