BATSHEVA YOUNG ENSEMBLE perform Danielle Agami’s latest piece ‘And Still’.
(photo credit: GADI DAGON)
The mood in the room is tense.
The dancers stand along the sidewalls, pulling on and off socks, exchanging glances and thinking through the task at hand. They are about to run a new piece by choreographer and former Batsheva Dance Company member Danielle Agami.
The work, which Agami traveled from her current Los Angeles base to create, is still very much in process.
The premiere, which was then one week away, looms in the not-so-faraway- distance and it is clear that everyone in the room is feeling the pressure. Agami sits at the front of Studio Suzy, a sun-bathed square on the third floor of Batsheva’s home in the Suzanne Dellal Center and, without too much lead up or explanation, gives a quick cue to begin.
The following 30 minutes are filled to the brim with movements, large and small, serious and light, perfectly executed and a hair fumbled. At certain key moments, where Agami has most recently made changes, she throws a word or two into the space to jog the dancers’ memories.
This new work will share a program with a restaging of Sharon Eyal’s Bill, which has been tailored and trimmed to a 30-minute version.
This is Agami’s second time creating a work for the Batsheva Young Ensemble.
In 2012, she returned from the States to make Shula, a work for female dancers. “This process has been very different,” explains Agami following the rehearsal. “The last work was for girls only. It’s a very different jumping off point working with the entire ensemble. It is also two years later. I’m in a different place now. The experience is taking place now so its different from what took place then.”
Agami, 31, was born and raised in Israel. She spent eight years as a member of Batsheva Dance Company before relocating to New York.
There, Agami brought the message of Gaga (Ohad Naharin’s movement language) to new crowds as the senior manager of Gaga USA.
Feeling the pull of the west, Agami moved on to Seattle, where she founded Ate9, a company dedicated to performing experimental dance works. Not long after Agami resettled the troupe in Los Angeles.
“Los Angeles is a city that does not consume contemporary and modern dance. It seems that there’s an important mission there, to bring different dance from what they think dance is.
I am trying to allow for contemporary dance to exist in the city. The place of the dancer is very different there, much more connected to show biz than here. In Israel we really take that for granted. I strive to understand why LA doesn’t have more dance and how to change that,” says Agami of her difficult decision to live so far away from her hometown. “There are lonely moments there that I wonder if it would be different in Israel. I’ve been living abroad for five years now. There is a lot of good here for me in Israel.
The dilemma is there but I still feel inspired to continue abroad.”
The doubt that she feels embedded in daily life was a major part of the creation of this work, which Agami has titled And Still. “I think that those words, ‘and still,’ are a state. There is a lot of doubt in our lives. It leaves a lot of room for hope and disappointment,” she says.
Once in the studio, Agami took a good look at the talented young individuals surrounding her. The dancers, who range in age from 18 to 25, became the colors with which Agami painted the picture. “The inspiration came mostly from the meeting with the dancers. I really looked at the people in the room and thought about what would be interesting to do.”
While emotional content is present in And Still, a clear narrative is not. In the place of a storyline, Agami left room for the movement to guide the outcome of the work. “As the movement developed, so did the piece. The stripped down movement allowed for the dancers to have this great presence.
I allowed that to guide us.
The story is the movement,” she explains starkly. “It depends on what you feel you can open yourself up to and feel. But everything is there, there is information, fantasy, reason and emotion.”
And Still will premiere at the Suzanne Dellal Center on December 17, 18, 19 and 21. For more information, visit www.batsheva.co.il.