Within a week, I have had the honour of seeing Batsheva Dance Company twice in the space of a few days. When I first saw Batsheva at Sadler’s Wells in 2008, how I whined and moaned about not being able to see them again. Four years later, Batsheva Dance Company performances are a regular occurrence and not at all taken for granted.
My first viewing was Deca Dance at the Jerusalem Theatre. First of all, I was surprised that we were to see the Batsheva Company rather than Batsheva Ensemble who have just returned back to Israel from touring Deca Dance. As we entered the theatre, one of my Gaga teachers was on stage, dancing, warming up, teasing the audience: the first sign that this was no ordinary dance show! Also he was in the famous black trousers, shoes and white shirt. Were they to do my favourite section?! After a brief floory across the stage, with dancers darting and pulsing as if you were watching cars pass on a motorway, the lights dimmed. The audience cheered, clapped, danced in their seats (Israeli dance audiences are very different to British audiences). The lights went up and there it was: a semi-circle of chairs, dancers sat in suits with their heads down... Echad Mi Yodea! Starting Deca Dance with Echad Mi Yodea is like starting Swan Lake with the Black Swan's 32 fouettés en tournant (turns): how will Batsheva keep up the high energy and power?! Easy!
Batsheva performed pieces from Max, Project 5 and Three. All these pieces require high energy with moments of precision to throw out energy. An excellent moment of precision was within one of the women’s unison sections. The dancers moved from position to action to precision in tight unison: each action was totally different from the next, as if they were in a movie being fast-forwarded - for example, the dancers licking their lips slowly to a stepping pattern whilst they hit their chests. A moment of pure throwing away was performed in the section Project 5. A dancer at the end washes himself with the mud he swiped on at the start of the section and jumps, rolls, explodes across the stage ass the water is flicked off and left in a trail as if he was a rocket. I wondered: how can these dancers move so quickly from one extreme to another? Gaga is definitely the way forward.
Raising the bar from Echad Mi Yodea, the dancers came on stage to a House dance music track and they “grooved” to the music with House dance steps that would put any Hip Hop dance crew to shame and then... the Audience Participation section: audience members are grabbed and put on stage. Some try to join in; others stand stunned and nervous as the dancers groove with salsa-influenced steps. What other serious dance company can get away with this? This moment is both humourous, showing Naharin's “don’t take it too seriously” side, but also a great artistic moment to see how people do react. This moment really shows the power of Batsheva Dance Company.
I was also happy to see the section in Max which I learnt and performed (the “Uno Duo” section mentioned in my second blog): it was wonderful to watch this live and see how the dancers played it so cool in comparison to how we did it. This scene proved how Batsheva Dancers are the “cool” kids of the dance world. We found the “Uno Duo” section akin to a strenuous workout, however the Batsheva dancers eased through it as if they were the T-Birds in Grease. They controlled the music rather than how we strived to match the music. How I envied the Batsheva Dancers at this point.
I came out of Deca Dance silent... I was moved in a way that I have never been moved. I had nothing to say that night; even the next day in Hebrew I didn’t say a word. I was listening to the grove the dancers left in me.
My second performance was Sadeh 21, a relatively new piece from Batsheva's 2010/11 season and excitingly, I was going to see Batsheva on their home turf at the Suzanne Dellal Centre. This piece was made in collaboration with the dancers and based on Gaga tasks. The individuality of Gaga was seen mostly through the use of the dancer’s individualism as if they all had their own grooves and rhythms. This was especially apparent in the opening solos: each dancer burst onto stage with their own “groove”, or in a sense, “showing off” what talents they individually had. One dancer was presented a gymnastic solo with cartwheels and high extended kicks while another dancer jumped and darted around the stage in his explosive manner. Within these solos, no dancer stood out to be more talented than another, it was more a focus on what makes the individual great. This uniqueness is matched in all Gaga classes I have been in. Even though all participants have different dance experiences, once the Gaga begins we all become one, as if we notice our uniqueness rather than “who is the best”.
Through Sadeh 21 there were battle or war references, for example the gunshot sounds at the start, the marching in unison from the males and the constant push and pull between the dancers. The section which really touched me the most was the men's unison section. In Sadeh 21, there had been no unison until this point. The men’s strong focus on the audience in this section could be interpreted as if they had a fear of battle, of the battle approaching or of the war that they were in, and this apprehension was matched in their movement. The dancers marched directly and sharply on the spot in unison and in a line with bold, strong and rigid arm positions: the dancers then stood in a strong fourth position with their arms to the side of their body as if they were soldiers standing “to attention”. One dancer had his left arm around the dancer next to him, and this developed as all of the soldiers slowly and directly but lightly put their arms around each other. This gave me a sense of unity and support between soldiers and the friendship they share. This would be a great scene in any tearjerker movie... in fact, the dance ended like a movie: no bows, just rolling credits on the backstage wall as the dancers climbed on this wall to fall, dive and jump off. Many of us in the audience were moved to tears.
This makes me very excited about Ohad Naharin’s new piece next year. All I know that there is going to be a a big set/sculpture as part of the work (I found this out while probing about why there will be no Gaga classes with Naharin next year). The fact that Naharin is going to return to a theatrical element which he has abandoned over the last few years of choreography is exciting and intriguing and I just cannot wait yet again!!