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REVIEW: A tour de force from Batsheva Dance at Jacob’s Pillow

Never underestimate minimalism in movement; it draws the eye to the action of what’s happening.

Becket — Friday night I witnessed a tour de force performance. Batsheva Dance Company, the Young Ensemble from Tel Aviv, Israel, was at Jacobs Pillow last week. The program they performed, “Naharin’s Virus” was raw, gripping, offensive — if you chose — and full of abandon.

I myself have been working on several different choreographic projects. Going into this performance, I was ready to look for interesting new ways to move, or novel aspects of the piece. I was not disappointed. The first thing I witnessed was a solitary dancer moving slow and meltingly across the stage against the back, black chalk wall, all the while drawing with chalk. The slowness of her movement forced me to watch her and take notice. Never underestimate minimalism in movement; it draws the eye to the action of what’s happening.

Xanthe Van Opstal in ‘Naharin’s Virus’ by Batsheva Dance Company: The Young Ensemble at Jacob’s Pillow. Photo: Christopher Duggan

There was an overlying text, spoken intermittently throughout the hour of the performance by one of the dancers, Evyatar Omesy. As a choreographer and dancer myself, I sometimes find it hard to choreograph or move to spoken word without it becoming clichéd or cheesy. Ohad Naharin’s choreography, however, blends these movement and the spoken word very well. It is a testament both to his expertise as a choreographer, and to the dancers’ professional versatility and commitment to the movement. After all, the piece is a statement and, if you don’t commit to the movement, the choreography will not have the same effect on the audience. Art of any form is the medium of your own expressive voice.

The text, “Naharin’s Virus,” is an adaptation of Peter Handke’s play “Offending the Audience.” It is interesting to listen to and, yes, be offended but only if you choose to let it offend you. There was a line in the text that said “You bought the ticket … offending is being straight,” meaning: “You came here to watch us, now watch what we have to say.” This is designed to get a reaction out of the audience.

Toward the end of the program, I found myself on the edge of my seat. Thirsty for more of the intensity from the dancers and eager to hear more of the text being thrown at me, I was surprised by how swiftly the program had gone by. I did not feel cheated; instead, I felt elated. I do not recall the last time I was at a performance where I never wondered how long I had spent sitting there or how much more there was. I was jazzed up.

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