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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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International Exposure 2010: Video Preview

Posted on 05 December 2010 by Deborah Friedes Galili

Nir Ben-Gal and Liat Dror’s Terminal B. Photo by Naama Nada.

Even though December has started and the shelves of Tel Aviv’s bakeries are lined with sufganiot, the jelly donuts traditionally eaten during Hanukkah, many of Tel Aviv’s residents are still walking around in tank tops and sandals. Unusually hot days and sunny skies have made it easy for the masses to pretend that summer never ended. But for those of us who follow the dance field, there is no denying that the calendar year is coming to a close. The tip-off is in the posters and fliers on display at Suzanne Dellal as well as the press releases and invitations received via e-mail, all announcing the arrival of the annual showcase of Israeli dance: International Exposure.

Nimrod Freed’s Flash.  Photo by Itamar Freed.

The exact shape and scope of International Exposure have shifted since its first incarnation sixteen years ago. For many years in the late 1990s and early 2000s, it operated in conjunction with Curtain Up, the country’s premiere platform for new works by independent choreographers. The festival has stretched over a varying number of days and welcomed crowds both intimate and large. But throughout, the goal has remained the same: to display the wealth of works premiered over the past year to foreign arts presenters, dignitaries, and journalists in the hopes of sending Israeli dance around the world.

Orly Portal’s Gnawia

International Exposure 2010 will run from Wednesday, December 8 through Sunday, December 12, and the schedule features an enticing array of established companies and independent choreographers. Most of the programs will take place at the Suzanne Dellal Centre, but a number of concerts and informal showings will take place at other performance venues and studios. And while some of the events are offered only to the festival’s guests, many of the shows are open to the public.  Below is a guide to the events that are accessible to local dance lovers (and a sneak peek at International Exposure for those of you who are not in town).  All shows are at Suzanne Dellal unless otherwise noted.

Wednesday, December 8

Video: Ohad Naharin’s Kyr/Zina

International Exposure starts out with the Batsheva Ensemble, the Batsheva Dance Company’s junior division, performing Ohad Naharin’s Kyr/Zina at 20:00.

Thursday, December 9

Rami Be’er’s Transform. Photo by Gadi Dagon.

International Exposure’s first full day kicks off at 11:00 with the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company in Rami Be’er’s new Transform, which premiered during the international Tel Aviv Dance festival this past fall.

Curtain Up 2010 will be represented by three separate bills shown at 16:00, 19:00, and 22:30.

Video: Tamar Borer and Tamara Erde’s Ana

Thursday’s offerings also include a performance of Tamar Borer and Tamara Erde’s latest collaboration, Ana, at 20:30.

Friday, December 10

Friday’s programming includes a fair amount of moving about to different theaters in the area.

Video: The Project in Jacopo Godani’s Light Years.

At 14:00, The Project – a joint initiative by the Suzanne Dellal Centre and the Israeli Opera – will present a mixed bill at the Opera House in the heart of Tel Aviv.   The program includes Emanuel Gat’s Through the Center, Jacopo Godani’s Light Years, and Marco Goeke’s Supernova.

Video: Vertigo in Mana

Vertigo Dance Company presents a hit from last year, Mana, at the Givatayim Theater at 17:00.  Choreographed by Noa Wertheim, Mana premiered during the twentieth anniversary of the Curtain Up festival.

Video: Maria Kong in Miss Brazil

Maria Kong reprises its program from the Tel Aviv Dance festival, Miss Brazil, at 21:00 at Suzanne Dellal. The company’s four founders – Anderson Braz, Talia Landa, Leo Lerus, and Ya’ara Moses – collaborated on the first half of the bill, Miss, while guest choreographer Idan Cohen contributed the second half, Brazil.

Saturday, December 11

Saturday is primarily a day of mixed bills, titled Exposures, that feature both shorter dances in their entirety alongside excerpts from full-evening works.

