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Batsheva Ensemble in Ohad Naharin’s “Kyr/Z/na”

Posted on 15 March 2010 by Deborah Friedes Galili

Video: Trailer for Kyr/Z/na

It’s been a particularly fascinating season at Batsheva.  As the company marks the 20th anniversary of Ohad Naharin’s arrival as artistic director, it has placed a wealth of choreographic treasures onstage for review at the Suzanne Dellal Center: Hora (2009), Project 5 (2008), Three (2005), Mamootot (2003), and Kamuyot (2003).

This programming has promoted what Naharin has discussed in several press conferences: an opportunity for the choreographer, dancers, and audience members alike to revisit the choreography.  Project 5, itself a compilation of excerpts stretching from 1985’s Black Milk to 2008’s B/olero and originally danced by five women, was newly presented in 2010 with an all-male cast.  Three has stayed in Batsheva’s active repertory, but the recent performances were the first ones at Suzanne Dellal in a few seasons. And Mamootot and Kamuyot, which are performed in the studio with viewers on all four sides, always offer repeat audiences a new perspective simply through the choice of seating.

Ohad Naharin’s Kyr/Z/na.  Photo by Gadi Dagon.

Now, together with the Batsheva Ensemble, the Batsheva Dance Company’s junior troupe, Naharin is revisiting two of his earlier works: Kyr (1990) and Z/na (1995).  The result – Kyr/Z/na 2010, which combines excerpts from both works in one powerful program – continues through March 17 at the Suzanne Dellal Center in Tel Aviv.

My preview of Kyr/Z/na 2010 was first published in the Jerusalem Post as “Moving Legends.”

* * *

Moving Legends

Ohad Naharin’s Kyr/Z/na.  Photo by Gadi Dagon.

Reflecting on his recent restaging of excerpts from Kyr (1990) and Z/na (1995) for the Batsheva Ensemble, Ohad Naharin remarks, “At first, when I returned to the material, I felt that I was waking a dinosaur.”

The two works have certainly loomed large in the history of the Batsheva Dance Company and in the memories of Israeli dance audiences.  Commissioned by the Israel Festival, Kyr was the first dance that Naharin created after assuming the artistic directorship of Batsheva in 1990, and it featured a musical collaboration between Naharin himself and the band Tractor’s Revenge.  Even after two decades worth of adventurous new works, a section of Kyr set to a relentlessly driving rock version of the Passover song “Echad Mi Yodea” has remained Naharin’s best-known choreography.  Meanwhile, Z/na, which opened the Israel Festival in 1995, also left a strong impact with striking images, memorable props, and an original score composed by popular music icon Ivri Lider.

Ohad Naharin’s Kyr/Z/na.  Photo by Gadi Dagon.

Touching these two substantial, legendary works after so many years was, at first, daunting.  “In the early stages of the process, I lost confidence about the decision to work again,” Naharin recalls.  “But from the encounter with the dancers and the process in the studio, the interest returned.”  Ultimately, Naharin asserts, “The age of a work, or when it was created – this is not really meaningful.  It’s information like any other information, but the encounter with the material happens here and now and is connected to where we are today.”

Indeed, the upcoming performances of Kyr/Z/na 2010 at the Suzanne Dellal Center promise all the freshness and excitement of a hotly anticipated world premiere.  For one thing, Naharin has revamped some the selected excerpts from Kyr and Z/na, and he is now deploying an even more developed artistry to bring out the nuances in the choreography.  “There’s something zealous in this work.  It was created from a place of less restraint, from this raging pressure cooker.  The steam that comes out of this pot is measured,” explains Naharin about the shift in energy from the original and the current version.  “The image I have [now] is of a very strong motor that works at 30%.  Today this creation is in a different place. It is connected to insights from 20 years of work.”

While audiences can look forward to these more finely calibrated dynamics and to other changes, they can also expect that Kyr/Z/na 2010 will deliver what the original works offered: unforgettable visual images paired with particularly powerful sound scores.  From the astronaut who postures and lip-synchs to a recording of Naharin’s resonant voice to the man slowly crossing the stage as he gratingly grinds an oversize wooden noisemaker, the work is full of compelling moments that sear themselves on the viewer’s brain.

Ohad Naharin’s Kyr/Z/na.  Photo by Gadi Dagon.

The vitality of this new staging is further enhanced by the creative chemistry between Naharin and Kyr/Z/na 2010’s talented young performers, who range in age from their late teens to their early twenties.  Noting that he typically works more with the main company and that the junior Batsheva Ensemble members are with the group for only a couple years, Naharin says that this meeting with the dancers was unique.  He elaborates, “I learn a lot from them.  This is a very special group, and I feel that they are upgrading me.”

The magic from the studio pours onto the stage as the Batsheva Ensemble enlivens Naharin’s choreography.  When individual dancers burst into fast-paced action amidst a sea of slow motion, each one masterfully commands attention.  And as a line of women tears upstage to a hard-hitting rap song, unleashing a torrent of full-bodied movement before staring down the audience, their commitment to the work and their passion for dance is palpable.  As performed by the Ensemble, Kyr and Z/na are no fossilized dinosaurs.  They’re living, breathtaking creations that pulse with new blood and a two-decade rich infusion of artistic insights.

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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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