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Batsheva Dance Company: The Evolution of Ohad Naharin’s “Sadeh21”

Posted on 14 April 2011 by Deborah Friedes Galili

Photo: Ohad Naharin’s Sadeh21. Photo by Gadi Dagon.

Watching Batsheva Dance Company in an open rehearsal of Ohad Naharin’s latest creation, I was keenly aware that evolution is at play.  Sadeh21 – literally Field21 – is roughly 6 weeks into its genesis, and it is scheduled to premiere at the Sherover Theatre as part of the Israel Festival in Jerusalem on May 25, 2011.  Dressed informally in their own clothes, the troupe’s twenty members showed a sizable segment of the work to a crowd of journalists in Studio Varda on April 13.

During a few sections, Naharin called out instructions to the dancers, highlighting the element of change that is part and parcel of the creative process. And indeed, in the six weeks between now and its premiere, Sadeh21 will no doubt undergo many changes. What we writers will see in May will bear a resemblance to its forerunner, but it will look decidedly different. Onstage, there will be choreographic sections that we have not yet viewed and alterations to what we did watch – additions, subtractions, refinements. Naharin noted that he and the cast have paid special attention to the interpretation of the work, which will certainly deepen with time. And in the theater, Sadeh21’s full staging will be revealed, including lighting by Avi Yona Bueno (Bambi) and costumes by Ariel Cohen.

Photo: Ohad Naharin’s Sadeh21. Photo by Gadi Dagon.

Yet even at this early point of its development, Sadeh21 is rich with layers.  The composition juxtaposes solos and duets with larger ensembles, clean lines and formations with an organic chaos that, when featuring all twenty dancers, brings to mind the image of children gleefully tearing across a playground.  Sometimes a particular structural motif surfaces, the clarity of form enhancing the strength of a section as it unfolds.  And throughout, the movement captivates and surprises.  Bodies extend to their furthest points and then contract, speedily changing shape with seemingly no preparation and referencing motions both familiar and novel.  These dancers may have the same flesh and bone makeup as the rest of us, but at times they appear to be pure liquid, poured into constantly shifting molds.

Naharin’s movement language, Gaga, has been used as a toolbox throughout the construction of Sadeh21, and traces of the ideas explored in classes are visible to viewers who have taken Gaga.  Several women slink into their own gentle grooves before periodically convening to start a small gesture in unison – clapping, tracing a circle in the air with one finger, making a fist and punching, pushing the pelvis upwards from a crablike crouch.  Keeping the same tempo, the dancers gradually increase the size of the movement until it is as big as possible, enlisting more and more of their bodies until every part is contributing to the effort.  While the movement can be silly, it is sophisticated, imbued with pleasure in the discovery of new options and laced with humor.  Both a woman pattering offstage on all fours with her tail in the air and a man hopping across the space with one leg tucked up flamingo-style bring a smile to my face; a woman rhythmically lifting her hips in a long and winding march endears herself to me.

It’s not just the clever, sometimes lighthearted physicality that stirs my feelings in this version of Sadeh21.  The interactions between the dancers – from simple looks to tender clasps of hands to more intricately designed contact – resonate with a range of emotions.  And when a man tilts his face up, assumes an optimistic expression and high-pitched tone, and verbalizes sweetly in an invented language, I can’t understand what he is saying.  But I am nevertheless drawn to him, and I find myself responding with laughter, affection, and a touch of concern as he is forcibly removed to the side of the stage.

Photo: Ohad Naharin’s
Sadeh21. Photo by Gadi Dagon.

Somehow, the emotional power of the dance seems closer to the surface in Sadeh21, more readily available and potent than in some of Naharin’s recent creations such as MAX (2007) and Hora (2009).  From this viewing, it seems that the work may share the epic tone and theatrical prowess that enthralled audiences in Naharin’s earlier productions for the Israel Festival, including Kyr (1990) and Z/na (1995).  It may well be that in Sadeh21, Naharin has gathered the fruits of his artistic research over his twenty-one years at the helm of Batsheva – the more overtly dramatic sensibility that characterized his large-scale works from the 1990s and the cornucopia of physical possibilities gleaned through Gaga – and married them together.   Sadeh21’s own evolution will continue in the womb of the studio during the next six weeks, and knowing Naharin’s ongoing engagement with his creations, the work will certainly change further as it lives in performance.  I for one am interested in seeing the dance in its next developmental stages – and in contemplating its place in Naharin’s artistic evolution.

Performance Information

Batsheva Dance Company will premiere Ohad Naharin’s Sadeh21 during the Israel Festival at Jerusalem’s Sherover Theatre on May 25-27, 2011.  Additional performances include May 31-June 4 (Herzliya Performing Arts Centre), June 5 (Modi’in Performing Arts Centre), June 9-11 (Suzanne Dellal Centre), and June 13 (Carmiel Performing Arts Centre).

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Curtain Up 2010: Video Preview

Posted on 22 November 2010 by Deborah Friedes Galili

Dana Ruttenberg’s Private I’s premieres in Curtain 3Photo by Gadi Dagon.

In its 21-year history, Curtain Up – Israel’s primary platform for premieres by independent Israeli choreographers – has cycled through a series of artistic directors and experimented with different formats.  To celebrate two decades of the festival’s existence in 2009, six alumni of Curtain Up created new works and selected up-and-coming choreographers to share their evenings.  Now, in a development of last year’s innovative programming, this year’s artistic directors are four artists who have previously shown their work in Curtain Up: Tamar Borer, Ronit Ziv, Renana Raz, and Sahar Azimi.  Each veteran choreographer is overseeing an evening-long program of new works by emerging choreographers, providing a valuable outside eye for the creators on his or her bill.  With this setup, Curtain Up has added a layer of artistic support to the financial assistance that has long been a major benefit of participation in the festival.