Video: Yoram Karmi’s Particle Accelerator

Exposure 1, at 11:00, features Fresco Dance Group in an excerpt from the evening-length Particle Accelerator.  The bill is rounded out by Rachel Erdos’s OU’.

Video: Rachel Erdos’s OU’

Odelya Kuperberg’s Tzitzushka.

At 13:00, Exposure 2 will include Odelya Kuperberg’s Tzitzushka and a new work from Idan Sharabi.

Video: Liat Dror’s Terminal B

Nir Ben-Gal and Liat Dror bring their company from Mizpe Ramon to show Dror’s Terminal B at 14:00. 

Video: Mami Shimazaki’s Loop People

At 15:00, Mami Shimizaki’s Loop People shares the bill with Orly Portal’s Gnawia in Exposure 3.

Video: Kamea Dance Company in Tamir Ginz’s Srul

The day finishes at 22:30 with Exposure 4, featuring Kamea Dance Company in an excerpt from Tamir Ginz’s Srul along with Nimrod Freed’s Flash.

Sunday, December 12

Video: Sharon Eyal’s Bill

After a whirlwind of performances, International Exposure 2010 closes with Batsheva Dance Company in Sharon Eyal’s Bill.

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Israeli Dance at Summer Festivals Abroad

Posted on 05 August 2010 by Deborah Friedes Galili

Ohad Naharin’s Hora.  Photo by Gadi Dagon.

While SummerDance 2010 has presented an array of Israeli dance at home, a number of Israeli choreographers and companies have also performed at prestigious festivals abroad. For those of you who missed seeing them live – or want to relive the experience of being in the audience – here are excerpts of some of the works that toured the world.

In July, Batsheva Dance Company brought Ohad Naharin’s Hora (2009) to France’s Montpellier Danse, which co-produced the work.

In June, the Inbal Pinto and Avshalom Pollak Dance Company toured their signature work Oyster (1999) to Durham, North Carolina, for the American Dance Festival (ADF).

At ADF, Avshalom Pollak talked about the nature of his work with Inbal Pinto and the unique mix of elements which shape each dance.


Barak Marshall’s Monger (2008) made its American debut at Jacob’s Pillow in Beckett, Massachusetts.  Monger is scheduled to tour the U.S. in April-May 2011, with appearances at the Joyce Theater in New York; White Bird in Portland, Oregon; UCLA’s Royce Hall; and additional performances in San Francisco, Pittsburgh, and West Palm Beach.

At Jacob’s Pillow, Barak Marshall talked about confronting anti-Israeli sentiment on tour and presenting a different side of Israeli culture to foreign audiences.


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Maholohet: SummerDance 2010 Heats Up at Suzanne Dellal

Posted on 29 June 2010 by Deborah Friedes Galili

Video: Batsheva Dancers Create

The Batsheva Dance Company’s dancers might have cooled off at the beach to make this video, but this July, they – and many of Israel’s finest dancers – will be heating up the Suzanne Dellal Center’s stages during SummerDance 2010.  The annual festival, called Maholohet in Hebrew (a play on the words for “dance” and “hot”), will take place from July 1-August 31 and boast 84 performances.

Nuevo Ballet Español.  Photo courtesy of Ora Lapidot PR.

This year’s programming kicks off with a festival within the festival.  From July 1-10, Madrid Dance will showcase Spanish dance including the Antonio Najarro Dance Company, Nuevo Ballet Español, Sharon Friedman and Jesus Pastor, and Pastor and José Marino.  More international guests arrive later in the summer with dancers from the Paris Opera Ballet performing their own creations in Incidence Choreographique and with the Black Light Theatre from Prague in Africania.


