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Dance Review

At Jacob’s Pillow, Gallim offers dances of hope and humanity

Gallim dancers Anthonio Brady and Haley Sung in “Boat.” Hayim Heron

BECKET — The New York-based Gallim, another branch descended from the iconic Batsheva Dance tree, is appearing at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival this week. In the works of Andrea Miller, founding director and choreographer of Gallim — and a former member of Batsheva’s junior Ensemble — we see the influence of Batsheva’s former, longtime director Ohad Naharin, but there’s no concern about Miller’s own creative characteristics, which are abundant; rather, it’s affirming to see traits that suggest a continuity of the family line.

The often-animalistic wildness of the sensually self-aware movement — punctuated by flinging limbs and isolated or extremely arched torsos — reminiscent of Naharin’s oeuvre, is prevalent. Gallim’s nine dancers — Anthonio Brady, Ashley Hill, Allysen Hooks, Sean Lammer, Gary Reagan, Sean Rosado, Haley Sung, Georgia Usborne, Dan Walczak — are individualistic, compelling, and deeply committed to the moment. As well as offering a hodge-podge sampling of the dancers’ virtuosity, “True, very,” a compilation of excerpts from eight of Miller’s works, arranged for this Pillow program, provides a wonderfully incongruous primer of Gallim’s repertoire and of Miller’s prowess. Whether choreographed to lilting Chopin; the rhythmic/cheeky/folksy Balkan Beat Box; the shifting moods of the now-ambient, now stirring scores of Gallim’s music director Will Epstein; or the smells-like-anarchic-spirit of the Doors, Miller’s movement is often authentic, at times thrillingly visceral.


Miller has also revamped her 2016 “Boat,” initially inspired by the Syrian refugee crisis, for this week’s Pillow appearances. Both somber and poetic, “Boat” is composed of a series of snapshots of struggle. This loosely tethered framework occasionally suffers when dancers’ exits and re-entrances seem devoid of purpose, but the choreographic palette keeps the structure intact, and the vignettes do evoke the larger story of desperate people fleeing danger. The score, three selections by popular Estonian composer Arvo Pärt, range in mood from elegiac to exultant. To the keening instrumental starkness of “Fratres,” Lammer and Walczak perform a long duet that illustrates an exhausting, cyclical pursuit of endurance. They run in circles about the stage, side-by-side, each with one arm clasping the other’s waist, the men taking turns shielding the other’s eyes with a hand, as if protecting the other from horrors; as much as these two seem determined to save each other, there is a hint of survival of the fittest.

The ensemble sections — to Pärt’s now plaintive, now sweeping choral music — are marked by series of circles that form as if by magic, the dancers’ constant motion gathering them all, or separating them, as if oil from water, into smaller circles, or into pairs, the couples often clinging to one another while the odd one out stands, as if witnessing. At times a dancer is swept up into the group and held aloft, but sometimes there are breaks in the chain, the grasping hands failing to maintain contact. A trio eddies in and away from one another, with one dancer falling and spilling out and away from the others, only to be sucked back in and up. Visions of the one held aloft by others pierce through “Boat”: Sung, her body erect, is lifted straight up above a cluster of dancers, and “walks” forward, as if on air, by stepping forward into the other’s proffered palms. She is lowered as seamlessly and swiftly as she was raised, so that the whole picture is like an unreliable memory. The very last image, of Hill sitting on Brady’s back, he on all fours, she facing upstage, thus looking back, is at once haunting and hopeful. (Vinny Vigilante’s lighting design is likewise twinned, at times hazily dreamlike, at times nightmarishly murky.)


The big ensemble phrases, the hungry loping leaps and heavy, reaching lunges, are striking in their collective power, in the surge of physical strength — and, yes, in the undeniable beauty. Miller knows not to glamorize the horror; instead, though her images of strength, frailty, and collapse are depicted with great beauty by her trained, eloquent dancers, it’s a beauty that seems to say: see the humanity, remember the hope. Love versus hate.



At Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, Becket, through Sunday. Tickets $35-$78. 413-243-0745,

Janine Parker can be reached at