The Batsheva Ensemble on Tour at Home and Abroad

Posted on 09 June 2009 by Deborah Friedes Galili

Video: The Batsheva Ensemble in Ohad Naharin’s Seder.

Last year I had the privilege and the pleasure of accompanying the Batsheva Ensemble on a trip to the town of Kiryat Shmona for two school shows of Ohad Naharin’s Seder.   My photo journal and account of the day – originally titled “A Day in the Life: The Batsheva Ensemble in Kiryat Shmona” – was initially published on The Winger on May 18, 2008.  I’m re-posting it here so that you can get a behind-the-scenes peak into the company’s workings.

But before you read about the company’s activities last year, here’s some fresh news: the Batsheva Ensemble will be touring this month to Rwanda.  They’ll be performing and doing workshops with children – and, to give something a little more tangible, they plan to donate sneakers.

Help the Batsheva Ensemble Help Teenagers in Rwanda

If you’re in Israel, you can help by donating sneakers (used but in good condition), sizes 37-45.  The sneakers will go to teenaged orphans whose parents died in the genocide.  Visit the Facebook page for this event to learn more, and drop off your old sneakers now through June 16th at Batsheva’s offices in the Suzanne Dellal Center.

* * *

Now read on to learn more about the Batsheva Ensemble!

A Day in the Life: The Batsheva Ensemble in Kiryat Shmona


The costume trunk for Seder.   As a work which lays bare its compositional structure through explicit verbal explanations, repeated visual cues (like the dancers counting to four on their fingers before breaking into four counts of full-bodied movement), and combined aural and visual information (such as a series of movement accumulations performed to similarly accumulating counts), the dance’s title is appropriate: “seder” is Hebrew for “order.”

It’s been a while since I’ve traveled around and performed for school audiences (I did my fair share of Nutcracker school shows with the American Repertory Ballet in the 1990s, from a tiny soldier to Snow and Flowers corps with a lot in between). But I’ve been able to live vicariously through the Batsheva Ensemble this year thanks to Eldad Mannheim, the company’s manager, who invited me to tag along with the group on a few outings.  In January 2008, I joined the Batsheva Ensemble on their trip to Be’ersheva for two morning shows of Ohad Naharin’s Zachacha, and on Monday May 5th (2008), I again accompanied the group as they trekked to Kiryat Shmona for two performances of Naharin’s Seder.


5:55 a.m. Meet the Batsheva Ensemble at the corner of Kaplan and Ibn Gvirol in Tel Aviv. Most of the company members are already snoozing on the bus, and I quickly fall asleep too.


8:30 a.m. Arrive at the theater in Kiryat Shmona in northern Israel.  Because of it’s proximity to Lebanon, Kiryat Shmona has been hit by rockets during many clashes with the PLO and Hezbollah, and the town suffered many attacks during the war in the summer of 2006.  These performances were sponsored by IDB as a treat for the community’s children, who were no doubt affected by the conflict.


8:35 a.m. Breakfast!  There is a long day ahead, so dancers and crew members fill up on fresh bread, veggies, cheese, tehina, coffee, and tea.


9:00 a.m. Hillel Kogan, one of the Batsheva Ensemble’s rehearsal directors, leads a spacing session onstage.  Ohad Naharin created Seder for the Ensemble, and the work – which features material from MAX, Shalosh (Three in English), and Furo – debuted in July 2007.  The dance can be adapted for anywhere between 12 and 17 dancers; today, 12 Ensemble members are in Kiryat Shmona to perform.  Since the dancers know multiple parts and the cast constantly changes, Hillel clarifies who will be dancing each role for these two shows.

9:45 a.m. Gaga onstage, led by Hillel.  As with class before Zachacha, this class includes plenty of time for the dancers to stretch and incorporates more familiar technical terminology – plié, relevé, passé, rond de jambe, etc. – than is typically included in the lessons open to the general public.  I didn’t dance at all while I was away on a week-long trip to Tunisia, so I’m happy to get to move.  I’m also inspired to be surrounded by such amazing dancers!


10:45 a.m. Local schoolchildren and their teachers arrive at the theater.   The noise level grows . . .


10:50 a.m. Last minute notes by the dressing rooms.  The dancers wear simple gray and black costumes in Seder, but there’s a twist that the audience can’t see: headphones.  Part way through the work, one dancer explains (on a pre-recorded audio track) that the performers can move in unison with such precision even when the audience doesn’t hear music because they are listening to counts, beats, music, and other cues via their ear buds.  Prior to the performance, the group does a sound check to make sure they are working.


11:00 a.m. (-ish – you know how school shows are . . . ) First performance of the day.  Eldad gives a pre-show announcement, and the teachers try to quiet the students as the performance begins.

11:30 a.m. (-ish) The audience gets involved thanks to instructions from a dancer whose head appears on a television screen: put a hand on your heart, put a hand on the back of your neck . . . It’s not a game of Simon Says constructed especially for young audiences – these children are challenged by the same material that adult audience members would see at an evening performance.  How’s that for arts education!

12:00 p.m. (-ish) The first show is over, and the crowd goes wild!

12:20 p.m. Hillel gives notes to the Ensemble backstage while the next group of youngsters fills the auditorium.

12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. Second performance of Seder for a slightly older crowd.


1:40 p.m. The crew starts to strike the set.  They’ve had a long day – at 1:00 a.m. they gathered all their equipment from Tel Aviv and made their way to the theater in Kiryat Shmona by 4:00 a.m. to lay down the white marley, put up the set’s panels, and take care of all the lighting and sound work.


1:45 p.m. Lunch and time for some fresh air, sunshine, and beautiful mountain views.   From Kiryat Shmona, you can see Lebanon as well as the Golan Heights.


2:00 p.m. Back on the bus to return to Tel Aviv.   Many people take well-deserved naps, but I speak with Hillel and a few of the dancers.   Two-and-a-half hours is a long trip by Israeli standards, and the traffic as we near Tel Aviv makes the ride a little longer.

4:55 p.m. 11 hours later, I’m home!  Almost immediately, I sit down at my computer to upload my photographs and start writing.  Another day’s work . . .

Many thanks to Eldad, Hillel, the Batsheva Ensemble dancers, and the crew!

Related articles about the Batsheva Ensemble on Dance In Israel

Related articles about Ohad Naharin’s choreography on Dance In Israel

Related Articles about Gaga on Dance In Israel

Related Links

*This post was made possible thanks to a Fulbright student grant funded by the U.S.-Israel Educational Foundation and hosted by the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance.

4 Comments For This Post

  1. kristin sloan Says:

    deborah, this is amazing!
    thank you for sharing.

  2. bill Says:

    Great essay/travelogue. Thanks!

  3. susan kim Says:

    how fascinating! thanks, deborah!

  4. Boris Willis Says:

    Way to go Deb. Ya know we should do abandoned revolution in Israel.

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