Iris Erez’s Homesick is featured in Curtain 1. Photo by Gadi Dagon.

This year’s line-up of choreographers includes some faces familiar to Curtain Up audiences.  Iris Erez was featured last year on Yasmeen Godder’s curtain, Elad Schechter shared the stage in 2009 with Vertigo Dance Company, and Maya Brinner showed her work on Noa Dar’s 2009 program; meanwhile, Michael Getman presented his work in previous seasons of Curtain Up.  Other artists in this year’s festival have shown their recent works in Tmuna Theater’s annual Intimadance and in Shades of Dance, a biennial platform for new choreographers that often serves as a stepping stone to Curtain Up.

Shlomi Frige’s Rashomon premieres in Curtain 4.  Photo by Gadi Dagon.

Besides the four programs, this year’s Curtain Up includes an array of events that encourage interaction between the artists and the wider public.  Conversations with the artistic directors and choreographers will precede some of the performances, and a series of workshops will be held in conjunction with the Amuta (the Choreographer’s Society).  The culminating event of Curtain Up 2010 is a landmark symposium geared to spark conversation about dance and the body.  Organized by Yael Nativ, this symposium will be held on Friday, December 3 in Jaffa at the Teiva, 19 Sderot Yerushalayim, from 9:00 until 1:30 in the afternoon.  The first session will contain more academic discussions of selected topics, and the second session will feature four dialogues between dance scholars and each of the artistic directors of this year’s Curtain Up festival.  Admission is free to the public.

Rotem Tashach’s Monuments is featured in Curtain 2.  Photo by Gadi Dagon.

Dance lovers in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem can catch the four curtains in late November and early December at bargain prices – tickets are a mere 60 NIS.  The Curtain Up programs will tour later this season to other areas around Israel, including Kfar Blum and potentially Dimona.  And if you’re not in Israel – or if you just want a sneak peek at what you’ll see onstage soon – check out the video preview of each curtain below!

Curtain 1

Directed by Tamar Borer, Curtain 1 features works by Iris Erez and Michael Getman.

Performance schedule:
Suzanne Dellal: November 25 and December 3
Jerusalem Theatre: December 2

Video: Iris Erez’s Homesick

Video: Michael Getman’s Father and Feather

Curtain 2

Ronit Ziv served as the artistic director for Curtain 2, which includes works by Tammy and Ronen Itzhaki, Rotem Tashach, and Ofra Idel.

Performance schedule:
Suzanne Dellal: November 24 and December 2
Jerusalem Theatre: December 1

Video: Ofra Idel’s Horse Tail

Video: Tammy and Ronen Itzhaki’s Have You Done

Video: Rotem Tashach’s Monuments

Curtain 3

Under the artistic direction of Renana Raz, Curtain 3 features the work of three female choreographers: Gili Navot-Friedman, Maya Brinner, and Dana Ruttenberg.

Performance schedule:
Suzanne Dellal: November 27 and December 1
Jerusalem Theatre: November 29

Video: Maya Brinner’s The Show

Video: Dana Ruttenberg’s Private I’s

Video: Gili Navot-Friedman’s Check-in

Curtain 4

Three male choreographers – Ariel Cohen, Elad Schechter, and Shlomi Frige – will show their work in Curtain 4, under the artistic direction of Sahar Azimi.

Performance schedule:
Suzanne Dellal: November 26 and December 4
Jerusalem Theatre: November 30

Video: Elad Schechter’s Funis

Video: Ariel Cohen’s The Battle for the 21st Century’s Love

Video: Shlomi Frige’s Rashomon

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Intimadance 2009: Ugly Dance at Tmuna Theater

Posted on 05 July 2009 by Deborah Friedes Galili

Ariel Cohen's "Venus de Meatloaf"

Photo: Ariel Cohen’s Venus de Meatloaf.  Photo by Nir Arieli.

I grew up in the ballet world, where “dance” and “beauty” went hand in hand.  Ugliness was a foreign concept, perhaps invoked only in the portrayal of a story ballet’s villain.

So it was a challenge for me to wrap my mind around the theme of this year’s Intimadance festival: ugliness.  How would dances that explore ugliness look?

With this question in mind, I spent part of this weekend in Tel Aviv’s Tmuna Theater.  The works were diverse, but I couldn’t help noticing that a few of the dances invoked a ballet vocabulary and aesthetic at times, perhaps as a reference to conventional standards of beauty within this art form.

To learn more about Intimadance and the choreographers’ investigation of ugliness, check out my preview below, “Ugly Dance,” which was first published in the Jerusalem Post.  The festival continues tonight with two performances.

* * *

Ugly Dance

Chances are, when you think about dance, the word “ugly” doesn’t come to mind.  But for the Intimadance festival at Tel Aviv’s Tmuna Theater, choreographers were specifically asked to explore the concept of ugliness.

“This year the choice was to ask the question [about ugliness] in a discipline that is based on beauty – beauty of the body, beauty of the movement,” says Nava Zuckeman, co-artistic director of the festival.

Examining ugliness in an art form typically concerned with beauty may be an intimidating challenge, but Intimadance provides a safe platform for choreographers to tackle this task without pressure to succeed or meet a particular ideal.  Ariel Efraim-Ashbel, who has co-directed the festival since last year, explains that the agenda is to try and search rather than to win.  “We’re in a theater, not a war – we’re not trying to conquer anything,” he notes.

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