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Ohad Naharin's Batsheva Dance Company in Three

by Merilyn Jackson
November 18, 2007
Brooklyn Academy of Music
30 Lafayette Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11217
(718) 636-4111
Movement Trimmed Close to the Bone at Brooklyn Academy of Music
Ohad Naharin led us down a different path at Brooklyn Academy of Music in mid-November. Three sections of a dance, Bellus (Beautiful), Humus (Earth) and Secus (This/Not this) run consecutively without intermission, and Naharin simply calls the evening, Three.

He took the wheel at Tel Aviv's 60-year old Batsheva Dance company in 1990 and has been driving down unexplored highways ever since. His 17 "Gaga"-trained dancers are well suited to his method (or non-method as he might have you believe) of dancing so that the dancer's school of training is unrecognizable. It can be a little confusing for watchers whose comfort level includes familiar landmarks like the ability to interpret a style or anticipate a phrase's flow, but it works for adventurous watchers who prefer the road unknown.

I confess I had a little trouble shifting gears from the first to the latter until well into the first piece. This was dance trimmed so close to the bone, even the slightest embellishment was startling for its meanings. In Bellus Naharin uses Bach Goldberg Variations performed by Glenn Gould. The full company stages a showdown with the audience causing a palpable ripple of discomfiture like a wave of fidgeting throughout the audience. Then Erez Sohar dances a series of leaps, alternately fluid, gawky, and business-like. Later in groups, solos, duets and trios, dancers hunch shoulders, lift back their elbows, and half-clench fists, always going for the angular.

Throughout, upturned palms on bent extended arms suggested Egyptian hieroglyph, Middle-Eastern dancing. At other times, clenched hands alongside lunging bodies could have been holding bayonets or pitchforks. Exposing body parts by lifting a shirt or dropping the pant (all designed by Rakefet Levy) evoked both military medical line-ups and death-camp queues. None of this was conclusive. Spare O'Keefe sculptures came to mind and, like desert mirages, dissolved just as quickly.

In the second section, nine women began like a yoga class with slo-mo shoulder shimmies, less angular, more flowing to Brian Eno's Neroli. Secus contained my favorite part of the evening, a social-dance based solo sweetly danced by Matan David and Gavriel Spitzer.

As Naharin said later in a talkback with Dance Magazine editor Wendy Perron, "We tell many unfinished stories and then a new one begins."
Batsheva's Three

Batsheva's Three

Photo © & courtesy of Richard Termine

Batsheva's Three

Batsheva's Three

Photo © & courtesy of Richard Termine

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