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Ohad Naharin in America: “Out of Focus” Documentary

Posted on 27 April 2009 by Deborah Friedes Galili

(Video: Excerpt from Tomer Heymann’s Out of Focus)

More and more video cameras are making their way into dance studios as choreographers seek to document their work.  Usually the footage remains in personal or company archives, unseen by outsiders.  But the film Out of Focus offers the public a peek inside the process of Ohad Naharin, artistic director of Israel’s Batsheva Dance Company.

In 2007, filmmaker Tomer Heymann focused his lens on Naharin as the choreographer coached New York’s Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet in Deca Dance.  Besides close up views of the choreography, Heymann’s Out of Focus includes interview clips with Naharin.  With bits of conversation set against the sometimes bustling backdrop of the studio, the discussion feels particularly fresh, open, and honest.

While the Batsheva Dance Company recently displayed Naharin’s repertory on tour in the U.S., Heyman’s behind-the-scenes documentary has been seen primarily  in Israel.  Now, though, Out of Focus is coming to New York.  92YTribeca’s screening on April 30th will include a special appearance by Heymann himself.

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Americans in Israel: Cedar Lake in Tel Aviv Dance 2008

Posted on 23 October 2008 by Deborah Friedes Galili

Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet in Ohad Naharin’s Decadance. Photo by Paul B. Goode

It used to be that Israeli companies like Batsheva Dance Company and the now defunct Bat-Dor toured to the U.S. with American repertory (( Batsheva Dance Company was founded in 1964 by the Baroness Batsheva de Rothschild, a patroness of Martha Graham.  Graham was the company’s artistic adviser, and the group performed not only several of her works but also dances by numerous Americans and Europeans – some of who became artistic directors during the group’s early decades. )).  But Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet’s appearance at the Tel Aviv Dance 2008 festival marks a turning point in dance history: this American company is bringing Israeli repertory to Israel.  Cedar Lake’s programs will include excerpts from Decadance by Ohad Naharin, Batsheva’s artistic director.

Last year I peeked into Cedar Lake’s rehearsal process with Naharin by watching Tomer Heymann’s documentary, Out of Focus.  Whereas the Batsheva dancers take class daily in Gaga, a movement practice developed by Naharin, Cedar Lake’s dancers had to move away from their ballet background and immerse themselves in a dramatically different method of training and working.  This shift required the dancers to trade a traditional emphasis on external appearances for an intense process of personal and physical exploration – a major challenge for dancers reared and rooted in the ballet studio, with its ever-present mirror.

But Cedar Lake is explicitly billed as a contemporary ballet company.  Its repertory is not drawn from 19th century ballet classics but from a range of modern-day works, some of which blur the borders between genres of dance.  Thus the dancers that tackled this challenge did so with within the company’s framework of versatility and physical facility, which is beautifully captured in this video below:

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