Moving legends

Batsheva’s Ensemble (young company) perform a fusion of two of Ohad Naharin’s earliest works in Israel.

moving legends 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
moving legends 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Reflecting on his recent restaging of excerpts from Kyr (1990) and Z/na (1995) for the Batsheva Ensemble, Ohad Naharin remarks, “At first, when I returned to the material, I felt that I was waking a dinosaur.”
The two works have certainly loomed large in the history of the Batsheva Dance Company and in the memories of Israeli dance audiences. Commissioned by the Israel Festival, Kyr was the first dance that Naharin created after assuming the artistic directorship of Batsheva in 1990, and it featured a musical collaboration between Naharin himself and the band The Tractor’s Revenge. Even after two decades worth of adventurous new works, a section of Kyr set to a relentlessly driving rock version of the Passover song “Echad Mi Yodea” has remained Naharin’s best-known choreography. Meanwhile, Z/na, which opened the Israel Festival in 1995, also left a strong impact with striking images, memorable props, and an original score composed by popular music icon Ivri Lider and Naharin.
Touching these two substantial, legendary works after so many years was, at first, daunting. “In the early stages of the process, I lost confidence about the decision to work again,” Naharin recalls. “But from the encounter with the dancers and the process in the studio, the interest returned.” Ultimately, the choreographer asserts, “The age of a work, or when it was created – this is not really meaningful. It’s information like any other information, but the encounter with the material happens here and now and is connected to where we are today.”
Indeed, the upcoming performances of Kyr/Z/na at the Suzanne Dellal Center promise all the freshness and excitement of a hotly anticipated world premiere. For one thing, Naharin has revamped some the selected excerpts from Kyr and Z/na, and he is now deploying an even more developed artistry to bring out the nuances in the choreography. “There’s something zealous in this work. It was created from a place of less restraint, from this raging pressure cooker. The steam that comes out of this pot is measured,” explains Naharin about the shift in energy from the original to the current version. “The image I have [now] is of a very strong motor that works at 30%. Today this creation is in a different place. It is connected to insights from 20 years of work.”
While audiences can look forward to these more finely calibrated dynamics and to other changes, they can also expect that Kyr/Z/na will deliver what the original works offered: unforgettable visual images paired with particularly powerful sound scores. From the astronaut who postures and lip-synchs to a recording of Naharin’s resonant voice to the man slowly crossing the stage as he gratingly grinds an oversize wooden noisemaker, the dance is full of compelling moments that sear themselves on the viewer’s brain.
The vitality of this new staging is further enhanced by the creative chemistry between Naharin and Kyr/Z/na’s talented young performers, who range in age from their late teens to their early twenties. Noting that he typically works more with the main company and that the junior Batsheva Ensemble members are with the group for only a couple years, Naharin says that this meeting with the dancers was unique. He elaborates, “I learn a lot from them. This is a very special group, and I feel that they are upgrading me.”
The magic from the studio pours onto the stage as the Batsheva Ensembleenlivens Naharin’s choreography. When individual dancers burst intofast-paced action amidst a sea of slow motion, each one masterfullycommands attention. And as a line of women tears upstage to ahard-hitting rap song, unleashing a torrent of full-bodied movementbefore staring down the audience, their commitment to the work andtheir passion for dance is palpable. As performed by the Ensemble, Kyr and Z/naare no fossilized dinosaurs. They’re living, breathtaking creationsthat pulse with new blood and a two-decade rich infusion of artisticinsights.
The BatshevaEnsemble performs Kyr/Z/na at the Suzanne Dellal Center in Tel Aviv onMarch 12 at 10:00 p.m. and March 13 and 15-17 at 9:00 p.m. Tickets(120-140 NIS) are available at 03-5104037.