Israel’s L-E-V Dance Company was formed in 2013 by choreographer Sharon Eyal (a former dancer and much admired choreographer with Batsheva Dance Company) and Gai Behar, a Tel Aviv-based curator of multi-disciplinary events (and Eyal’s off-stage partner) with whom she has been collaborating since 2006.

L-E-V is currently in Sydney for a very short season at the Sydney Opera House, which is presenting two of its works under the umbrella title of Love Cycle – OCD Love, which opened last night, and Love Chapter 2, which has its first performance tonight. The pieces are not directly related nor were they originally created to be seen together, so you don’t need to see both, but they complement each other. As Eyal told Limelight: “They are from the same mother but really different children.”

OCD Love. Photographs © Prudence Upton

OCD Love premiered in 2016 and came to the Adelaide Festival in 2017. It was inspired by a poem called OCD by American slam poet Neil Hilborn, which became a viral sensation on YouTube. Running just under three minutes, the poem charts an unusual love story between a young woman and a man with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Intially she is charmed by his eccentric behaviour but eventually it becomes too much for her to cope with and she leaves.

OCD Love (which runs around an hour) has no narrative, and no obvious central love relationship. If you hadn’t read about the background (which Eyal discussed in an interview with Limelight) you would be hard-pressed to link it to Hilborn’s poem. However, it is a riveting exploration of obsessive-compulsive behaviour, depicting the painful struggle to reach out and connect with others.

Staged in a black box, it begins with a single woman performing in a square of half light to the left of the stage. Moving slowly to a tick-ticking sound, she gradually turns her body around in a circle as her arms and legs reach out in wide extensions, sculpting angular movements, while her back bends in vertiginous fashion as her body arches backwards. Wearing black socks and a simple black leotard, her skin glows in the light as her movement gradually expands and she moves across the stage.

After an extended solo, a man appears on the other side of the stage from her and starts to move around the space, his left arm held out eloquently to the side. The two dancers don’t connect; instead they seem oblivious to each, caught up in their own intense worlds. Gradually the other four dancers, all similarly clad, take to the stage, and the six perform in varying groupings, their movement sometimes synchronised, while at other times it’s subtly different and tantalisingly out of sync.

The music by Ori Lichtik, another regular collaborator of Eyal’s, shifts from the initial ticking beat to lush washes of sumptuous strings, that warp and build into a relentless, pulsing, repetitive techno beat.

Eyal’s choreography also plays with repetition. The dancers’ bodies twitch,  jerk and convulse, as they weave around each other. They reach out and then withdraw back into themselves; they grab at each other’s heads and faces, they use the body of one to push and prod another, they cover their eyes, and slap their chests. One man moves in particularly outlandish fashion then drops into the splits. A dancer opens her mouth in a silent scream, expressions cross their faces that could be pleasure or pain. By the very nature of the piece, it holds you at bay emotionally, but though you may not actually feel moved, the choreography is intriguing, intense, dark, beautiful and gripping. It’s full of fascinating detail and hard to describe – it needs to be experienced. The dancing by the company of six (Gon Biran, Rebecca Hytting, Mariko Kakizaki, Keren Lurie Pardes, Darren Devaney and Clyde Emmanuel Archer) is sensational. Compulsive indeed.

OCD Love plays on February 2, Love Chapter 2 plays on February 1 and 3