Vertigo Dance Company from Israel is performing ‘Mana’ this weekend at Jacob’s Pillow.
Vertigo Dance Company from Israel is performing ‘Mana’ this weekend at Jacob’s Pillow. (Courtesy Jacob’s Pillow)
Friday July 6, 2012

BECKET -- Vertigo would seem an unlikely -- actually weird -- name to bestow on a dance company.

Among the basic tenets of dance are grounding and balance. Dizzi ness would appear an alien thought for a dance maker.

But not for Noa Wertheim, the company's artistic director and co-founder, who explained the seeming paradox, recalling that when she and her husband, Adi Sha'al, were married 21 years ago he was in the Israeli air force.

"We created our first duet, ‘Ver tigo,' you know, like in the ear pilots feel this disorientation. So we used this image, and we connected it into a relationship, our relationship; like you get dizzy and dislocated, losing control, physically and emotionally. And you must (work) each time from the beginning, and do it with courage, and not be afraid of being disorientated."

Wertheim was speaking over the clatter of luggage being moved around as she, her manager and nine of the Vertigo dancers were checking into a motel in Lee. It will be their temporary home while the troupe is performing this week in the Ted Shawn Theatre at Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival, where the company is performing "Mana," a full-length dance, running about 55 minutes.

" ‘Mana' is a beautiful word -- very ancient, about 2,000 years old, from the Kab balah," she said, referring to an esoteric method, discipline and school of thought integral to Judaism.

" ‘Mana' means a vessel of light," Wertheim explained, "and what it is for me is using the body from its internal movement outward."

She said all of her dances begin with the body -- "I believe in the knowledge of the body; it is my motivation.

"I work from the center, and the body reacts," Wertheim said. "In this process, I work with the shapes of bodies -- the line and the circle. The male is more oriented to the line, the female with the round shape and energy."

Wertheim has collaborated for more than a decade with Ran Bagno, her favorite composer, but his work does not begin until the dance is created.

"He writes the music after the movement is ready," she affirmed. "We don't count; the dancers really need to know the time of the movement just from the body. Like the birds, they get the count from each other and their own movements."

She regards Bagno's score for "Mana" as beautiful, describing it as modern classical. "There are quite a lot of instruments -- a small guitar, piccolo, drums, violins, cellos -- and he works with it on a computer to make a CD."

Wertheim said her costume and set designer, Rakefet Levy, has created a little white house backdrop allowing the dancers to enter and exit clad in contrasting multi-layered black outfits. "There is a lot of fabric and you don't see the skin so much of the dancers," she chuckled.

"Mana" had its premiere in 2009 in Israel, but the first full performances in this country are taking place at the Pillow.

Ella Baff, the Pillow's executive and artistic director, said she watched excerpts from "Mana" last October at the "Fall for Dance" festival in New York and immediately invited the company to bring the full program to the Berkshires.

"It was gorgeous," she recalled. "The dancing is very strong, vigorous and very beautiful. The dancers have not only technical skill, but they have power and personality on stage."

By sheer coincidence and quirk of availability, the Pillow welcomed another troupe with Israeli roots to its Doris Duke Theatre this week: LeeSaar -- The Company, founded in Tel Aviv by Lee Sher and Saar Harari and now based in New York.

"Israel is a small country, but there is a tremendous amount of artistic activity -- in music, theater, the visual arts and dance," Baff remarked.

"It has a very rich history, long-held cultural traditions a cultural glue that is very strong there, going back centuries. The people feel it is essential to life and being part of a civil society."



Who: Vertigo Dance Company

When: Tonight at 8; Saturday -- 2 and 8 p.m.; Sunday -- 2 p.m.

Where: Jacob's Pillow, Ted Shawn Theatre, 358 George Carter Road, Becket

Tickets: $64-$39

How: (413) 243-0745; jacobspillow.org; at the
box office