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Sharon Eyal’s “Bill” is Back at Batsheva Dance Company

Posted on 11 June 2010 by Deborah Friedes Galili

Video: Sharon Eyal’s Bill

I have a confession to make: I saw Sharon Eyal’s Bill three nights in a row.  Besides the obvious draw of seeing Batsheva Dance Company’s latest production in its first performances, I was compelled to watch the dance again and again by the kaleidoscopic complexity of Eyal’s choreography for this twenty-one member group.  On each repeat viewing, I got to know Bill better, uncovering even more layers in the ensemble work and noticing the nuances in the movement.  The already formidable power of the dance only grew stronger with time.

For other dance enthusiasts who might want to catch Bill again – and for new audience members who have yet to be acquainted with Bill – now is your chance!  Batsheva is bringing the work to the Suzanne Dellal Center for a second run from June 13-16.

This article was originally published in the Jerusalem Post as “Meet Bill.”

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Meet Bill

Sharon Eyal’s Bill. Photo by Gadi Dagon.

With a strong character, a quirky sense of humor, and a big heart, Bill makes a memorable first impression.  But Bill is not a man. Bill is the Batsheva Dance Company’s latest production by house choreographer Sharon Eyal, and it had its first run in May with performances at the Suzanne Dellal Center in Tel Aviv and the Herzliya Performing Arts Center.

When Eyal first transfixed audiences 20 years ago, it was with her own magnetic stage presence as a dancer with Batsheva.  But in recent years, she has also generated buzz with her choreography.  From her initial compositions presented under the framework of Batsheva Dancers Create to the evening-length, large-scale Bertolina and Makarova Kabisa, Eyal developed her distinctive artistic voice.  Last season, local audiences were treated to the Batsheva Ensemble’s revamped version of Eyal’s earlier Love, while foreign crowds flocked to the Norwegian troupe Carte Blanche’s performances of the choreographer’s Killer Pig.

Sharon Eyal’s Bill. Photo by Gadi Dagon.

Now with Bill, an hour-long work for Batsheva’s 21 dancers, Eyal picks up where she left off.  “I feel I am in an endless process, and the creation Bill continues my latest works, Makarova Kabisa and Killer Pig,” she explains.

The throughline in her creative process is no doubt strengthened by her ongoing collaboration with several artists: co-creator Guy Bachar, musician and soundtrack designer Ori Lichtik, and lighting designer Avi Yona Bueno (Bambi).

Together, this team has fashioned a thoroughly contemporary aesthetic that permeates Eyal’s choreography.  Like her other works, Bill is set to a virtually unceasing, throbbing blend of beats and melodies masterfully retooled by Lichtik on a sophisticated DJ system.  Styled by Eyal and Bachar, the flesh-toned bodysuits that sheath the dancers like a second skin provide a ready canvas for the rich hues and striking geometry of Bambi’s lighting.

Sharon Eyal’s Bill. Photo by Gadi Dagon.

In Bill, the dancers’ singular look is further enhanced through piercing ice-blue contact lenses and slicked-back hair colored to match the shade of their costumes.  Eyal notes, “The idea was to wear a sense of nakedness,” but adds, “Nudity is not interesting enough . . . Nudity is also obvious.  On the other hand, it is important to me that they will see the body, that there will be another layer that will present the mechanical side.  When everyone is dressed and appears almost the same, I feel more that the individual in each one of them breaks out.”

Though seemingly paradoxical, this is a fitting attitude for a choreographer who has frequently displayed a talent for marshaling large numbers of dancers across the stage, playing on the tensions between the individual and the group. A  similar dynamic pervades Bill.  Sometimes working as single unit and at other times clustered in small packs juxtaposed with one another, the dancers travel in a dizzying kaleidoscope of constantly changing formations.  Occasionally soloists break through the mass’s movement, but ultimately it is a united group pulse that drives the work forward.

Sharon Eyal’s Bill. Photo by Gadi Dagon.

Eyal remarks, “I love the dancers, especially when I see them in the duplication of the entire group as one,” and her skillful arrangement of the dancers along with the identical costumes successfully produce this desired effect.

Yet part of Bill’s impact lies in the nuanced workings of each individual body.  Even the most basic stepping patterns are layered with subtle isolations, while more intricate phrases display the performers’ virtuosity, capitalizing on their extreme flexibility and gravity-defying leaps.  Batsheva’s dancers are just as comfortable in slinky, undulating slow motion as they are in hard-hitting, superhuman movements executed at warp speed, and they can morph from one dynamic to the next in the blink of an eye. Equipping every dancer with an intense physicality and multiplying them together, Eyal finds a winning formula for Bill.

