Review: ‘Two Room Apartment’ a story of partners

Jun. 19, 2014 @ 11:13 AM

Israeli dancers Niv Sheinfeld and Oren Laor not only inhabit “Two Room Apartment,” they construct it. And, they did a mighty fine job of both in the 7 p.m. American Dance Festival performance Tuesday at Duke University’s Nasher Museum of Art. Using teamwork, no doubt developed over the 10 years they’ve worked together, they first use white tape to mark the floor plan of the apartment. The development of their personal relationship also comes through -- they are partners in life as well as art -- in this intimate work made more so by the fact that the audience sits very close on all four sides of the performance space.

In the hourlong work, the movement vocabulary is stripped down. Movement sequences are repeated. There’s a lot of walking. But the energy builds as the relationship deepens. 
The dance begins with the men in different rooms as they perform the same repeated sequence of movements. After occupying separate spaces for a while, it’s a big moment when Laor makes the major move of entering Sheinfeld’s space. He doesn’t stay long but the ice, so to speak, has been broken and, before too long, Sheinfeld crosses into Laor’s room.
Contact increases but not without problems. Laor picks Steinfeld up, throws him over his shoulder but in the same sequence, when Sheinfeld approaches Laor, Laor pushes him away. Later, even when Laor removes his clothes and wraps himself around his standing, clothed partner, Sheinfeld winds up pushing him away. Laor tries again and again but is always rejected.
Eventually, after their first (suggested) lovemaking, Sheinfeld seems frustrated and uses the heels of his hands to repeatedly hit his thighs while Laor strides confidently around the perimeter in a seemingly self-satisfied way. Still, he reveals insecurity when he raises one arm and smells his arm pit.
Other everyday gestures such as smoothing hair back and pushing sleeves up adds a natural, human element. Sometimes, gestures add humor as when Laor sits down, shakes one shoe as though to remove a pebble and then cleans between his toes.
Finally in harmony, they dance together, real partners. They hold hands and take large, elegant steps – sometimes letting hands go – but not for long.
The dance ends with the men in separate rooms, but the sense of connection remains as Laor looks at Sheinfeld and smiles.