Tag Archive | "B/olero"

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Batsheva Dance Company: Ohad Naharin’s “Project 5”

Posted on 19 January 2010 by Deborah Friedes Galili

Video: Batsheva Dance Company in Ohad Naharin’s Project 5

Given the chance, I usually prefer to see a dance twice.  I can anticipate the choreography and more strategically direct my gaze, and I detetct nuances that I missed the first time around.

I first saw Batsheva Dance Company in Ohad Naharin’s Project 5 when it premiered in 2008, and by the time I had my second viewing last week, there had been a significant change: the gender of the dancers.  Originally created for five female dancers, Project 5 is now being performed not only by women but also by men.

I had wondered if I would sense differences between the male version and the female version of Project 5.  Without watching the versions back-to-back, it was challenging to make a fair comparison.  Instead, as I watched the men, I found myself thoroughly absorbed in noticing the subtle idiosyncrasies among individuals both within this particular quintet and across the two casts I had seen. Project 5‘s assortment of small groupings and repeated compositional motifs provide ample opportunity to observe each dancer in all his (or her) glory and discover each performer’s winning quirks.

Those of you in Israel can catch both female and male casts in Project 5 at the Suzanne Dellal Center from January 28-30.  For those of you who aren’t in the country, you can get your Batsheva fix online by browsing their fantastic new website (link below; English version to come shortly!).

My preview of Project 5 was originally published as “Changing Places” in the Jerusalem Post.

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Changing Places

Two dancers rhythmically swing their forearms side to side as Isao Tomita’s synthesizer transforms the stirring melody of Ravel’s Bolero.  Positioned squarely behind microphones, three dancers intersperse their stern monotone chanting with more dynamically accented gestures.  Five dancers add movement after movement to a gradually accumulating phrase, striking their abdomens with a resounding slap each time a woman’s voice matter-of-factly intones one particular line from Charles Bukowski’s “Making It.”  And finally, costumed in flowing white fabric, five dancers shoot through the space in soaring jumps and ritualistically smear mud across their faces and chests.

Are these dancers men or women?  The answer depends on which performance of Ohad Naharin’s Project 5 you attend.

Ohad Naharin’s Project 5. Photo by Gadi Dagon.

Naharin first presented Project 5 in 2008 to showcase five female dancers who had recently been promoted to the Batsheva Dance Company from the junior Batsheva Ensemble.  Besides displaying the formidable talents of these up-and-coming dancers, Project 5 unearthed several gems from the rich landscape of Naharin’s repertory.  The engrossing trio “Park” hails from Moshe (1999), the finely crafted quintet set to Bukowski’s instructive text and Arvo Pärt’s “Für Alina” is from George and Zalman (2006), and Black Milk, the supremely athletic closing section for five dancers, was first performed in 1985.  “B/olero,” the duet with its hypnotizing loops of movement, was the only section created in 2008 for members of the original Project 5 cast.

Ohad Naharin’s Project 5. Photo by Gadi Dagon.

In its early performances, the chance to see five of Batsheva’s freshest female dancers featured in this intimate chamber setting was reason enough to go to the theater.  But now Naharin is upping the ante, offering a rare opportunity to see the exact same choreography in both a female version and a male version.  During the production’s latest run at the Suzanne Dellal Center, two all-male and two all-female casts are performing Project 5.

Ohad Naharin’s Project 5. Photo by Gadi Dagon.

While reversing the casting of men and women in a classical ballet would be unthinkable because of the genre’s gender norms, switching the genders in Naharin’s choreography is an intriguing novelty that fits comfortably into the realm of possibility.  Indeed, regarding the materials with which his dancers work during the creative process, Naharin explains, “it is possible to talk, among other things, about musicality, accuracy, groove, passion, the ability to sublimate personal madness as an aid for creation, connection to sexuality and more, and all these things are not connected to gender and are not the property of men or of women.”

“The difference,” Naharin notes, “lies in the different point of reference of the viewer – in social conventions, our habits, and the awareness that a man does a woman’s role.”

Ohad Naharin’s Project 5. Photo by Gadi Dagon.

Naharin’s assertion is supported by veteran Batsheva dancer Guy Shomroni’s experience in working on Project 5.  Asked if it felt significantly different to step into roles originated by women, Shomroni replied, “Frankly, not really, because the starting point for us as dancers in this company is usually coming from a more physical way.”  Rather than taking on specifically gender-coded movement or characters, Shomroni and his fellow male dancers were charged with the same basic physical tasks that their female predecessors faced.

Ohad Naharin’s Project 5. Photo by Gadi Dagon.

Yet there was a high level of excitement for the new male cast when it came to learning Project 5.  Shomroni reflects that besides Black Milk, which has frequently been performed by a male quintet, “None of the material was ever offered for men to do . . . to touch this product after it’s already been through a process and a maturing on stage, it’s a nice experience.”

Ohad Naharin’s Project 5. Photo by Gadi Dagon.

As for the audience’s perspective, Shomroni muses that the differences among dancers of the same gender may be as fascinating as the contrasts between the male and female casts. In a company full of strikingly individual dancers, each of whom is uniquely compelling, this may well be the case. Yet returning to the issue of gender, Shomroni adds thoughtfully, “there is a difference in the body shape and the body curves in the way the body is built, so maybe there is going to be some type of change. Tell me if you find some.”

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Antonio Márquez Brings Fiery Flamenco to Israel

Posted on 13 January 2010 by Deborah Friedes Galili

Antonio Márquez. Photo courtesy of Ora Lapidot PR.

This article was first published in the Jerusalem Post.

