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Batsheva Dance Company’s Mixed Bill: Yasmeen Godder and Sharon Eyal & Gai Bachar

Posted on 06 January 2012 by Deborah Friedes Galili

Video: Batsheva Dance Company in Yasmeen Godder’s The Toxic Exotic Disappearance Act

On first thought, Batsheva Dance Company’s new mixed bill seems an unusual choice of programming.  House (titled “Ha’avoda shel hofesh” in Hebrew) by Sharon Eyal and Gai Bachar is a natural pick, since Eyal has served as the troupe’s house choreographer since 2005.  The first half of the evening, however, belongs to someone from decidedly outside of the Batsheva fold: Yasmeen Godder.  Godder is not a complete stranger to Batsheva, having created Green Fields on the Ensemble in 2000, but her The Toxic Exotic Disappearance Act is the first work by anyone other than Ohad Naharin or Eyal to be performed by Batsheva in several years. Beyond the novelty of a guest choreographer working with the company, the combination of these particular artists initially seems to be an odd coupling.  Were I to make a family tree of contemporary dance in Israel, Godder’s branch would be far away from that of Eyal and Bachar.  Indeed, aesthetically, these creators occupy nearly opposite ends on the art form’s spectrum.

Yet watching the performance at Suzanne Dellal on January 4, this pairing started to make sense.

For all their stylistic differences, Godder and the team of Eyal and Bachar do have one key trait in common: they are artists who are audacious and provocative, in the best senses of those words.  Rather than play it safe, these creators unabashedly delve into the realms of the twisted, the disturbing, and even the grotesque in their repertory.  Rarely have I heard anyone deliver a lukewarm review of either Godder’s or Eyal’s work; indeed, it’s practically impossible to not react strongly to their choreography.

Yasmeen Godder’s The Toxic Exotic Disappearance Act.  Photograph by Gadi Dagon.

Batsheva’s mixed bill of Godder’s The Toxic Exotic Disappearance Act and Eyal and Bachar’s House may not be an aesthetically cohesive evening. But it’s savvy programming, for each dance has the capacity to leave a significant impact on the audience – and together, these electrifying works outline the range of contemporary dance in Israel today.

Sharon Eyal and Gai Bachar’s
House. Photo by Gadi Dagon.

Batsheva’s new program continues at Suzanne Dellal in Tel Aviv through January 7 and returns from January 18-20.  Additional performances are scheduled later in the season; for more details, please visit Batsheva’s website.

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Batsheva Dance Company 2011-2012: The Year Ahead

Posted on 23 November 2011 by Deborah Friedes Galili

Batsheva Dance Company in Ohad Naharin’s
Sadeh21.  Photo by Gadi Dagon.

Last week, Batsheva Dance Company unveiled its 2011-2012 season at a press conference in Studio Varda.  And what a season it will be!

On December 30, the troupe will premiere two new works, one by Sharon Eyal and Gai Bachar and the other by Yasmeen Godder.  At the end of March, the junior Batsheva Ensemble will debut another new work by Sharon Eyal and Gai Bachar along with a restaging of Ohad Naharin’s classic Tabula Rasa (1986), which has not been shown in Israel since 2004.  Tel Aviv audiences will also be treated to performances of Eyal’s Bill and Naharin’s Sadeh21, Hora, MAX, Shalosh, Kamuyot, Deca Dance, and Furo, created in collaboration with the Japanese video artist Tabaimo and last staged in Israel in 2008.  Both the main company and the ensemble will travel around Israel, appearing in other cities and throughout the periphery; the troupes will also journey abroad, with several performances in Europe in November and December and a North American tour in February and March.  By the time the season ends, the two companies will have given a combined total of well over two hundred performances.

The press conference kicked off with a peek at an installation that the main company will perform at the Fondation Beyeler, a museum in Basel, on November 23 and 24.  In the museum, the audience will sit around the space and can come and go as they please; in the press conference, we too sat around the perimeter of the space and remained riveted during the brief showing.  As company member Guy Shomroni DJ’ed, the rest of the dancers filtered in and out of the center, quoting snippets from across Naharin’s repertory.  Here and there duets formed spontaneously and unison took shape organically.  Phrases from different works created unusual juxtapositions, while occasionally more and more dancers gathered to build a section from a single work.

Although I was invited to this press conference as a dance writer, I attended it along with the other 29 dancers who are studying Ohad Naharin’s movement language in the inaugural year of the Gaga Teacher Training Program – and in the midst of my total immersion in Gaga, my viewing was undoubtedly colored by my recent experiences in the studio.  I couldn’t help but notice the Batsheva dancers slip in and out of phrases we have been learning in our repertory classes, like the quiet unison from Kamuyot (based on Mamootot) and a short, speedy solo from Sadeh21.

While a thrill surged through my body as I recognized these movements, I was even more fascinated by the dancers’ mastery of Naharin’s movement language.  Trained for years in Gaga, these dancers move fluently in Naharin’s idiom, and their knowledge of his recent repertory is encyclopedic.  Like writers cleverly engaging in wordplay, these dancers rummaged freely through Naharin’s vocabulary and deployed witty plays on movement.