Video: Rachel Erdos’s OU’ premieres at SummerDance 2010

As in previous years, premieres abound at SummerDance.  This year’s bounty, totaling 19 new works, will include premieres by Dana Ruttenberg, Kamea Dance Company, Tamar Borer and Tamara Erde, Portal Dance Company, DaNaKa Dance Group, Yoni Soutchy, Idan Sharabi, Ronit Ziv, Sigal Ziv, Elina Pechersky, Rena Schenfeld, Dafi Altebab, Mami Shimizaki, Sharon Vazanna, Anat Grigorio, the Jerusalem Ballet, and Rachel Erdos.  Sahar Azimi, Elad Shechter, and Ido Tadmor offer pre-premieres, and Yaniv Cohen’s work will be shown in its Israeli premiere.

Arkadi Zaides’s Quiet.  Photo by Gadi Dagon.

For audiences who missed some of this year’s most intriguing premieres, SummerDance offers a second chance to check them out.  Among the offerings are Arkadi Zaides’s Quiet, which recently returned from a tour of Europe, as well as the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company in Rami Be’er’s Infrared, Fresco Dance Group in Yoram Karmi’s Particle Accelerator, Kamea Dance Group in Tamir Ginz’s SRUL, Kolben Dance Company in Min-Hara, and Animato Dance Company in Nadine Bommer’s American Cinema. Inbal Pinto and Avshalom Pollak’s Rushes Plus and Ohad Naharin’s Kyr/Z/na 2010, both highlights of the last season, combine excerpts of older works in a strikingly new context. And Vertigo Dance Company presents not only its recent hit Mana but also White Noise and the now classic Birth of the Phoenix.

Batsheva Dancers Create.  Photo by Yoav Barel.

Several evenings pop out from the schedule with a mixture of interesting fare.  This year’s festival includes Batsheva Dancers Create, an annual workshop featuring two programs of Batsheva’s dancers in an array of their own choreography.  Another intriguing evening is Noa Dar’s presentation of her recent Anu alongside a work-in-progress, Banu, which is the extension of her previous creation.  And audiences will have a chance to sample a combination of choreographers when established artists host up-and-coming contemporary choreographer.  These programs include Dana Ruttenberg and Shlomit Fundaminsky hosting Neta Ruttenberg and Uri Shafir; Sahar Azimi hosting Elad Shechter and Yaniv Cohen; Dafi Altebab hosting Mami Shimizaki; and Idan Cohen hosting Sharon Vazanna.

Beta Dance Troupe in Meeka Yaari and Ruth Eshel’s Fathers and Sons. Photo by Ofer Zvulun.

SummerDance 2010 also features several companies and choreographers that add an ethnic flavor to the Israeli concert dance scene.  Beta Dance Troupe blends Ethiopian traditions with contemporary choreography in Meeka Yaari and Ruth Eshel’s Fathers and Sons as well as Adam McKinney and Daniel Banks’s What We are Saying. Rona Bar-On, Sigal Ziv, and Elina Pechersky bring belly dance to the stage, while COMPAS, Silvia Duran, and Tania Vinokur offer variations on flamenco.  Adding to the mix is Bangoura, an African dance company that will perform The dance of the drums.

Batsheva Ensemble in Ohad Naharin’s Kamuyot.  Photo by Gadi Dagon.

Want to attend a dance performance with your family?  Several family-friendly programs are dotting this year’s bill, including the Batsheva Ensemble in Ohad Naharin’s Kamuyot, Kamea Dance Group in Or Abuhav’s The Ugly Duckling, COMPAS in Carmen and Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, and Noa Dar Dance Group in Children’s Games.

Rounding out the programming are several critically acclaimed works created in recent years, including Yasmeen Godder’s Singular Sensation and Yossi Berg and Oded Graf’s Four Men, Alice, Bach and the Deer, and evenings of work by independent choreographers including Iris Erez, Shlomi Frige, Maya Levy, Michael Miler, and Michal Herman.