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Although Israel is best known for contemporary dance, Israeli audiences seem to have an insatiable appetite for flamenco.  Besides boasting several thriving local flamenco companies and an annual flamenco festival and competition, the country has hosted some of the world’s most prominent flamenco troupes in performances that draw large, enthusiastic crowds. Now, after two previous successful visits to Israel, the legendary Antonio Márquez is returning with his company to satiate Israelis’ hunger for top-notch Spanish dance. “The Israeli audience embraced us on our previous visits and we would like to return a warm embrace,” explains Márquez.

Born in 1963 in Seville, Márquez studied flamenco with Antonio Ruiz Soler, a leading dancer of his day, and joined the renowned National Ballet of Spain in 1982. Márquez’s phenomenal technique and dramatic stage presence made him a star with the company and a popular guest artist in other preeminent companies and international galas.  As a performer, he received coveted awards including the Nureyev Prize, and in 1998, he was named Spain’s Most Esteemed Professional Dancer.

Compañia Antonio Márquez. Photo courtesy of Ora Lapidot PR.

In 1995, the virtuoso dancer founded Compañia Antonio Márquez. With Márquez and a roster of talented dancers enlivening captivating, colorful productions, the Madrid-based company has garnered critical acclaim and won a popular following in both national and international tours. For its third trip to Israel, Compañia Antonio Márquez will be the guest of honor of the international dance series at the Herzliya Center for the Performing Arts from January 13-16 before touring to Haifa, Rishon Lezion, and Jerusalem.

Compañia Antonio Márquez. Photo courtesy of Ora Lapidot PR.

Márquez has planned an enticing double-bill for his troupe’s Israeli performances.  Set to Maurice Ravel’s rousing score, Bolero highlights Márquez’s penchant for combining classical flamenco technique with strikingly contemporary choreography. Positioned center stage in a spotlight, every fiber of Márquez’s body exudes power and passion; bursts of lightning-fast footwork are juxtaposed with slow head rolls, subtly expressive isolations, and the gloriously smooth unfurling of his muscled arms. As the music builds, so too does the action with the ensemble. Márquez smartly moves the dancers around the stage in striking formations, sometimes punctuating a strong unison section with an eye-catching canon. All the while, the group entrances with their proud carriage, mesmerizing arm motions, and percussive, rhythmic steps.

Compañia Antonio Márquez. Photo courtesy of Ora Lapidot PR.

Besides Bolero, Márquez has prepared Flamenco Celebration especially for this tour.  Danced to stirring guitar and vocal music, this vibrant group work hews more closely to traditional notions of flamenco dance. Women in tiered ruffled dresses and swirling fringed scarves sweep elegantly through the space, while men in smart suits show off their impeccable high-speed footwork. Sometimes the group surrounds a soloist, clapping, stomping, and gesturing to accentuate the lead dancer’s dazzling movement and impassioned performance. Here too, Márquez electrifies with his brilliant technique and commanding, expressive presence. With such a superb flamenco dancer at the helm, and with an exciting cast of outstanding dancers in well-crafted, compelling choreography, Compañia Antonio Márquez’s concerts are themselves cause for celebration.

More Information

Compañia Antonio Márquez performs at the Herzliya Center for the Performing Arts from January 13-16 at 9:00 p.m. Tickets (269-299 NIS) are available at 1-700-70-29-29.  Additional performances are at the Haifa Auditorium (January 17, 8:30 p.m. 04-8418411), Rishon Lezion’s Heichal Hatarbut (January 18, 8:30 p.m., 03-9666141), and the Sherover Theater in Jerusalem (January 20, 8:30 p.m., 02-6237000).

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Batsheva Dance Company: From Graham to Gaga

Posted on 21 September 2009 by Deborah Friedes Galili

Ohad Naharin's "Hora"
Rachael Osborne and Iyar Elezra in Ohad Naharin’s Hora. Photo by Gadi Dagon.

I first wrote the article below for the Forward last winter, when the Batsheva Dance Company toured North America in three large-scale productions.  Now, right before New York audiences catch Ohad Naharin’s duet B/olero in City Center’s popular Fall for Dance festival, I decided it was time to revisit this piece.

Fall for Dance features an array of internationally-renowned companies, and while Batsheva has boasted a world-class reputation since its inception, its style and structure have changed dramatically over the last few decades.  This article, originally titled “Going Gaga for Batsheva in America,” traces Batsheva’s transition from a strongly American-influenced company to the more distinctive troupe which has captivated contemporary audiences.

Going Gaga for Batsheva in America

Since its first tour of the United States in 1970, Israel’s Batsheva Dance Company has won over American crowds and critics alike with its energetic approach to dance.  At the time, it was, perhaps, a novelty: an Israeli group performing primarily American repertory with unbridled verve and vigor.  But in the past 18 years, the company has become a phenomenon of a different sort.  The Batsheva Dance Company, which is currently crisscrossing North America, is widely recognized as one of the world’s top dance ensembles, featuring audacious choreography with inventive movement.

Founded in 1964 with the financial backing of Baroness Batsheva de Rothschild, Batsheva began as a repertory company in the American mold.  Martha Graham, a founding mother of American modern dance and a beneficiary of de Rothschild’s patronage, served as artistic adviser.  The Israeli dancers trained intensively in Graham’s technique and channeled both their physical power and their emotional passion into some of the choreographer’s most acclaimed works. With many of Graham’s disciples contributing to Batsheva’s repertory, the Tel Aviv-based company was part of American modern dance’s family; New York Times critic Clive Barnes even called Batsheva’s members “the Israeli children of American dance” upon seeing the company’s American debut.

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