With Flesh Like This, Who Needs Food?


Dance doesn’t usually occupy that part of contemporary life that lets us update our Facebook status while simultaneously blogging, sending an e-mail, listening to voice mail and consulting an app. Dance typically needs flesh-and-blood bodies, with an old-fashioned concentration on complex physical activity, in one place at one time.

Yasmeen Godder’s “Singular Sensation,” which opened at the Kitchen on Thursday night, gives us the flesh and the blood with horror movie grotesquerie. Her five dancers slap themselves and poke out their tongues; they stick scissors in their (fake) breasts and wield blood-red talons on their fingers; they eat their appendages and vomit them out; they wrap their heads in stockings and smear green paint and red jelly over their bodies. By the end, they are drenched in sweat and goo, and you wonder how they have enough strength to take their curtain call.

But like Faye Driscoll’s “There is so much mad in me” (coincidentally also being performed this week at Dance Theater Workshop), “Singular Sensation” is all about our hyperactive, overstimulated world, in which it’s almost impossible to make sense of the constant stream of information we receive, and in which the body becomes the proving ground for an ever-receding register of feeling and consciousness.

Ms. Godder’s (and Ms. Driscoll’s) premise is that our physical experiences need to become ever more extreme to register on the increasingly numbed mental scale of sensation. Her dancers act out a spectrum of nightmarish images, the undigested cultural effluvia of violent films and pornography, advertising and shopping. Sadomasochism (a man’s head is violently wrapped in a stocking and cling wrap, and he is then dressed in a plastic cape and spaghetti horns — a cut-rate Superman), other forms of sexual deviance and infantilism all vie for attention with equal ferocity.

The movement here is simply a means to these ends, and the five dancers (Inbal Aloni, Shuli Enosh, Tsuf Itschaky, Sara Wilhelmsson and Matan Zamir) execute its tongue flicking, eyelid fluttering, grimacing, lurching and falling spasms with brutal precision. There is little sense of pacing or editing in the piece; dancers come and go, sulkily ceding their place or tangling in encounters during which each battles — and sometimes succeeds — in forcing another to submit to the fantasy on hand. (The electronic score, compiled by Gabriel Krichelia, has a sense of structure that the piece itself lacks, subtly moving among white noise, softer piano sections and menacing machine intensity.)

You have to admire the depth of the dancers’ commitment in “Singular Sensation.” But Ms. Godder never takes us beyond the initial idea, and her relentless waves of imagery have exactly the same effect as the endless stream of media and communication that she invokes. It’s shocking, strange, disturbing. Then, after a while, less so.

Perhaps that’s her intention. But imitating an effect isn’t the same thing as interrogating it.