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Batsheva Dance Company: MAX

by Joanna G. Harris
February 23, 2012
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
701 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA 94103
415.978.ARTS (2787)
Joanna G. Harris
Author, Beyond Isadora: Bay Area Dancing, 1916-1965. Regent Press, Berkeley, CA, 2009. Contributor to reviews on culturevulture.net
It seemed that many in the audience for Batsheva Dance Company's MAX were displeased by the company's new production at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts' Novellus Theater. Since this is the third time Batsheva has appeared in San Francisco, some expected the athletic, Israeli-themed material choreographer Ohad Naharin had done before or perhaps modern dance in the style of Martha Graham. Instead MAX brought long moments of stillness and abrupt movement changes.

Naharin's well-publicized movement language called "Gaga" (not to be confused with the lady using the same name)involves dancing from the sensation or energy of the movement. This, for many of the dancers, is an extreme change from the "replication of a precise image", which is the standard. Thus, MAX presented undulating torsos, extreme runs and jumps and movement unique to each dancer in solos, duets and ensemble work.

Thematically, the piece seemed to be about time and context, albeit listening, counting or responding to gibberish language. The dancers wore earbuds, through which they heard counts and vocals. We, the audience, heard these language shuffles sporadically, wondering what was said and why.

A dominant section of the work repeated over and over with the counting to ten in a variety of distorted words, recognized by the repetition more than the enunciation. The dancers then repeated their same movements.

Despite MAX's shortcomings, the company's dancers were extraordinary in their stamina and the ability to produce a range of movement laced with a sense of humor and an intensity of focus. The women of the company appeared to be stronger in their torso undulations and general physical power. The men leaped and turned in traditional ballet vocabulary. Together as an ensemble, Batsheva was a fine tuned instrument.
Batsheva Dance Company dancers in 'MAX' by Ohad Naharin

Batsheva Dance Company dancers in "MAX" by Ohad Naharin

Photo © & courtesy of Gadi Dagon


Batsheva Dance Company dancers in 'MAX' by Ohad Naharin

Batsheva Dance Company dancers in "MAX" by Ohad Naharin

Photo © & courtesy of Gadi Dagon

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