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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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Hofesh Shechter & Talia Paz: Israelis abroad, Israelis at home

Posted on 31 October 2008 by Deborah Friedes Galili

Hofesh Shechter ‘Uprising’ from Martin French on Vimeo.
A video excerpt of Hofesh Shechter’s Uprising.

In recent years, Israeli contemporary dance has stretched far beyond Israel’s borders as companies embarked on international tours and as some Israeli choreographers created artistic homes for themselves abroad.  Didn’t realize how much Israeli dancers were moving around the globe?  Consider the performing schedules of Hofesh Shechter and Talia Paz, two artists who will be featured later in Tel Aviv Dance 2008 (see our Events page for listings).

Hofesh Shechter’s U.K.-based company will be onstage at the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center on November 11-12, while Israeli-based Talia Paz will perform at the Suzanne Dellal Center on November 20-21 in a work by Sharon Eyal.  Besides participating in the Tel Aviv Dance 2008 festival, they also appeared in New York for City Center’s popular Fall for Dance series in September – and in between these two events, Shechter’s troupe made several stops in the U.K., Spain, and Germany.

Dance In Israel was online in a beta version this summer and early autumn, and I wrote the post below about Fall for Dance prior to the blog’s renovation.

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For the last few years, City Center’s Fall for Dance series has given New York audiences the opportunity to sample offerings from a wide variety of companies and choreographers. Forget traditional programming; this is the chance to see ballet and butoh on the same bill. I was tempted to forgo packing and trek to the theater for this spread of dance, especially because of appearances by Talia Paz and Hofesh Shechter, but my aliyah schedule made it impossible to attend the performances (it’s official: I am an olah hadasha!). However, there are some reports available from other sources which I have compiled below:

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