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Batsheva Ensemble in Ohad Naharin’s “Kamuyot”

Posted on 21 April 2010 by Deborah Friedes Galili


Video: Batsheva Ensemble in Ohad Naharin’s Kamuyot

My first glimpse of the Batsheva Ensemble when I arrived in Israel was in Kamuyot, and I was able to revisit the work for a preview of the company’s most recent staging at Studio Varda in Suzanne Dellal last weekend.

A version of my article on Kamuyot was first published in the Jerusalem Post as “Stepping In.”

* * *

Stepping In

Ohad Naharin’s Kamuyot.  Photo by Gadi Dagon.

Ohad Naharin’s Kamuyot isn’t your average family-friendly dance.  It’s not built on fanciful fairy tales or familiar children’s stories, like the ballet classic The Nutcracker or modern dance renderings of Peter and the Wolf.  In fact, it’s not based on any narrative at all.  But the Batsheva Ensemble’s production is a uniquely engaging work that lives up to its billing as “a piece for children aged 6 to 90.”

Based on material from Naharin’s Mamootot and Moshe, both of which were created for more typical adult audiences, Kamuyot premiered in 2003 and has since entertained crowds across the country and around the world.  Indeed, for the past few years, an international cast has toured Sweden in a popular joint production with the Riksteatern, while last season the Batsheva Ensemble brought Kamuyot to children in Rwanda.

This widespread success lies in large part in the special bond between performers and viewers that the work establishes from the outset.  For starters, Kamuyot trades the traditional theater setting for the more informal, intimate studio space.  Like the children and adults who have arrived to watch the show, the dancers gradually filter into the studio and find their seats on long benches that line all four sides of the room.  Some even interact with people sitting around them, smiling broadly and chatting amiably.  These performers are approachable rather than untouchable; in fact, in their prep-school inspired white shirts, plaid pants, and pleated skirts, Kamuyot’s young cast members could be the friendly teenagers next door.

Ohad Naharin’s Kamuyot.  Photo by Gadi Dagon.

The dynamic connection between the performers and the audience is maintained once the dance itself begins.  Kamuyot’s eclectic score – ranging from quirky electronica to nostalgic Americana and from Japanese rock to mellow reggae – kicks off with a rousing rendition of Lou Reed’s “We’re Gonna Have a Real Good Time Together,” setting the tone for a performance that’s more interactive than most.  Besides moving back and forth between their spots on the sidelines and the open space in the center, the dancers invite viewers to join them in a series of inventive postures and later walk around the perimeter, gazing softly into audience members’ eyes and occasionally taking a viewer’s hand.

Even when there’s not direct physical interaction between Kamuyot’s performers and spectators, a spirit of lively interplay among everyone present prevails.  At one point, the dancers gamely address the challenge of being surrounded by the audience and pointedly cater to each row of viewers.  To a rocking version of Bobby Freeman’s song “Do You Wanna Dance,” the cast jumps through a fast-paced phrase, strikes a pose, and then sprints to the next side of the studio to start all over again.  In such a small area, every twinkle in their eyes and dimple in their cheeks is visible, revealing the dancers’ pleasure in captivating the crowd.

Ohad Naharin’s Kamuyot.  Photo by Gadi Dagon.

The Batsheva Ensemble’s ebullient energy is infectious, and in this square space, the audience’s enthusiastic responses are equally contagious.  Seen up close, the performers’ soaring, unbridled leaps and a few daring acrobatic feats elicit gasps from viewers of all ages.  Other gestures – two men waving their tongues in the air, or one man smacking his face, thumping his thighs, and drumming on his chest – prompt giggles from children which soon spread to their parents.   Moments of contact with the dancers frequently spur happy grins and a stream of excited whispers.  And don’t be surprised if the end of the show induces ardent applause and even a dance party, with kids spilling from the bleachers to try out their own moves in the center of the room.

That’s the magic of Kamuyot.  Naharin’s work eschews the storybook characters and wondrous stagecraft of so many productions geared towards families, but the one-of-a-kind experience it fosters possesses its own attraction – and this spell works its charms on children and adults alike.

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