Batsheva Ensemble: Deca Dance
Touring the UK, Runs 1h 45m, one interval
Review: Alexander Ray, Hippodrome Birmingham, 13 11 12
Unique, brilliant and special on a world stage.
Batcheva Ensemble’s tour is not without controversy – it’s an Israeli dance company. The dance company itself is not without brilliance, humour, grace and – most powerful – a unique dance style.
The performance is a collection of extracts from works created by Artistic Director, Ohad Naharin. These range across styles reflecting urban and street dance, classical styles, ballroom and popular. But whichever style the company touches the dancers seem to be able to bring a fresh take to it.
One moment the dance may be set to pounding rhythms (as in the Train sequence) at other times danced to silence or spoken word – among the most sensual of the pieces. In addition dancers regularly punctuate their dance with body percussion – stamps, slaps, claps . . . The result is vibrant and exciting.
Naharin’s use of the performance space is also intriguing. Sometimes the company fills the space, but frequently they group together, the bodies of the dancers forming, in a sense, a greater body which moves as if with a sense of its own around the space. Contrasting with this the company sometimes lines up across the space confronting us or reaching out to us.
Naharin has an undoubted sense of theatre, too. What could be more surprising than when the male dancers bring up women – mature women – to join them in a dance. An hilarious sequence, but with serious undertones – Naharin plays with stereotypes, against stereotypes, he subverts stereotypes.
This work may appear to have become political, but that’s wrong, the ensemble’s work is political to start with and this sense is strong throughout. The protests that have accompanied this show are correct in as much as there are real issues to be resolved in the relationship between Israel and Palestine. But I believe them to be wrong that this company is supported simply to throw a positive light on Israel. It deserves to be funded, not because it is a good company, but because it is a special and brilliant one. I am thrilled that, in the UK, we have a chance to see their work.
And let us all get behind a move to resolve the other issue of rightful and dignified nationhood – for even as I write the dispute appears to be escalating.