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Opening of 'Oyster'

February 9, 2012 By:
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Pearls of wit and wisdom are to be found in this Israeli dance troupe's "Oyster," now at the Annenberg Center.

The Oyster is his world, concedes Avshalom Pollak.

"It is; dance is the real world to me, always has been," adds half the namesake of Israel's Inbal Pinto & Avshalom Pollak Dance Company, giving the local premiere of Oyster on Feb. 9, 10 and 11 at Annenberg Center.

It's all part of the arts venue's Dance Celebration series.

Pollak and partner Pinto have much to celebrate with their circus-style, three-night stint here, supported in part by the Consulate General of Israel in Philadelphia.

Combining elements of Fellini and the fun of Cirque du Soleil, the piece is just the shell of the shimmering choreography Pinto/Pollak are feting on stage.

Open it all up and bathe in the stream of consciousness and visual pearls of wisdom afforded by an amalgam of acrobatic wizardry and balletic sorcery the dancers offer as means of invitation.

"There is never a recipe," regales Pollak of the ever-changing ingredients that greet audiences taking in the company's evolving twists and turns of choreography.

"It is always a different journey."

Pollak has traveled far and wide since starting the company with Pinto 20 years ago in Tel Aviv. If there is a sense of the theatrical in what he accomplishes as company artistic director/choreographer/director, it all reflects Pollak's different stages of life.

Now 40, he grew up at the feet and footlights of his own father, an actor in Israel, observing firsthand from the wings how a role can take flight with just the right word, the correctly angled movement.

He met the muse halfway, working as an actor himself on TV and in movies before signing up for a variety of roles with the Habimah National Theatre, as well as the Camerei, the Gesher and the Haifa Municipal theaters.

But turning to dance -- and being en pointe -- allowed Pollak to make the points he wanted to make about the indivisibility of visual and performing arts, the blending of movement and montages on stage. One critic for the Village Voice gave voice to what this new generation of dance calls forth, labeling the Pinto/Pollak partnership a mix of "wit, cleverness and odd beauty."

And speaking of odd -- is it at all unusual that Oyster is an ode to the master of the unusual, filmmaker Tim Burton?

Edward Scissorfeet? Well, disclaims Pollak, it's not actually inspired by the director but by the name of his unusual book of poems and sketches, The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy and Other Stories.

"We liked the idea of the oyster" as motif, Pollak says about fishing for meaning in a bivalve that is open to the life that passes through it.

And, no, he adds with a chuckle, "we never thought of it as a treif topic; not as something to eat but to observe with its shell on the outside and its delicate part inside."

This is, with a nod to Bette Midler, noClams on the Half Shell Revue. "We are offering a look at the pearls within," says Pollak, those parts of life "that can be perfect."

How perfect is the Israeli stage for an innovative pair of choreographers as he and Pinto have been hailed critically? It may not be flooded in the Klieg lights offered other arts, such as film, but "contemporary dance in Israel does get its share of attention and funding."

"They are discovering modern dance more and more," Pollak says of his national compatriots.

Does such recognition reap monetary rewards? Not necessarily, he laments. "It is not an easy life but choosing to do this is not necessarily for the money."

What he does for love is to levitate the art in Israel and elsewhere, including Philly, where the company has previously visited.

During their engagement in the city, he, Pinto and the company will engage in a master class conducted at the University of the Arts as well as what is called a Student Discovery Program at Annenberg.

Both sessions are set for Feb. 10; registration is available through Dance Affiliates at: [email protected]

Masters of their domain, Pinto and Pollak put themselves out there to train and encourage prospective future members. "It is important to open up the discovery of what we do" to students, says Pollak.

And what better way to open up, he concludes, than with Oyster?

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