Israeli choreographers Inbal Pinto and Avshalom Pollak create worlds where dancers morph into imaginary creatures, transforming themselves from squat froggish dancers to lanky beings, stilted and giraffelike. Or they infuse nature and earthy elements into a choreographic language that can viscerally transport viewers from their theater seats to deserts or wetlands, moonscapes or secret forests.
One of the duo’s newer works, “Wallflower,” is less focused on mythical imaginative worlds and more on the nature of the moving body in place and space. The 2014 work comes to the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center’s Kay Theatre on the University of Maryland campus Oct. 13, for one evening only.
Originally created for the Tel Aviv Museum of Art and performed amid sculptures in the gallery, the dance has been transformed for the traditional stage. But that doesn’t mean tradition reigns in the sometimes impulsive, sometimes soothing, sometimes organically kinetic choreography.
Last week Pollak spoke from Tel Aviv about the significance of the gallery setting in creating the work. “It was an important part of the process.” He noted that when performing there, “it gave off something different than when we dance in a traditional theater on a stage. But it’s not only about the place we’re performing, it’s is also part of a different feeling we have.”
For the stage at the Clarice Smith center as well as other traditional theaters, the choreographers maintain the two white walls that create a corner. In the museum, they were akin to a moving sculpture, whereas on stage, audiences are more likely to note the more choreographic references and less art references.
Either way, “Wallflower,” which tells no story, suggests a way to look at and closely observe movement, bodies in space, the colorfully hand-knitted body stockings the dancers wear and remove during the piece, and the score by a trio of Japanese musicians: Umitaro Abe, Mayu Gonto and Hirofumi Nakamura.
Pollak noted that much of the dance was created without music and the score was added at the end of their process. And together, the pair designed the elaborate knitted costumes. Before immersing herself in dance, Pinto studied design at Bezalel Academy in Jerusalem and worked as a shop window dresser and designer.
As the work evolved, Pollak described the company as “creating a different kind of island, and like a country or continent, it has its own stories, its own space and light.”
In the process they worked with ideas drawn from very natural, primal materials. He continued: “Like geological materials that have life … we worked on figuring out the heart, the core, or evolution and how we can connect with one another.” Ideas brought into the studio included black rock, warm air, wind, rust and other natural elements for the dancers to play with and improvise around before the choreography was decided.
Like many contemporary Israeli choreographers, Pinto danced with the famed Batsheva
Dance Company under artistic director Ohad Naharin. There for three years, she acquired the skills and intensity of physical attack, which is characteristic of much dance in Israel in recent years.
Pollak came from a theater background; his father Yossi Pollak is a well-known Israeli actor and director. After studying at the Nisan Nativ Drama School, the younger Pollak discovered Pinto and dance. He was never the same. “The attraction [of dance] was in the possibilities that sometimes things don’t need to be expressed in language,” Pollak explained. “You need to feel, to understand sensation of feeling. In dance I feel something I don’t need to understand with words.”
He said that movement and dance are languages. “We create a different language,” he said. “We make a language that can speak in many tongues that can — or cannot — be understood in other ways.”
Dancers are specialists in movement and they can communicate in ways actors or “civilians” cannot, he said. It’s not that Pollak is completely averse to text now that he has shifted fully into the dance world, but “there needs to be a reason to use text or spoken word.”
In recent years the company has collaborated with operatic works that are text-bound and narrative driven both in Europe and in Japan. What’s most interesting to him are the dynamic possibilities to go back and forth from narrative- and text-driven pieces to those that are abstract, fully embodied and purely danced.
Pollak is excited to introduce “Wallflower” to an American audience. “It shows a very different side of us than we’ve shown here before,” he said, recalling the company’s performances in the District of Columbia in 2000 and 2006. “It will be interesting for us to observe how the audience takes in the different textures and sensations.”
“Wallflower,” Inbal Pinto & Avshalom Pollak Dance Company, Oct. 13, 8 p.m. Kay Theatre, University of Maryland, College Park, Md. Tickets $10-$25. Call 301- 405-2787 or visit theclarice.umd.edu.