Lucky number ‘Three’

Batsheva Dance Company revisits Ohad Naharin's choreography.

February 12, 2010 19:10
3 minute read.
The Batsheva Dance Company performing Ohad Naharin

batsheva naharin 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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Addressing a small crowd in the Batsheva Dance Company’s studios during an open rehearsal of Three, artistic director and choreographer Ohad Naharin mused that we frequently revisit books, movies and music. So why not revisit a dance?

Naharin proposes that Tel Aviv audiences will do just that when Three, an evening-length work that premiered in February 2005, returns to the Suzanne Dellal Center this weekend.

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“The showing of Three in Tel Aviv offers the viewer a renewed meeting with the work, which exists inside a constant process of development since its creation,” said Naharin. “This process, in which the work is growing and being refined all the time, is just as meaningful in the company’s work as the process of creation before a premiere.”

At the rehearsal, Naharin elaborated why both these processes are so vital. “Since the premiere, the creation went through a lot of changes. I like to think of the premiere as a birth, since it’s clear to everyone that birth is just one moment, and that afterwards many other things happen,” he reflected. “There is no doubt that the work changed, improved, among other things because of the meeting with the dancers, who are very creative and musical themselves. This is one of the reasons that I recommend that people see the creation twice – at the beginning and a year or two after it has gone through this process of ripening.”

In the case of Three, the work has enjoyed five years of ripening while remaining in Batsheva’s active repertoire. Consequently, original cast members who have stayed with the company, as well as newer additions to the troupe, have had ample opportunity to develop their interpretation of the dance, calibrating their embodiment of the choreography with previously elusive nuances and subtleties.

Nowhere is this maturation more important and beneficial than in a work such as Three, which in the absence of complex stagecraft and elaborate visual design reveals the movement and the dancers’ performance of it as the main subject. Lit plainly but effectively by Avi Yona Bueno (Bambi) and clothed in Rakefet Levy’s basic, solid-colored tank tops and closely fitting cropped pants, the dancers approach Three’s sophisticated, multi-layered movement with a confident straightforwardness.

As the title suggests, Three contains three discrete sections, and Naharin’s compositional and musical choices provide each part with a distinctive feel. In “Bellus,” set to Glenn Gould’s celebrated recording of J.S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations, a simple purity reflective of the music pervades both the dancers’ finely wrought solos and the more pared down, precise group work. Brian Eno’s spare, evocative Neroli provides the soundscape for “Humus,” which features a flock of the company’s women methodically repositioning their bodies and shifting their spatial formation in an entrancing unison.

“Secus,” the final section, boasts a musical collage that stretches from the offbeat electronic stylings of AGF to the alluring Indian melodies of Kaho Naa Pyar Hai to the resonant harmonies of the Beach Boys. This adventurously eclectic mix serves as a fitting backdrop for the audaciously quirky choreography. From total stillness, the dancers burst into flurries of activity, creating a sense of organized chaos both in the space and within their bodies. Their novel movement often defies description, but it constantly commands attention and inspires awe.

Three’s extraordinarily rich physical texture can be attributed at least partly to the evolution of Naharin’s movement language, Gaga, in the early 2000s. Naharin noted that just a few years prior to Three’s premiere, “Gaga became the heart of the daily practice of the company. This common language [Gaga] held the keys to the process” of making Three.

Indeed, the marvelous movement invention and robust embodiment that characterize Three are closely linked to the practice of Gaga, which expands the dancers’ ability to research movement possibilities and awakens their sensitivity to physical sensations. Five years after its first premier, Batsheva’s dancers bring a deepened understanding of Gaga to their performance of this work. And that’s reason enough to revisit for a second or even a third time.

The Batsheva Dance Company performs Ohad Naharin’s Three at the Suzanne Dellal Center today at 2 p.m. and tomorrow at 9 p.m. Tickets (NIS 120 – NIS 140) are available at (03) 510-4037.

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