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Phaza Morgana 2009: Batsheva Dance Company in the Desert

Posted on 25 October 2009 by Deborah Friedes Galili


Ohad Naharin’s Anaphaza.  Photo by Gadi Dagon.

Two weeks ago, the distinctive sound of dancers drumming on enormous water cooler bottles flooded the courtyard of the Suzanne Dellal Center as the Batsheva Dance Company rehearsed Ohad Naharin’s Anaphaza.  But last week, the studios were eerily silent.  Why?  Batsheva took Anaphaza, water bottles and all, down to the Arava desert for Phaza Morgana 2009.  From October 22-25, the usually placid Timna Park overflowed with audiences and energy as Batsheva and the Idan Raichel Project put on three spectacular shows.

My preview of Phaza Morgana was originally published as “Dance in the Desert” in the Jerusalem Post.

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Dance in the Desert

This weekend, the desert won’t be so deserted.  Crowds of eager spectators are flocking to scenic Timna Park, twenty-five kilometers north of Eilat, for Isrotel Phaza Morgana 2009.  Nestled among the park’s striking rock formations at the foot of the magnificent Solomon’s Pillars, a 3,000 seat amphitheater will host three spectacular programs designed to entice the senses and enliven the spirit.

The world-renowned Batsheva Dance Company has partnered with the Israeli hotel chain Isrotel to present Phaza Morgana on five previous occasions, but this year’s festival promises to be the most sensational event yet.  As in previous seasons, the dance troupe’s large-scale production of Anaphaza forms Phaza Morgana’s centerpiece and maintains a magical appeal.

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International Exposure 2008: Day 1

Posted on 20 January 2009 by Deborah Friedes Galili

(Video: Batsheva Dance Company in Sharon Eyal’s Makarova Kabisa)

Tonight, International Exposure 2008 – a showcase of the year’s new creations by Israeli choreographers – will open at the Suzanne Dellal Center.  With performances by the Tararam Group as well as two works by Sharon Eyal, I suspect that the evening will start with a bang in the literal and figurative sense (that’s good, in case you’re not familiar with the English turn of phrase).

“Tararam” translates to “hubbub,” and from the description on the group’s website, I’m expecting something in the same vein as Stomp.  Then Talia Paz will perform Eyal’s One Leg Barbie before the Batsheva Dance Company takes the stage in Eyal’s Makarova Kabisa, which mixes ballet and African-influenced movements to throbbing beats spun by a live DJ.

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Getting to Know the Batsheva Ensemble

Posted on 05 January 2009 by Deborah Friedes Galili

(Video: Dancers from the Batsheva Ensemble and from Sweden in Ohad Naharin’s Kamuyot)

I had every intention of taking Gaga class on November 18, 2007.  My dance clothes were in my bag, my water bottle was filled, and I made it to Suzanne Dellal with time to spare.  But outside the studio, I ran into Eldad Mannheim, the manager of the Batsheva Ensemble.  As part of a collaboration with Sweden’s National Riksteatern, members of the Ensemble were about to perform Ohad Naharin’s Kamuyot along with Swedish dancers – and Eldad invited me to join the audience of school children in Studio Varda for the show.

That was the first time I had the pleasure of seeing the Batsheva Ensemble, the second company of the Batsheva Dance Company.  Since then, I have accompanied the Ensemble as they have toured to Be’er Sheva, Kiryat Shmona, and Kfar Saba, and I have attended their performances at the Suzanne Dellal Center in Tel Aviv.  Many of the dancers who were in the Ensemble last year are now in the Batsheva Dance Company, and I’m happy to note that they will be touring throughout the U.S. from late January to early March.  I hope you too will have the pleasure of seeing them perform!

I first wrote about the Batsheva Ensemble after joining them for a trip to Be’er Sheva, in the Negev desert, and I published a version of the article below on my own blog on January 10, 2008.  Expect more accounts of my experiences with the group in the coming months.

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I am not a morning person.

These days, it takes multiple alarms to get me out of bed, and more often than not, the snooze button takes a beating.  But at 5 a.m. on Thursday morning, I successfully arose after a single ring of my alarm. It takes something special for me to get up before the sun rises – something like the chance to accompany the Batsheva Ensemble on their trip to perform for students in Be’er Sheva. Continue Reading

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