LeeSaar The Company's Princess Crocodile begins with Hyerin Lee sitting downstage center in a small pool of light that grows steadily as Stravinksy's Apollo plays. Ms Lee is a hummingbird of fluttering eyelashes and filigree head twitches. When the music abruptly changes to a droning, electronic sound, you are caught off-guard and feel uncomfortably jarred. Unfortunately, these are adjectives that can describe the rest of the performance too.

Princess Crocodile © Julieta Cervantes
Princess Crocodile
© Julieta Cervantes

According to the company's press release, Princess Crocodile is supposed to explore the “contradictions in female identity.” Nearly half of the dancers are dressed in white, and the others are dressed in black; one can safely assume that the two nouns in the title are also meant to be contradictory. But this is where the dichotomy ends. Most of the piece is conducted in a singular dynamic: aggressively sexual. Almost every movement and position is exaggerated to the point of near-grotesqueness: Grande pliés become torqued knees that hover inches above the marley; extensions are thwacked above heads; tongues are flicked en masse for a full 30 seconds. One begins to wonder what artistic directors Lee Sher and Saar Harari must think becoming a woman entails, exactly (the press materials also note the transformation from adolescence to female adulthood). Where is feminine grace, or delicateness? Where is the hesitation and insecurity? Instead, we are presented with seven ferocious women – these are not girls – who seem on the verge of attacking the audience. Or each other.

LeeSaar The Company © Julieta Cervantes
LeeSaar The Company
© Julieta Cervantes

Occasionally, this Batsheva-on-crack approach (the company lists Gaga as a major influence) has its more compelling moments: Candice Schnurr (as fierce as they come) stands behind Ms Lee who is bent over, and repeatedly thrusts her upper thigh against Ms Lee's backside – it's still vaguely sexual, but it's at least ambiguous. When Motrya Kozbur takes antelope-like leaps in a wide circle throughout the space, she is still feral but no longer trying to overextend her legs. Ms Kozbur later attracts attention when she drops into a split, only to hover (yet again) a few inches from actually dropping her pelvis to the floor. But this sort of plea for audience wonder feels too much like a contemporary dancer's competition solo, where tricks of flexibility are the hallmarks of an impressive performance. Moments of what I assume is supposed to be comedic relief fall flat: when one dancer flits across the stage doing standard pique turns, I'm not sure whether they are meant to be non-sequitur and poorly executed or if this is legitimate choreography.

Much of this piece is a series of solos, ably performed by the seven dancers but largely disconnected. Dancers strut on stage like models and dare the audience to stare back at them, feet in a wide stance and arms akimbo. By the end of the piece, I felt as if I had multiple personality disorder. Or as though the dancers must. LeeSaar has much to recommend them – beautiful technique, complete investment, extraordinary facility – but this piece felt entirely too one-note. Ms Sher and Mr Harari owe their dancers more than this exhibition of extremes.