Sharon Eyal’s “Bill” is Back at Batsheva Dance Company

Posted on 11 June 2010 by Deborah Friedes Galili


Video: Sharon Eyal’s Bill

I have a confession to make: I saw Sharon Eyal’s Bill three nights in a row.  Besides the obvious draw of seeing Batsheva Dance Company’s latest production in its first performances, I was compelled to watch the dance again and again by the kaleidoscopic complexity of Eyal’s choreography for this twenty-one member group.  On each repeat viewing, I got to know Bill better, uncovering even more layers in the ensemble work and noticing the nuances in the movement.  The already formidable power of the dance only grew stronger with time.

For other dance enthusiasts who might want to catch Bill again – and for new audience members who have yet to be acquainted with Bill - now is your chance!  Batsheva is bringing the work to the Suzanne Dellal Center for a second run from June 13-16.

This article was originally published in the Jerusalem Post as “Meet Bill.”

* * *

Meet Bill

Sharon Eyal’s Bill. Photo by Gadi Dagon.

With a strong character, a quirky sense of humor, and a big heart, Bill makes a memorable first impression.  But Bill is not a man. Bill is the Batsheva Dance Company’s latest production by house choreographer Sharon Eyal, and it had its first run in May with performances at the Suzanne Dellal Center in Tel Aviv and the Herzliya Performing Arts Center.

When Eyal first transfixed audiences 20 years ago, it was with her own magnetic stage presence as a dancer with Batsheva.  But in recent years, she has also generated buzz with her choreography.  From her initial compositions presented under the framework of Batsheva Dancers Create to the evening-length, large-scale Bertolina and Makarova Kabisa, Eyal developed her distinctive artistic voice.  Last season, local audiences were treated to the Batsheva Ensemble’s revamped version of Eyal’s earlier Love, while foreign crowds flocked to the Norwegian troupe Carte Blanche’s performances of the choreographer’s Killer Pig.

Sharon Eyal’s Bill. Photo by Gadi Dagon.

Now with Bill, an hour-long work for Batsheva’s 21 dancers, Eyal picks up where she left off.  “I feel I am in an endless process, and the creation Bill continues my latest works, Makarova Kabisa and Killer Pig,” she explains.

The throughline in her creative process is no doubt strengthened by her ongoing collaboration with several artists: co-creator Guy Bachar, musician and soundtrack designer Ori Lichtik, and lighting designer Avi Yona Bueno (Bambi).

Together, this team has fashioned a thoroughly contemporary aesthetic that permeates Eyal’s choreography.  Like her other works, Bill is set to a virtually unceasing, throbbing blend of beats and melodies masterfully retooled by Lichtik on a sophisticated DJ system.  Styled by Eyal and Bachar, the flesh-toned bodysuits that sheath the dancers like a second skin provide a ready canvas for the rich hues and striking geometry of Bambi’s lighting.

Sharon Eyal’s Bill. Photo by Gadi Dagon.

In Bill, the dancers’ singular look is further enhanced through piercing ice-blue contact lenses and slicked-back hair colored to match the shade of their costumes.  Eyal notes, “The idea was to wear a sense of nakedness,” but adds, “Nudity is not interesting enough . . . Nudity is also obvious.  On the other hand, it is important to me that they will see the body, that there will be another layer that will present the mechanical side.  When everyone is dressed and appears almost the same, I feel more that the individual in each one of them breaks out.”

Though seemingly paradoxical, this is a fitting attitude for a choreographer who has frequently displayed a talent for marshaling large numbers of dancers across the stage, playing on the tensions between the individual and the group. A  similar dynamic pervades Bill.  Sometimes working as single unit and at other times clustered in small packs juxtaposed with one another, the dancers travel in a dizzying kaleidoscope of constantly changing formations.  Occasionally soloists break through the mass’s movement, but ultimately it is a united group pulse that drives the work forward.

Sharon Eyal’s Bill. Photo by Gadi Dagon.

Eyal remarks, “I love the dancers, especially when I see them in the duplication of the entire group as one,” and her skillful arrangement of the dancers along with the identical costumes successfully produce this desired effect.

Yet part of Bill’s impact lies in the nuanced workings of each individual body.  Even the most basic stepping patterns are layered with subtle isolations, while more intricate phrases display the performers’ virtuosity, capitalizing on their extreme flexibility and gravity-defying leaps.  Batsheva’s dancers are just as comfortable in slinky, undulating slow motion as they are in hard-hitting, superhuman movements executed at warp speed, and they can morph from one dynamic to the next in the blink of an eye. Equipping every dancer with an intense physicality and multiplying them together, Eyal finds a winning formula for Bill.

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