Traveling abroad for work is generally looked upon as a major perk. You fly to an interesting destination, meet with colleagues and briefly immerse yourself in another culture and a new country. It certainly appears glamorous, though the reality might be less so. What is it like for a dancer who travels the world to perform? If you ask Ido Gidron, 22, a dancer with Batsheva – The Young Ensemble, it’s an energizing experience.
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Ido Gidron: “I’ve made 10 trips with the Batsheva ensemble. They were all amazing, whether it was for a festival, a theater where we were treated very well, or the city itself was breathtaking, or the food was outstanding,” he says. “Overall, travel is a wonderful part of the Batsheva dancer’s lifestyle.
“If I had to name the trip where I had the best experience, I would definitely say it was the first one, to Santiago, Chile. Performing with Batsheva in South America was incredible. One day we went to the home of the woman who invited us to the festival. She is Jewish, and it was important for her to have Batsheva come. The home was a villa somewhere inside a vast rainforest, and the food and drink just kept coming.”
Gidron, who has been dancing since the age of 13, joined the ensemble after studying at the Rubin Academy of Music and Dance in Jerusalem. He says he generally travels with Batsheva three or four times a year. “From one trip to the next, you learn how to parcel out your energy better, because ultimately you’ve come there to perform and to work, and your job is to take care of yourself before and after shows.”
We asked Gidron to describe a typical day on the road.
June 16, 4 A.M., Tel Aviv. The alarm clock jolts me awake; they’re coming to pick me up in half an hour. I only slept for an hour and a half. It’s okay, I tell myself, praying I’ll be able to sleep on the flight.
5 P.M. Sibiu, Romania. We just arrived at the hotel after the drive to this amazing city. The way here was like going through an endless tropical forest. It really is incredible, so we’ll have to forgo rest and go out. “But there’s a show tomorrow,” one side of my mind tells me. And the other side immediately responds, “Don’t worry, you slept the whole flight; go out.” We’re always testing the boundary between going out and seeing the city, knowing this is probably the only time we’ll ever be here, and the fact that we’ve come here to work – which is constantly on our minds. Before shows, we usually preserve our energy and don’t do too many extreme things. So we went to see the downtown. Special, magical views. Funny, amiable people. Street art everywhere. The trip downtown evolved into a trip to the shopping mall (because everything is so cheap here) and finished with a late dinner.
Back at the hotel, 10 P.M. There’s a party opposite the hotel, let’s go! The festival has organized an area for all the participants. Five shekels a beer and great music. Again – I remind myself to go to sleep, because we have a show tomorrow.
June 17, 10 A.M. The day of the first show in Sibiu. Breakfast at the hotel after a long sleep. We must go out and see the city: We went up in a huge tower and we bought really cheap secondhand clothing. Romania, you’re gorgeous.
1:30 P.M. Depart the hotel in a minibus for the theater. It’s raining (What the?!).
1:45 P.M. Arrival at the theater. We get settled in, everyone finds a space to use and puts away their costumes for the show. I prepare a banana, some dried fruit and coffee for before the show. Of course, I won’t survive on just that. The show’s not until eight! Luckily I bought a sandwich beforehand.
1:45 - 2 P.M. In my three years in the ensemble, this is the second time Ohad [Naharin, Batsheva’s artistic director] has come with us on tour. When Ohad comes with us it’s always fun, because he gives us a Gaga lesson, and that’s always amazing.
4 P.M. There are a lot of photographers; before every first performance abroad, the press comes and takes pictures. We’re all in costume now and Ohad talks to us through the sound system: “Don’t kill yourselves, take it easy. You have two shows today and tomorrow, listen to your bodies.” This is one reason I’m happy I’m in Batsheva. Listening is the most basic thing and the real essence and source of movement.
7 P.M., One hour until showtime. The little pre-show ritual begins. Each person sits in their own space, some with earphones, some fixing their hair and putting on makeup. I always try to be calm, to listen to my breathing, to eat a few dates. We adjust our costumes, and start to prepare our bodies for the performance. “15 minutes!” Gabriel shouts. There’s a lot of laughter and joking around backstage.
8:10 P.M. The music starts; we’re in the wings. It’s totally sold out, standing-room only. Look how many people there are. Half of them are standing around the sides; it looks like another hundred came and there was nowhere to seat them. Each dancer is alone with himself now, thinking about the adjustments he wants to make, about things Ohad said in the lesson, about something he saw and liked. About the kinds of feelings he wants to have during the performance. There are a lot of questions to explore during the performance itself. Ohad always says there’s no difference between a performance and an ordinary run-through in the studio. There’s no need to raise the stress level. Just the opposite – as soon as you listen and let go, you can achieve fantastic things.
9:30 P.M. The performance is over. We go for something to eat, to have a glass of wine or a good beer. The ensemble gives us a per diem for meals; in Romania a glass of wine costs only 10 shekels and a beer is just five shekels.