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Batsheva Dance Company's Sadeh21 has audience going GaGa

by Joanna G. Harris
November 6, 2014
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
Ohad Naharin brought Batsheva Dance Company to San Francisco this past weekend, both delighting and jolting audiences to admire the company's commitment to "Gaga," an "innovative movement language" that he invented, teaches and invites the company to participate in as contributors.

Entitled Sadeh21 (the word means "field" as in field of study,) the work, at first seemed like a showcase of skill and abstract dance gymnastics, but with elaborate staging and group activities.

A series of solos started the show. Each dancer appeared demonstrating his or hers best skill, in running, leaping, crawling, falling and gesturing. It was a fast-paced introduction followed by a series of duets and trios, each exploring the range of capabilities possible in that format.

Various innovative events continued as "Sedah 8-21" were presented. In one, a girl calls out numbers (e.g. 2,21: 5: 3,2,1) and when you look, you find that the company is organizing themselves to do feats within that grouping. They moved very fast from group to group. At another time a slow walking circle of three people began; little by little the entire company joined in, and then broke out again into furious action. A girl walked around the stage with an ugly waddle: suddenly she was joined by many others in a series of duets. In the duets, many kinds of touching, balancing and lifting were attempted, some gymnastically amazing, others whimsical and touching.

A line of jazz dancers cavorted downstage while a girl in red offered up provocative postures on the ground. A line of men danced a slow motion "Kolo," or "Debka," a men's military middle-east dance, which accelerated and then broke down. Finally, while the credits ran, the dancers climbed a back wall and each took a relaxed fall or a flying fall into the backstage area. The audience was shocked, surprised, intrigued, amused and alas, sometimes bored. It was hard to follow, but all of it provoked the imagination.

Batsheva is celebrating its 50th season this year. It was founded as a repertory company in 1964 by Baroness Batsheva de Rothchild, who enlisted Martha Graham as its first artistic director. Graham, whose work was dedicated to myth, narrative and performance reflection - (as she said) "the deep places of the heart," - would be a bit affronted, I believe, by this Gaga direction.

The amazing dancers were: William Barry, Or Schraiber, Omri Drumlevich, Bret Easterling, Roni Lebzelter (replacing Maya Tamir), Eri Nakamura, Ori Ofri, Shamel Pitts, Oscar Ramos, Nitzan Ressler, Ian Robinson, Maayan Sheinfeld, Zina Zinchenko, Adi Zlatin, Mario Bermudez Gil, Bobbi Smith, Iyar Elezra, Rachael Osborne They brought their talent and training from five different countries outside of Israel, representing a broad range of U.S. and European training.
Batsheva Dance Company in 'Sadeh21' by Ohad Naharin.

Batsheva Dance Company in "Sadeh21" by Ohad Naharin.

Photo © & courtesy of Gadi Dagon

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