It began with a bathtub in New York

A collaboration between the Batsheva Dance Company and Japanese artist Tabaimo has an entire complex in Tel Aviv in which to dazzle.

Furo 88 224 (photo credit: Gadi Dagon )
Furo 88 224
(photo credit: Gadi Dagon )
Good things come in small packages, they say. If so, Japanese artist Tabaimo fits. She's a huge talent wrapped in a heart-shaped, laughing face and the slenderest of frames. She's wearing a conservative print dress, but her round-toed sandals are decorated with shiny big buttons in primary colors. She was here for the opening of the Batsheva Dance Company's Furo, the live dance-video multidisciplinary collaboration between her and choreographer Ohad Naharin that's playing for the next two months in the Furo Building - a specially constructed space at the Tel Aviv Port designed by Giora Porter. You could say that in Furo, manga meets Gaga. "Gaga" is the dance language Naharin has developed over the years, and "manga" is Japanese for comics. Tabaimo's work draws on animé, the name given to Japan's hand-drawn/computer-assisted animated comics. Tabaimo, 33, was born and brought up close to Osaka in western Japan. She started working in animé at 22 and had her first show, Japanese Kitchen, the following year. Another of her shows, Japanese Bathhouse, was exhibited at the Israel Museum. And it was the New York version of that show that inspired Furo, which is Japanese for "bathtub." In 2005, Tabaimo's seven-minute video installation, Japanese Bathhouse (Gentlemen), was running at the James Cohen Gallery in the Chelsea area of New York. Naharin saw it there and asked Batsheva general manager Naomi Fortis to get in touch with her. "I didn't know Ohad or Batsheva's work," she says in soft English as we hunker down in the shade on a blistering Tel Aviv morning at the boardwalk. "But when I met him, I was a little scared because he has a special aura and speaks very slowly. I nearly decided to refuse, because he awed me. I was trying to catch his thinking, and for 10 minutes I didn't speak, I was just thinking, and he waited patiently. Then I said 'yes.'" At Naharin's request, Tabaimo added new scenes. He reedited the piece and incorporated a pair of dancers beginning onstage but performing mainly on small revolving platforms on either side of the screens and close to the audience. Animation and dance form a 45-minute loop with a changeover from pair to pair. Commissioned by the Stockholm Jewish Theater, Furo had its world premiere there in 2006. While only the men danced in Stockholm, here all the dancers from both Batsheva and the Ensemble will perform - though not all on the same day. Here, as in Stockholm, the audience is invited to sit where it wants, wander in and out of the space at will, drink coffee or a glass of wine, come back and watch all or part of the 45-minute loop and see one or several different pairs of dancers whose cool clothes are by young local designers. Bambi was responsible for the lighting, Ohad Fishoff took care of the soundtrack and all of the complex and sophisticated technology is controlled by a single mouse click. Furo runs continuously Monday through Thursday from 6 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.; Fridays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturdays from noon - 9 p.m. Tickets are NIS 60, available at (03) 510-4037 or at the door.