Batsheva Dance Company’s “Last Work”: Ohad Naharin researches the performing body.

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

Categories: Dance, Performance Art

bat89C_0727 Batsheva photographer Gadi Dagon

Photo: Gadi  Dagon

At first, we are intrigued by the evolution of these young bodies in space:  disarticulated, disjointed, straining muscles in unusual directions, in opposition to what happens to bodies executing existing dance steps. Dance has repossessed the human body in a way that makes  unhuman demands on the living human creature and opens a new world.

Choreographed at first as  individuals, each dancer  crawls, lopes, twists, leaps, floats in from the wings,  opposing  the  rhythms and movements of the preceding dancer, just to give us the feeling of the enormous possibilities of the human body in this investigation of what can take place in a performance space.  Then groups form and reform,  as all around them the fluttering and twisting of slim, elongated and  finely muscular creatures jerking in and out, up and down, below and above,  create a parallel dialogue with the  electronic sound effects and highly dramatic music.   There is so much excitement, so much activity that  our gaze  keeps  shifting around the stage, picking up individual movements, noticing  other bodies  regrouping, almost as though we were  watching the trembling of some  nervous cellular activity under an intense microscope.

Eventually, the company reveals much  contemporary avant-garde  sources which suggest the collective choreography of Maurice Béjart, or the splitting of the company into the sensual  bodies in white and the restrained, suspiciously spying bodies in long black robes of religious conviction.  Some sort of delicate narrative emerges, based on an interesting  tension that suggests new emotional relationship as the company often comes together as  one single shifting living organism, sliding feet, jerking hand movements, the body under the microscope moves ahead in perfect unity.

Dancers in white, faces covered, cast emphasis on the moving body inspired by the  mime heritage of symbolist stage esthetic from the early 20th century. This new costume  seems to  liberate those bodies as the rhythm becomes more frantic and eventually  leads to a form of confrontation that could have  serious political meaning: dancers appearing to toss things – suggestions of the intifada, sounds of guns, groups of dancers collapsing, linked by  a long role of sticky tape, and much more. No sense giving it all away as one could see many things according to ones feelings about the untenable situation in the Middle East. There was even a suggestion that the choreographer , obsessed by  the violence of all origins, sees the end at hand. Is that perhaps the “Last Work”?

A richly meaningful corporeal investigation of bodies coming apart,  announcing  the arrival of something new ! Is choreographer Ohad Naharin a new prophet?  Bathseva dance continues again this evening in the theatre of the NAC, at 7h30.

Last Work

Choreographer Ohad Naharin

Lighting Avi Yona Bueno

Soundtrack design Maxim Waratt

Original music Grischa Lichtenberger

Costume design: Eri Nakamura

Stage design Zohar Shoef

And a cast of 17 dancers.

A coproduction with Festival Montpellier Danse, and the European Centre for the Arts.


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