Body Moving: Batsheva Ensemble Perform a Ritual of Precision in 'Max'

Choreographer Ohad Naharin’s imagination works overtime as he explores the universal language of movement.

Ruth Eshel
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'Max'Credit: Gadi Dagon
Ruth Eshel

This weekend, as part of its Jubilee Year celebrations, the Batsheva Ensemble will perform Ohad Naharin’s “Max” at the Suzanne Dellal Center in Tel Aviv. The dominant element in this work, which had its world premiere in 2007, is an accumulation effect that had already appeared in the choreographer’s “Kyr” (1990). The sequence of movements or text is repeated over and over, with a new sentence or movement added each time, thus extending the physical or verbal statement. The sequences are executed with precision to the sound of a low, intriguing male voice counting in a language based, apparently, on Latin. As though to the accompaniment of a metronome, the dancers perform the movements, most of which are based on broken lines that emphasize the angles of the body’s joints.

The dancers wear almost everyday clothing, as though wishing neither to divert our attention nor be committed to a specific theme. In some cases, they perform the same movements with their backs to the audience, then facing the audience, or in other directions. The repetition is clear, like letters or musical notes.

There is also pairing to the sound of recurrent numbers, the men dancing odd numbers, the women even numbers. Then, suddenly, as though to erase all that has gone before, the dancers break into a run in a large circle. Subsequently, each comes out with a personal statement, as though to create a counterpoint between what now looks like anarchy and the order and organization that came before. Then a return to the accumulation, though this time the order of 
movements is executed sitting or lying down, with occasional higher thrusts.

Thus, his imagination working overtime, Naharin continues to amuse himself while investigating his themes. At the same time, he does not feel obligated to what he examined earlier. He interweaves segments that have no connection to what has gone before, such as a duet with flowing, almost blunt movement, in which the dancers seem to be hovering. The recurrent motif is the gathering of the group into a bloc. To an accompanying voice that seems to be reciting gibberish, the dancers execute rapid, clipped torso movements, creating an effect of ritual. To conclude, they burst into energetic song, again gibberish, as though the experiment has ended.

In this work, Naharin has created an alter-ego for himself in the person of Maxim Warrat, an international musician whose music sounds like an indecipherable fusion of Hebrew, Arabic, Russian, Latin and Spanish. The music and the movement activate, nourish and serve each other. This is cultural, vocal universalism, which brings our attention back to another universal language: movement.

Batsheva Ensemble stages “Max” on Saturday at 19.00 and 21.00 at Suzanne Dellal Center, Tel Aviv