Barak Marshall Theaterdance, SF

Written by:
Joanna G. Harris
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Physical-theater work for 10 dancers
By Barak Marshall
Bay Area premiere presented by the San Francisco International Arts Festival
Marines Memorial Theatre, San Francisco
May 19, 2011

A single performance of Barak Marshall‘s “Monger,” part of the San Francisco International Arts Festival, was insufficient to please the enthusiastic audience at the Marines Memorial Theatre. Marshall is the son of Margalit Oved, singer, choreographer, and dancer, whose work with the Inbal Dance Theater Company of Israel brought the heritage of Jewish Yemen to audiences in the mid-20th century.

“Monger” supposedly tells the story of a group of servants trapped in the house of an abusive mistress. Various members of the troupe go to the microphone and, after a bell rings, answer, “Yes Miss Margaret.” Yet that scenario is just an outline of what is a series of burlesque entertainments, intense group dances, duo engagements, and edgy bits of satire on television, radio advertisements, and the state of today’s frenetic energy.

What is the commodity this monger deals with? Who, what is the monger? From the many episodes that enfold within the piece, each person is a monger, selling him/herself and seeking reprieve. There are “dress up” sections where a girl’s clothes are constantly changed. Two men stage a burlesque of cross-dressing. Men chase women across the stage; the women chase them out again. Whatever the scene, the constant power of “Monger” is the strong, fast, gestural movement performed by the ensemble. Marshall’s group dances at breathtaking tempos; it is no wonder that the final piece brings the group to the floor.

The piece’s narrative structure is drawn from several sources, including the life and work of Bruno Schulz, Jean Genet’s play “The Maids,” and Robert Altman’s film “Gosford Park.” All are powerful works Marshall has used the material so intensely that one experiences both exhilaration and fatigue. Yet San Francisco’s eager audience looks forward to experiencing another Marshall work in the future.

“Monger” was premiered October 25, 2008, at the Suzanne Dellal Centre in Tel Aviv and opened the 2008 International Tel Aviv Dance Festival. Credits (besides choreography by Marshall) include: assistant to the choreographer, Osnat Kelner; lighting design, Jacob Beressy; costume design, Maor Zabar; sound design, Giori Politi. Dancers are Yoav Grinberg, Artour Astman, Idan Porges, Liron Ozeri, Shani Badihi, Shani Tamari, Einat Ganz, Ilana Bellahsen, Inbar-Hana Nemirovsky, Gavriel Spitzer, and Harel Kay. The accompanying music consisted of works by Taraf de Haidouk, Balkan Beat Box, The Yiddish Radio Project, Margalit Oved, Shye Ben Tzur, Shandor, Handel, Goran Bregovic, Verdi, Tommy Dorsey, Terry Hall, and Ray Noble.

“Monger” was presented by SFIAF, the Israel Center of the Jewish Community Federation, the Consulate General of Israel, Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa (JIMENA), the Contemporary Jewish Museum, and the Suzanne Dellal Centre.

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