A green jogging jacket, a role of white duct tape, a blue hand towel, and a plastic water bottle sit piled on one side of a dance floor. Across from it on the other side are the same items are piled except that the jogging jacket is blue. An audience frames the four sides of this wooden dance floor creating the first of what will be the setting (and breaking) of many boundaries. Enter Niv Sheinfeld and Oren Laor who pick up the tape and start dividing the floor into two separate spaces. The sound of the duct tape being pulled off of its roll is musical, as is the pounding of their hard-sole heels stomping it in place. Once a tennis court outline has been created the two men start mirroring each other’s movement either syncopated or in unison from their own designated space. Their repetitive movement is a sort of prepping and primping as if getting ready for a date, or as if to march off in battle. They gesture grooming themselves neatly in their personal drag or, what could be military fatigues, as both kinds of primping would be to present themselves in a powerful fashion. The cadence of a military drum starts to beat as they continue to pace their private spaces, at first oblivious to each other but then slowly taking each other into their psyche’s space.
They follow each other, mimic each other, taunt one another, seduce, and push away, seamlessly crossing each other’s border as if a border never existed. Then they conveniently reestablish borders based on some psycho-emotional directive. The stomping rhythm of their boots and the occasional random counting in Hebrew is their constant metronome, giving order to repetitive movement that addresses each side of the stage before changing patterns.
“Two Room Apartment” premièred in Israel in 1987 and was created by Liat Dror (female) and Nir Ben-Gal (male.) Niv Sheinfeld and Oren Laor have revisioned this piece for two sweaty men and in the process present the dance of their 11–year romantic and artistic relationship–as well as, the delicate balance of all relationships where power struggles, personal boundaries, identity, and rhythm are a constant dance. And so, they hug and push, rebound in depressed collapses and leap into sensual full body embraces. They over attach and instantly repel, making visible the fine line between a sensual embrace and needy, over-clinging attachment. They sniff each other’s scent on the clothes their partner’s have removed or, while folding those garments with romantic longing.
In the original work, the female dancer striped most of the clothes off her male partner, leaving him in boxer shorts and socks. But, in this version, Laor completely removes all of his clothing himself, which feels more like a guy thing. He is in charge of his own body’s territory, degrees of intimacy and levels of vulnerability. He then jumps onto Sheinfeld who is fully clothed and hugs him, creating both erotic tension and tenderness between the two. The embrace is reminiscent of the iconic photograph of a vulnerably naked John Lennon and a fully dressed and stoic Yoko Ono. The intimacy and vulnerability is palpable, between both the dancers and, the dancers and the audience, who inhale Laor’s beautiful body with guilty pleasure. Even dressed Laor is great eye candy. Yet, within this simple, stripped down moment is the profundity of unabashed intimacy and desperate attachment, with Laor dropping to the floor before mounting his partner again and again, each time collapsing back onto a clump, forced to be with himself, on the floor.
“Two Room Apartment” is presented by a pro-Israel organization, A Wider Bridge, which is committed to building a link between Israelis and LGBTQ North American and allies.
It is a high-energy narrative, a barebones dance theater performance successfully articulated by its creative performers, and by the simplicity of staging and choreography. About the time it has said and done just about everything possible during this 60-minute topic, Sheinfeld and Laor start peeling off the tape, leaving it in a heap on the floor before walking away. In relationships, timing is everything.