Review: Deca Dance, Batsheva Dance Company

As I mentioned at the end of the last post, I am introducing a new category on the blog to allow me to write the occasional review.  I used to keep a blog about dance, but gave it up when I moved to New Zealand to concentrate on writing about our new life here.  Anyway, with the New Zealand Festival now in full swing, I thought it a good time to start this new addition to the blog.  Feedback, as usual, is welcome.

On the opening night of the Festival, I went to see Batsheva Dance Company.  The evening, called ‘Deca Dance’, was composed of extracts of a number of works, choreographed by the artistic director, Ohad Naharin.  I had actually seen two of the extracts twice before, once in Edinburgh and once in Copenhagen.

The evening began with an improvised solo piece (danced by Shamel Pitts), which was performed while the audience was entering the theatre and finding their seats.  He had wonderful elastic movements which drew eyes to the stage while people switched off mobile phones, sat down and talked to their friends.  He was eventually joined by the rest of the dancers, and the performance ‘proper’ began.

We were then treated to one of my favourite pieces, a quite breathtaking work, which begins with fifteen dancers, sitting in a semi-circle, dressed in dark suits and hats. As the piece progresses, clothes are flung into the centre, chairs rock, and the movements become somehow increasingly more urgent.  One dancer remains dressed, and throws himself onto the floor with increasing frenzy, another stands on his chair from time to time.  The music, a Jewish folk song, of course helps enormously.  It is such a stunning piece, that once seen, never forgotten.

imagesDancing with Chairs  Picture courtesy of DLB

I also loved a piece for five men – or rather, four men as a group and one not being quite part of it. It seemed to follow a ritual involving body paint and certain patterns of movement, with the fifth dancer giving the impression he would rather not get caught up in it all.  Gripping stuff!

CedarLakeBlackMilk

Picture from here

In complete contrast to these excerpts was the second piece I had seen before. In this, the dancers leave the stage and select members of the audience (on Friday, all women wearing red) to join them in a dance on stage.  This turned out to be quite lovely and not embarrassing in the least as one might expect, and in Wellington, came over as an intimate, joyful piece (unlike when I saw it in Copenhagen, where it actually was pretty awful to watch).

Overall, the company is exciting, lyrical, energetic and full of ideas to make you think.  Recurring themes of alienation, of the individual striving for freedom come through the pieces, but each one is a unique little gem to be watched on any level.

Because Batsheva come from Israel, there were some obligatory protestors at the theatre on the Saturday night.  This post is about dance and not politics, but I am glad at least that there was no disruption to the performance as there has been I believe in London.  The evening was a strong and excellent opening event on the Festival, and I cannot recommend the company highly enough.

If you have an hour to spare, you can actually see the whole performance here.

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