If you are a fan of Ohad Naharin, the title of his new opus may cause a little palpitation of the heart. Entitled Last Work, Naharin’s new evening will pre-premier later this month at the Suzanne Dellal Center, with the official world premier set for June.
As always, there is a fair share of mystery surrounding this creation, not only because of its somewhat daunting name but also its particulars.
To shed light on the subject, senior rehearsal director Luc Jacobs did his best to describe what fans will see on stage.
“This piece deals a lot with understatement and overstatement,” he said. “There is a lot of organization and composition, which is there in order to reveal a maximum of sublime moments.”
Leaning back on a wooden swing, surrounded by bougainvillea blossoms outside of Café Dallal, Jacobs effortlessly embodied the dazzling aloofness that Batsheva Dance Company has become synonymous with. While his attempt to describe the piece was clearly earnest, it seemed that Naharin’s process was perhaps too far out on another plane to outline in words.
“Time is really stretched in this piece, and will certainly feel stretched for the audience, and then at some point it shifts to the other scale. At that point there is a lot of loudness, virtuosity and explosiveness whereas in other parts it is much more subtle.”
Jacobs, 46, moved to Israel 13 years ago in order to join Batsheva Dance Company.
Belgian-born, Jacobs began his dance career in Europe, performing with the Royal Ballet of Flanders, Deutsche Oper Berlin and Les Ballets de Monte Carlo.
“I was doing a private project in Denmark when I first met Ohad’s work. I knew immediately that I wanted to join the company but there were no spots available. Not too long after, a spot opened up and so I moved to Israel.”
In 2002, before Gaga technique spread its wings over the globe, foreign dancers had little exposure to Naharin’s movement language. Upon arriving in Israel, Jacobs had to play catch-up with his Israeli peers.
“I had no clue,” he laughed. “It was like everything I had learned in my career was an obstacle to understanding what he was doing. I felt that the Israelis in the company had a big advantage because they had seen the work before, they knew the style.”
Perhaps the steep learning curve is what made a deft observer out of him.
Jacobs spent three seasons in the company before joining the artistic staff, where he continues to thrive today. As part of Naharin’s creative team, Jacobs is present at nearly every rehearsal, giving opinions and assisting the dancers.
“Part of my role is to identify with Ohad,” he said, “to see his world and to think and feel as he does. Having said that, I am still often surprised by him.”
For Last Work, Naharin called on Jacobs as well as co-artistic director Adi Salant, former company members Guy Shomroni and Ariel Cohen to aid him in the creative process. Company member Eri Nakamura took on a new role as costume designer for this work. For the set, Naharin brought in collaborator Zohar Shoef, whose design contributed greatly to The Hole. Avi Yona Bueno, as always, dreamed up lighting.
While sitting next to Naharin as he wields his magic may sound like a dream job, it has ups and downs like any other.
“Often, being in a process feels very ordinary,” smiled Jacobs. “A lot of time it’s boring, because it’s work. Ohad comes in with a few ideas to try out and it can feel very haphazard, as if there is no master plan.
But gradually, Ohad starts digging in, clarifying what a scene is about and getting specific. At some point, for me it happened last week, I look on from the side and feel very moved. At some point, in every process, I discover what he has done.”
As with any of his evenings, Last Work is sure to be charged with intensity and intention, without a straight-shot narrative.
The piece is performed by the entirety of the company, 18 men and women.
Jacobs let on about one detail, a constant runner, who creates a thread throughout the 60-plus minutes of the piece.
“We have four dancers who trained for this part. They are all experienced dancers but running demands a different strength. We had a trainer come in and give them exercises to prepare for the task,” explained Jacobs. “The runner is like a carpet that holds everything together. He or she creates a sense of time and continuity throughout the piece.”
As for the significance of the title, Batsheva staff assures that Naharin is not hinting at an early retirement, but rather calling the piece what it is, his last (or latest) work.
Last Work will run at the Suzanne Dellal Center on May 21 and 22 and on June 1 and 2. For more
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