Batsheva takes on the port

Israel's top dance patrons, culture kings and 'O-Heads' will make their way to Tel Aviv's bustling port to see the latest creation of the Batsheva Dance Company, Furo.

batsheva dance 224 (photo credit: Gadi Dagon)
batsheva dance 224
(photo credit: Gadi Dagon)
This week, Israel's top dance patrons, culture kings and 'O-Heads' (Ohad Naharin fanatics) will make their way to Tel Aviv's bustling port to see the latest creation of the Batsheva Dance Company, Furo. In the eyes of most Israelis, Batsheva is synonymous with the Suzanne Dellal Center, the exquisite rehearsal and performance home of the company in the Neveh Tzedek neighborhood of South Tel Aviv. Yet, in typical Naharin fashion, Furo sets out to break audience expectations and preconceived notions by drawing crowds to an entirely different venue. In preparation for the production, Batsheva partnered with designer Giora Porter to build what is now known as Furo House. The structure fits seamlessly with the look and feel of the actual boardwalk at the port, built entirely of wooden slats, and provides audiences with a variety of vantage points from which to view the show. People approaching Furo House will find themselves smack dab in the middle of one of the city's hottest nightlife spots - just another indication that when it comes to hip, Batsheva is the cutting edge. While the creation of a brand new structure at the port reflects a high level of production extravagance and cost, Furo is the most intimate of Batsheva's repertoire. Guy Shomroni, a veteran dancer with Batsheva explains that since audience members will choose their seating, "you can hear the dancers breathing or catch drops of sweat in the most interactive of the viewing experiences. But, even if you sit in the last row it feels quite intimate. There's something warm and sensual about the work, regardless of how the space is built." Over 30 dancers will perform throughout Furo's ambitious two-month run, but featuring only two performers per show, it is one of the smallest groups to ever be presented by Batsheva. One dancer explained that the entire company learned the basic choreography together and then Naharin, using his directorial eye, paired the dancers in order to highlight specific qualities. Says Shomroni, "[Naharin] tried to stick to boys with boys and girls with girls, otherwise it could have easily turned into a boy-girl story." It seems that in creating Furo, Ohad Naharin had partnerships and dichotomies in mind. The piece is a marriage between live dance by Naharin and animation by Japanese artist Tabaimo, a young designer known for using traditional Japanese symbols in unfamiliar contexts. While clearly this mélange provides for powerful visuals, the meaning is open-ended. Says ex-ensemble guest dancer Ron Amit, "the audience views us along with the animation and makes their own connections." This moving backdrop highlights the relationship between Israel and Japan, live art and animation, close and distant. Furo is a unique work not only because of it's innovative setting but also in its performance structure. It does not begin or end but runs on a loop. The audience does not clap at the end, dancers do not bow. Instead, a new pair of performers are delicately phased on to the scene while another pair fades off. "The show is over for us but for [the audience] it's still going," says Shomroni. In this way, Furo challenges the audience's conception of a dance performance, making it unclear when the show begins and when it ends. Usual formalities do not apply. Ohad Naharin is known for challenging the audience to think beyond the conventional. In Mamootot, a piece performed in one of Batsheva's studio spaces, the audience is seated on all four sides of the room in full light. Dancers circle the edge of the crowd, occasionally grasping hands with the viewers while silently staring into their eyes. Virus has a suited narrator dictating to the audience their possible reactions to the dance on-stage. In Max, the company sings in a language of Naharin's creation. In Telophaza, the audience becomes involved in a game of Simon Says, putting their hands on their stomach, head, knees and finally getting up to dance along with the company. Furo promises to push the envelope in the way Batsheva has done so many times before. Furo premiers today, Friday, at the Furo House on the Tel Aviv port. Showtimes are: Monday through Thursday, 6 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., Friday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from noon to 9 p.m. Tickets cost NIS 60 and may be ordered by calling (03) 510-4037.