Interview: Dance company L-E-V go through the motions in OCD Love

OCD Love. Picture: Regina Brocke
OCD Love. Picture: Regina Brocke
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The love that runs through L-E-V’s pieces starts at home, finds Kelly Apter

If you haven’t seen them perform, it would be easy to assume that L-E-V Dance Company is the home of floaty, lyrical movement about romance. The two shows it’s bringing to this year’s Edinburgh International Festival have ‘love’ in the title, the company’s name is Hebrew for ‘heart’, and when you speak to choreographer Sharon Eyal almost all conversations lead back to emotion. Yet nothing could be further from the truth.

Yes, Eyal’s choreography has a deep emotional resonance, but her movement is sharp, quirky, jerking, twitchy, urgent – it grabs you by the eyeballs and compels you to watch. There is a beat-driven intensity to it that says less about the warmth of love, and more about its difficult edges, the times when love is more of a challenge than a comfort.

Never more so than in OCD Love and Love Chapter 2. Presented under the joint banner of Love Cycle, the two companion pieces will be performed on alternate nights
during the Festival. See one, see both, it’s up to you.

“I think they work really beautifully together,” says Eyal, “and it will be very interesting for an audience to see them one after the other. But they can also be seen alone – each piece can live on its own.”

Eyal started work on OCD Love in 2015 after reading a poem by
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American slam poet Neil Hilborn, whose poignant work OCD is one of the most watched poems on YouTube, with more than 14
million views. In it, Hilborn meets and falls in love with a woman, only for his obsessive compulsive disorder to prove too much for her.

“A good friend gave me Neil’s poem, and when I read it I felt immediately connected,” recalls Eyal. “And there was also something about the framework of the poem – it made me feel like I was reading choreography, it was like a dance piece. I found it very touching, not just the story but the structure of it, too.”

It was during the creation of OCD Love that Eyal began casting her eye to the future and what might come next. Eventually, three years later, Love Chapter 2 was born.

“I’ve always been attracted to the idea of doing a trilogy,” says Eyal. “And I’m also very attracted to
stories with lots of different layers. But I didn’t think that in relation to OCD Love before I started making it – it was during its creation that I said ‘I want to do Chapter 2’. Because there was something so strong there, when I saw it I thought, I need to continue.”

And will there be a part three to complete the trilogy? “I hope so,” she says. “There’s always something born from the last piece, there’s always a continuation. And anyway, I think all the pieces are still in process – even if it’s set and there’s a deadline and a premiere, they can always change and be different and richer.”

Joining Eyal on this journey of constant change is Gai Behar – her partner on stage and off. The pair first started working together when Eyal was a dancer with Batsheva Dance Company in her native Israel (all those who know Ohad Naharin’s work will see its stamp on Eyal’s choreography). Moving from performance into choreography, Eyal brought in Behar to help with the shape and look of her pieces. With his background as a DJ, party planner and curator of multi-disciplinary art events, Behar brought some of the vibe from Tel Aviv’s nightlife to the table.

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Then, in 2013, they formed L-E-V together, and for Eyal and Behar, the line between work life and home life is pretty much invisible.

“First of all Gai and I live together, we are a couple, we love each other, we have kids together,” says Eyal. “And I think for us it’s the process of life, it’s not just something that’s coming and going. Even if it’s not connected, it’s always connected. Everything that I do is very personal.”

There is a richness to L-E-V’s work that extends beyond choreography into the musical choices (almost always created by DJ and musician Ori Lichtik), costumes (minimal, to avoid distraction from the movement and emotional intent) and the incredible dancers (drawn from countries across the world). All of which is carved by two sets of hands.

“It’s not about what Gai is giving and what I’m giving,” says Eyal. “I’m a dancer and I’m coming with the movement – and so of course I will have the last word on that.

“But it’s also about having somebody next to you who knows you so well, whom you trust so much, and who gives you so many good ideas – a small edit can change everything. So I think the pieces would feel very different without Gai. He comes from a different world, he sees things through different eyes – and very special ones.”