Batsheva Dance Company Premieres Sharon Eyal’s “Bill”

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Video: Sharon Eyal’s Bill, in process


Spurred by this shriek, the 21 dancers of the Batsheva Dance Company spring into action.  They arch their backs, splay their hands, shoot their legs towards the ceiling, and vault high into the air.  Amidst layers of throbbing rhythms, punctuated by more guttural cries and sharp claps, the dancers organize and reorganize themselves into constantly changing groupings.  The ebb and flow of one large group’s rocking steps provides a mesmerizing baseline for a smaller ensemble’s shape shifting, which in turn sets off one man’s virtuosic, almost mechanical movement.

Sharon Eyal’s Bill.  Photo by Gadi Dagon.

It is choreographer Sharon Eyal who has cast this spell, which goes by the name of Bill and is the Batsheva Dance Company’s newest production. Like Batsheva’s artistic director, Ohad Naharin, Eyal is currently celebrating her twenty-year anniversary with the company.  She joined the troupe as a teenager and quickly captivated crowds while performing many memorable parts.  Now offstage in the role of Batsheva’s house choreographer, Eyal is keeping the audience’s attention with her unique creations.

Bobbi Smith and Iyar Elezra in Sharon Eyal’s Bill.  Photo by Gadi Dagon.

Of her latest work, Eyal explained in a press release, “I came to Bill with a very clear concept.  It was easy for me to explain what I see and imagine; I could verbalize the work in a very precise way.”  Working with the full company and with her seasoned team of collaborators – co-creator Guy Bachar, soundtrack designer Ori Lichtik, and lighting designer Avi Yona Bueno (Bambi) – Eyal brought her vision to life.

Reflecting further, Eyal added, “I feel I am in an endless process, and the creation Bill continues my previous works, Makarova Kabisa and Killer Pig.”  While Bill certainly shares the masterful maneuvering of large groups, the looping of repeated movements, and the extreme physicality that characterize the choreographer’s earlier works, it is also marked by a highly distinctive look.  The dancers are outfitted in full-length, skin-toned unitards, and their hair is similarly colored; meanwhile, their eyes all glint the same shade of light blue thanks to tinted contact lenses. Eyal notes, “The uniform clothing, the skin color and the identical eyes unite the whole group and bring out the soul and the special physicality of each and every dancer.”

Sharon Eyal’s Bill.  Photo by Gadi Dagon.

Besides the striking visual effect of the dancers’ costumes, Bill is filled with vivid images. Five dancers prowl on all fours like predatory creatures, surging forward and then sinking back onto their haunches. Three women assemble numerous variations on a heart shape using their assorted body parts, backed by a sea of dancers who form miniature hearts with their fingers, hands, and forearms. An enormous crowd clustered center stage suddenly disperses in all directions with a burst of angular jumps, creating the effect of a firework exploding midair.

And then there are the seemingly infinite permutations of group formations. In tight clumps or spread-out packs, and in trios or as a 21-member strong mass, the dancers travel across the stage with unison stepping patterns and more quirkily styled, technically complex movements.  Sometimes, watching Bill is like observing the inner workings of a finely-tuned mechanical watch; each person, and each small group, is necessary for the whole to function. When these dancers come together, painting the entire space with their collective movement, there is indeed a sense of magic.

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The Batsheva Dance Company performs Sharon Eyal’s Bill at the Suzanne Dellal Center on May 7-8 and 10-14 before moving to Herzliya on May 15.  For more information about tickets and future performances, visit Batsheva’s website.

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