An eclectic mix of music, ranging from Bach to Brian Eno to the Beach Boys, provides the backdrop for what promises to be an unforgettable performance by Tel Aviv’s Batsheva Dance Company, Thursday night, Feb. 5, at the Benedum Center.
The company, founded by dance luminaries Martha Graham and Baroness Batsheva de Rothschild in 1964, has been one of Israel’s leading cultural ambassadors for years. Under the direction of Ohad Naharin since 1990, it has broken new artistic ground in its ingenuity and vision.
Presented by The Pittsburgh Dance Council, a division of The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, the Batsheva Dance Company will perform “Three,” a 70-minute dance trilogy that pushes the envelope when it comes to creativity.
“Ohad Naharin is a good mix between a madman and a poet,” said Luke Jacobs, manager of Batsheva’s dancers, speaking from the company’s stop in Houston. “He is very sensitive, and at the same time, very rough about his work.”
Although Naharin’s choreography lends itself to various interpretations, depending upon “the experiences and projections” of the audience members, Jacobs said that, ultimately, “it’s about the license we give to laugh at ourselves. How to surprise ourselves.One thing that struck me: there’s something about watching Batsheva that’s very direct,” Jacobs continued. “It’s almost like eating food or listening to music. It enters your system quite immediately.”
The three pieces, “Bellus” (beauty), “Humus” (earth) and “Secus” (this and not this), create an explosive exploration of power and sensuality. The pieces, though different in tone, are linked together by a man with a television, said Jacobs.
“He will come and give you some trivial information about the works themselves. There are three works, but it very much feels like one evening.”
“Bellus” showcases 10 dancers in a string of puppet-like solos exploring the silence between the musical notes in Glenn Gould’s recording of Bach’s “Goldberg Variations.”
In “Humus,” five women dance to a score by Brian Eno. “Humus” is evocative of a racecar in second gear, Jacobs said. “You feel the potential of the power of these women, but it’s not necessarily demonstrated. It has a lot of subtleties.”
The final piece, “Secus,” is danced by the entire company. It is set to several diverse music tracks, ranging from Indian music to the Beach Boys.
The Batsheva dancers are trained in a method called “Gaga,” developed by Naharin, in which they are encouraged to move their bodies freely, releasing untapped agility and control.
“We do gaga practically on a daily basis,” said Jacobs. “Once a week, we do classical ballet. But we do gaga on the other days. Gaga itself deals with finding our weaknesses and our explosive power. It pushes your awareness of your space. We get instructions, but at the same time, we remain responsible for our own movements. You develop lots of awareness about your body and the possibilities of movement.”
Advertisements for “Three” mention that the work contains nudity. Jacobs said the nudity is brief, and only is used in the context of the final piece.
“It is the atmosphere of a madhouse,” Jacobs said. “One of the small events that happens is a bit of nudity for a few seconds. It doesn’t hold a prominent part of the evening. It’s like the lifting of an arm or the bending of a leg. It’s used with the same value as any other movement.”
“Three” first premiered about four years ago, Jacobs said, but has evolved over time.
“It went through quite a lot of facelifts since then. Ohad’s work is basically like a newborn baby. It continues to develop.”
Batsheva has performed all over the world, to stellar reviews. Tours have taken the dancers to Australia, Japan and Europe.
“The good thing about dance,” said Jacobs, “is it has the ability to go beyond culture, religion and politics. That’s the nice thing about movement. It can go beyond the differences and meet where we are similar as humans.”
(Toby Tabachnick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)