In OCD Love, the first of two dances by L-E-V, we open on a single dancer in grey. She begins to writhe, somehow alienly fluid and mechanical at the same time, only intermittently breaking from a distinctly inhuman mode. She’s soon joined by dancers who are in turn disaffected, sinister, and anxious, and their similarly unusual movements only intensify each other’s qualities. Playing in the background is a relentless metronomic beat. Love has never looked so bleak.
The starkness can seem jarring at first, but I was ultimately really appreciative of the off-kilter interpretation. We’re not served the sweet predictability of rom-coms, or anything remotely resembling a traditional courtship narrative. In fact, the piece has been inspired from a poem in which OCD is central to a relationship’s collapse. The work that results is unflinching and intense.
The piece is punctuated by moments or gestures that feel more familiar, and stop the work from being lost to a completely otherworldly abstraction. However, there’s never so much familiarity that the work conveys an obvious meaning. OCD Love continually and imperceptibly transitions between dancers seemingly embodying characters in theme, to a more abstract representation of thought and feeling, a technique here that’s admirable even if it makes for a sometimes opaque viewing experience. Nevertheless, I remained captivated for the entirety of the show.
Love Chapter 2, which runs the night after, is outstanding. I’ll note while the pieces are enhanced by the other, you certainly don’t need to see the first to thoroughly enjoy the second, and vice versa. Unlike the first part, OCD Love, Love Chapter 2 is all group work, reaching the heights of its prequel before reaching a whole other level.
Its initial tone is largely similar; I have to admit the work lulled me into thinking it was done with surprises around the middle-mark, before it absolutely floored me.
The introduction of vocals in the audio (I won’t spoil what kind) brings a completely unexpected but inviting warmth. The dancers assemble into a kind of rotating human diorama, each with a distinct action that affects those around them. The presence of human bodies, embodying almost alien characters, performing human experiences, over distinctive vocals, makes for an intense sense of simultaneous connection and disconnection. It’s an utterly captivating sequence.
Eric Qian writes about performance and also everything else.