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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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Batsheva Dance Company Premieres Sharon Eyal’s “Bill”

Posted on 07 May 2010 by Deborah Friedes Galili

Video: Sharon Eyal’s Bill, in process


Spurred by this shriek, the 21 dancers of the Batsheva Dance Company spring into action.  They arch their backs, splay their hands, shoot their legs towards the ceiling, and vault high into the air.  Amidst layers of throbbing rhythms, punctuated by more guttural cries and sharp claps, the dancers organize and reorganize themselves into constantly changing groupings.  The ebb and flow of one large group’s rocking steps provides a mesmerizing baseline for a smaller ensemble’s shape shifting, which in turn sets off one man’s virtuosic, almost mechanical movement.

Sharon Eyal’s Bill.  Photo by Gadi Dagon.

It is choreographer Sharon Eyal who has cast this spell, which goes by the name of Bill and is the Batsheva Dance Company’s newest production. Like Batsheva’s artistic director, Ohad Naharin, Eyal is currently celebrating her twenty-year anniversary with the company.  She joined the troupe as a teenager and quickly captivated crowds while performing many memorable parts.  Now offstage in the role of Batsheva’s house choreographer, Eyal is keeping the audience’s attention with her unique creations.

Bobbi Smith and Iyar Elezra in Sharon Eyal’s Bill.  Photo by Gadi Dagon.

Of her latest work, Eyal explained in a press release, “I came to Bill with a very clear concept.  It was easy for me to explain what I see and imagine; I could verbalize the work in a very precise way.”  Working with the full company and with her seasoned team of collaborators – co-creator Guy Bachar, soundtrack designer Ori Lichtik, and lighting designer Avi Yona Bueno (Bambi) – Eyal brought her vision to life.

Reflecting further, Eyal added, “I feel I am in an endless process, and the creation Bill continues my previous works, Makarova Kabisa and Killer Pig.”  While Bill certainly shares the masterful maneuvering of large groups, the looping of repeated movements, and the extreme physicality that characterize the choreographer’s earlier works, it is also marked by a highly distinctive look.  The dancers are outfitted in full-length, skin-toned unitards, and their hair is similarly colored; meanwhile, their eyes all glint the same shade of light blue thanks to tinted contact lenses. Eyal notes, “The uniform clothing, the skin color and the identical eyes unite the whole group and bring out the soul and the special physicality of each and every dancer.”

Sharon Eyal’s Bill.  Photo by Gadi Dagon.

Besides the striking visual effect of the dancers’ costumes, Bill is filled with vivid images. Five dancers prowl on all fours like predatory creatures, surging forward and then sinking back onto their haunches. Three women assemble numerous variations on a heart shape using their assorted body parts, backed by a sea of dancers who form miniature hearts with their fingers, hands, and forearms. An enormous crowd clustered center stage suddenly disperses in all directions with a burst of angular jumps, creating the effect of a firework exploding midair.

And then there are the seemingly infinite permutations of group formations. In tight clumps or spread-out packs, and in trios or as a 21-member strong mass, the dancers travel across the stage with unison stepping patterns and more quirkily styled, technically complex movements.  Sometimes, watching Bill is like observing the inner workings of a finely-tuned mechanical watch; each person, and each small group, is necessary for the whole to function. When these dancers come together, painting the entire space with their collective movement, there is indeed a sense of magic.

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The Batsheva Dance Company performs Sharon Eyal’s Bill at the Suzanne Dellal Center on May 7-8 and 10-14 before moving to Herzliya on May 15.  For more information about tickets and future performances, visit Batsheva’s website.

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