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tanzmainz: “Soul Chain”

A dystopian, but mesmerizing, take on a microcosm where individuality only surfaces in short bursts. from the contemporary dance company of Mainz, Germany.

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tanzmainz dancer Nora Monsecour and ensemble in a scene from Sharon Eyal’s “Soul Chain” at The Joyce Theater (Photo credit: Andreas Etter)

[avatar user=”Joel Benjamin” size=”96″ align=”left”] Joel Benjamin, Critic[/avatar]

In just 55 minutes Sharon Eyal’s Soul Chain, at The Joyce Theater, created a dystopian vision of a mesmerizingly regimented society where individuality was expressed only in surreal bursts, built upon the individual talents of the tanzmainz dance company of the State Theatre of Mainz, Germany (director, Honne Dohrmann).

They began appearing at first singly, then in twos and threes, moving down diagonals, all on half-toe (tiptoe).  Gradually, the dribbling stream of dancers grew into a river, with all moving on half-toe into one tight formation dead center.

Variations on the opening heels raised theme began:  tilts backward and forward; plunges into wide second positions, hips pulsating; knees bending; hands jabbing; heads moving side to side; and a wide swinging of the knees side to side as the torso undulated on top—all performed with stony visages.

tanzmainz in a scene from Sharon Eyal’s “Soul Chain” at The Joyce Theater (Photo credit: Andreas Etter)

They formed a thicket mid-stage.  They re-grouped into ritualistic circles, all of them in deep second position pliés, their hips swaying in a dead-eyed approximation of sensuality. They spread out across the stage resuming their tiptoe positions (in which they remained for more than 95% percent of the ballet!).

Three solos were stunning in their display of physical endurance.  One woman moved forward, repeatedly kicking one leg behind her nearly touching her head with her foot.  Another, tall and lithe, stood at the foot of the stage and began writhing, wiggling and shaking in a very disturbing way, for a very long time.  And, a young bearded man stood dead center nearly surrounded by the group and began gyrating his head—forward, right, back, left—for more than fifteen minutes at an ever-increasing pace!

All three solos were attempts at exhibitionism amidst the tedium.  All three solos were both horrifying and exhausting to watch, yet eerily fascinating.

tanzmainz in a scene from Sharon Eyal’s “Soul Chain” at The Joyce Theater (Photo credit: Andreas Etter)

The dancers were dressed in pale tops and knee socks that made them appear naked under Alon Cohen’s ghostly lighting. (Costumes by Rebecca Hytting.)

All this accompanied by Ori Lichtik’s unrelentingly loud—loud enough for many to request earplugs—electronic sounding score: driving rhythms with overlays of vague melodies, often hypnotic in its effect.

Soul Chain was co-created by Gai Behar.

tanzmainz: Soul Chain (through January 28, 2023)

The Joyce Theater, 175 Eighth Avenue, in Manhattan

For tickets, call 212-242-0800 or visit

Running time: 55 minutes without an intermissiontt

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About Joel Benjamin (561 Articles)
JOEL BENJAMIN was a child performer on Broadway and danced with leading modern dance and ballet companies. Joel has been attending theater, ballet and opera performances ever since childhood, becoming quite opinionated over the years. He was the founder and artistic director of the American Chamber Ballet and subsequently was massage therapist to the stars before becoming a reviewer and memoirist. He is a member of the Outer Critics Circle.

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