I continued to mull over the Batsheva dancers’ relationship to Gaga as the press conference continued on to previews of the new work by Sharon Eyal and Gai Bachar as well as that of Yasmeen Godder.  Sharon Eyal, herself steeped in Gaga as a former member of Batsheva and as the company’s current house choreographer, has developed a unique voice that nevertheless is a cousin to Naharin’s language.  Having worked with Eyal on previous productions, the dancers moved in her creation as if speaking one of their native tongues.  And even though Yasmeen Godder’s language is further removed on the family tree of contemporary dance, the five Batsheva dancers in her new work adapted admirably to her vocabulary.  This mixed bill is one to look forward to, for it showcases the range of this company’s extraordinary dancers in works by some of this country’s most exciting choreographers.


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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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Tel Aviv Dance 2010

Posted on 19 September 2010 by Deborah Friedes Galili

Video: Preview of Tel Aviv Dance 2010

Four years after its founding, the Tel Aviv Dance festival – an outgrowth and expansion of the earlier Dance Europa festival – is now an eagerly anticipated annual staple of Israel’s jam-packed dance calendar.  From October 4-30, dance lovers can take a whirlwind world tour of exciting, exceptionally diverse dance from the comfort of two local dance hubs, the Suzanne Dellal Centre and the Israeli Opera – Tel Aviv Performing Arts Centre (TAPAC).

Yair Vardi (director of Suzanne Dellal) and Hannah Munitz (director of the Opera House) declared in a press release, “As each year in the festival, we try to keep the Israeli audience up to date and present contemporary dance from all over the world, including intriguing, far-away places. This year the festival will host premieres from dance companies from South Africa, South Korea, and China alongside those from the U.S., Canada, France, and Israel.”

The numbers are indeed impressive: by the end of the festival, 12 companies from 9 countries will present 34 performances.  And the breadth of genres and aesthetics on display is breathtaking.  Tel Aviv Dance 2010’s programming runs the gamut from hip-hop to ballet and offers lavish large-scale works alongside more intimate and modest approaches.

Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s Sutra. Photo by Hugo Glendinning. Photo courtesy of Ora Lapidot PR.

Tel Aviv Dance 2010’s lineup includes some of the biggest names, old and new, in modern and contemporary dance.  From Belgium hails Eastman, a young company headed by the acclaimed Flemish-Moroccan choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui.  Eastman will offer Aleko, Faun, and a new work at Suzanne Dellal.   Cherkaoui’s striking Sutra, a collaboration with sculptor Antony Gormley, composer Szymon Braska, and monks from the Shaolin Temple in China, will also be performed at the Opera.

The U.S. modern dance powerhouse Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater will also visit the Opera, bringing not only Ailey’s masterpiece Revelations but also George Faison’s Suite Otis, Ronald K. Brown’s Dancing Spirit, and Robert Battle’s Unfold.

Kader Attou’s Petites Histoires.com.  Photo courtesy of Ora Lapidot PR.

Hip-hop also makes a few appearances on this year’s program.  The French troupe Accrorap brings Algerian choreographer Kader Attou’s PetitesHistoires.com, while ten male dancers from South Korea will offer Shin Chang Ho’s No Comment. On the same bill with No Comment is Kim Jin-Mi’s A Body Conflicting with Emotion, a work for four women.

The Royal Winnipeg Ballet in Carmina Burana. Photo courtesy of Ora Lapidot PR.

Some ballet influence is visible as well in Tel Aviv Dance 2010’s lineup.  From Canada hails the Royal Winnipeg Ballet in Mauricio Wainrot’s Carmina Burana and Peter Quanz’s In Tandem.  10 principal dancers from the acclaimed New York City Ballet present a program called To Dance, with excerpts of works by George Balanchine, Twyla Tharp, and Tom Gold.

Dada Masilo’s Carmen.  Photo courtesy of Ora Lapidot PR.

Rising star Dada Masilo, a 24-year-old dancer and choreographer from South Africa, has also revealed a predilection towards ballet influences in her work.  For Tel Aviv Dance, Masilo brings her dance theater work Carmen to Suzanne Dellal.

Also among this year’s offerings is the Spanish dancer and choreographer Miguel Angel Berna’s sweeping Goya, inspired by painter Francisco Goya.

Maria Kong in Miss Brazil.  Photo by Ascaf.

Dance from Israel forms a strong presence in this year’s programming.  Barak Marshall’s Rooster, which was a success at the Opera House during Tel Aviv Dance 2009, will make an appearance in 2010 at Suzanne Dellal.  Batsheva Dance Company will present house choreographer Sharon Eyal’s Bill, which debuted last May, while the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company will unveil Rami Be’er’s newest work, Transform. Maria Kong Dancers Company, a collective of dancer-choreographers Anderson Braz, Talia Landa, Leo Lerus, and Ya’ara Moses, will offer their own creation Miss as well as Brazil by Idan Cohen.

For a more in depth look at what is in store during Tel Aviv Dance, check out the longer video below.  The clips are, in order, Accrorap, Shin Chang Ho, Kim Jin-Mi, Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company, Dada Masilo, Barak Marshall, New York City Ballet, Batsheva Dance Company, Eastman, Miguel Angel Berra, Winnipeg Royal Ballet, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Maria Kong, and Eastman.

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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.”

* * *

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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