Moved by spirits
Batsheva's recent program of young artists was surprising and without a dull moment, with dances related to magic, spirits and rituals throughout.
The wonderful program of young artists that was presented at the Batsheva Dance Company's Studio Varda on Thursday was surprising in the freshness and talent of the artists who do as they please based on solid technique and choreographic knowledge. The space is a roomy studio with no props, with uniform lighting from the side throughout all the dances. Yet the dancers are close enough to touch. What else could be needed when there are talented artists and good dancers?
For this evening one could find a topical common denominator related to magic, spirits and rituals. Everything shone forth from the professionalism of the dancers, while from the actual materials the humor emerged and glittered. And that is what was so terrific.
Talia Beck danced the solo work, "Airplay," which can be described as expressionist; a woman who is controlled by spirits. Here movements appear to be those of someone looking for something, and suddenly they become difficult and the movement becomes choppy, controlled by an outside force. Sometimes it seems as if there is another "force" raging inside her body. Beck is a dancer with a strong presence, strong enough to cope with all the demons within and without. The dance ends with her standing with her palms swaying from side to side, like a storm that has subsided, but awaiting the next outburst.
Gili Navot's "Check-in" also featured spirits. Four dancers stand on the stage, wearing black shorts, listening to a musical setting of doors shutting that can be associated with some sort of abandoned castle. And like in a seance, they hold hands, fall in, slowly rise, and move as if obeying this same outside force that controls them.
Then suddenly, endearing music is heard, something like Hawaiian music, as if it is a fragment of memory, and Navot together with Avraham Yaniv dance while they appear to be controlled by the center of the body, a point in the belly, and dance with enjoyment. Navot is a dancer with an intriguing presence and outstanding technical ability who finds in Yaniv a worthy partner and the duet is both sweet and intriguing.
Later on there is also a duet by two female dancers, Mami Shimazaki and Doron Raz, and it features a few segments in which both perform the same movement which only intensifies the big difference in the quality of the movements of these two fine dancers, with each one highlighting her personality.
The first is strong, solid, attached to the ground and radiating outwardly, whereas the second is soft, caressing, introverted, but both conquer the stage with the same power. The structure of the dance is simple and the composition is professional. Is it possible to follow the seances and the poet's intentions? Not always, but that is not the heart of the matter.
In the female duet, "A Droom Come Tree" by Noa Zuk, the two look like twins, dressed in shiny black leotards, their legs exposed and short socks on their feet. I did not manage to follow the subject and the dramaturgy of Ehud Fishoff, who also edited the soundtrack, but the movements are interesting in and of themselves. The dance looks like a dialogue between individual statements that are nurtured by the same movement source, but with different solutions for each of the dancers. The lexicon of movement is influenced by Ohad Naharin and it is nevertheless apparent that within this same language, Zuk is searching for her own voice.
The program concluded with "Battles for the 21st Century's Love" by Ariel Cohen, which is manic, theatrical dance in the best possible sense of the words. The work seems to be about a television competition to direct a dance piece. And what is there? A dancer who appears to mummified in stiff, red fabric holding a knife in her hand. When she stabs the blade into the clothing, tears the cover, something emerges that is a woman with thighs flowing with a mane of light hair, like mythological horses.
Another dancer, tied in plastic cuffs on her arms and legs, moves across the floor like a worm.
There is a quartet of dancers whose bodies are painted with thick black stripes, like some tribe engaged in a ritual. And there is also a video photographer whose face is covered. In order to connect all this to a competition, there is also an interviewer who seems "normal" and is running a show wearing a tailored suit, her hair gathered on the top of her head like a lighthouse, she presents the winning team with a bouquet of flowers, then checks on her kingdom as she rides on a toy car holding a weapon.
The dancers flood the stage, demonstrate their technical abilities as if they are tearing themselves apart because they are so flexible, or take part in some kind of mourning rite for the woman with the thighs made of hair who has died or fallen asleep, and when one of them lifts her, and awakens her like in the legend of Sleeping Beauty, the group goes wild like a hypnotized group of drunks and later on writhes and shouts as if on the verge of giving birth, and you wonder what will come of all this.
They enjoy every moment as the bewildered audience looks on.
This whole to do is supported by the clever use of the stage surface and surprising and intriguing movement that Cohen does with the outstanding, powerful, flexible and acrobatic dancers.
All of this could easily have turned into a lot of kitsch, but there is not a single boring moment, and like a magician in a modern circus, every second Cohen pulls another trick out in order to win the 21st century reality competition.
"Airplay" by Ella Rothschild. Dancer: Talia Beck. Music: Leo Sujatovich. Costume design: Yifa Ganiel; "Check In" by Gili Navot. Dancers: Yaniv Avraham, Gili Navot, Doron Raz, Mami Shimazaki. Costume design: Aline Stern; "A Droom Come Tree" by Noa Zuk. Dancers: Iyar Elezra and Noa Zuk. Costume design: Sharon Eyal; "Battle for the 21st Century's Love," by Ariel Cohen. Dancers: Gavriel Spitzer, Osnat Kelner, Adi Peled, Noa Cohen, Shani Tamari, Ori Lenkinski, Gur Piepskovitz. Music: Moshe Kutner, a.k.a. Oi-boi. Costume design: Ariel Cohen, Nadav Fink and Yfat Kanfi. Suzanne Dellal Center, Hot Dance, Studio Varda, August 18, 2011.