‘Bill’ is back

In Sharon Eyal’s evening-length piece, performed by the Batsheva Dance Company, the dancers show their true colors.

'Bill' dance performance (photo credit: Gadi Dagon)
'Bill' dance performance
(photo credit: Gadi Dagon)
The last thing you want to do when you go to the theater is think about everything other than what is transpiring on stage. Too often, however, the audience sitting in their cushy seats are not participating in the event, only tolerating it. What a crowd wants and what the performing artists aspire to is a unified front, a group journey that includes both active and passive members.
Having recently celebrated another tour de force premiere, choreographer Sharon Eyal can rest assured that her pieces produce that kind of atmosphere. House, which shared an evening with The Toxic Exotic Disappearing Act by Yasmeen Godder, wowed audiences with its enigmatic appeal. Next week, just moments after unveiling her new masterpiece, the Batsheva Dance Company will present a run of Eyal’s evening-length work Bill at the Suzanne Dellal Center.
There is a clear through-line between these two pieces. For one, Eyal’s razorsharp aesthetic is in place in both pieces. Over the past several years, with the rise of her popularity as house choreographer for Batsheva and freelance dance maker, Eyal has honed her tastes in a way few of her contemporaries have. Her pieces are distinguishably hers from the moment the curtain rises.
A sort of purist, Eyal’s costume choices always accentuate the body. Be it the clean white trunks and T-shirts of Marakova Kabisa or the evocative threads of Bertolina, Eyal provides a clear picture of her dancers’ bodies. In both Bill and House, Eyal opted to go simple. Her dancers wear tan body suits, creating a sense of nudity on the scene.
Though in House, upon close inspection, each dancer’s attire was outfitted with certain accessories; the overall visual was that of sameness.
In Bill, she took this concept to the extreme.
Beyond their identical costumes, the dancers also wear ice blue contact lenses. Their hair is slicked back and matted in tan paint, evoking a Harrison Bergeron (Kurt Vonnegut) vision of group unity. And though all their physical differences are blurred by their uniformity, each dancer’s nature emerges through the nuances of their movement. In this way, Eyal explains, her performers can show their true selves. By uniting them visually, she engineers both the sense of commonality and the individual rebelling against it.
Also connecting all Eyal’s pieces is the boom, boom boom soundtrack. In all her works, from start to finish, the high-volume music plays in an ongoing rhythm. Eyal’s longtime collaborator Ori Lichtik’s dizzying blends of electro beats and soothing melodies make for trance-inducing experiences.
Lichtik’s score also links one section to the next seamlessly.
For Bill, which premiered in 2010, Eyal uses all 21 dancers of the Batsheva Company. At times, the audience is offered an intimate glimpse of one or two dancers. Seconds later, the group overtakes the stage in undulating flight patterns. Lighting by Avi Yona Bueno accentuates these dynamic changes perfectly.
Eyal was also certain to include more than a pinch of humor in Bill. The dancers scream, laugh and smile at their spectators. Combined with the ultra-blue lighting, these moments are as spooky as they are humorous. The atmosphere is at once light and tense, sexual and pedestrian and thoroughly unusual.
The glue holding all these stylized elements together is the deft movement language created by Eyal. Having danced for the company for many years, she is familiar with the strengths of her troupe and is nearly unmatched (perhaps only by artistic director Ohad Naharin) in her ability to show off what her dancers are capable of.
With its genuinely innovative look and feel, Bill is a not-to-be-missed dance experience.
Bill will run at the Suzanne Dellal Center on February 8, 9, 10 and 11. For tickets, visit www.batsheva.co.il or call (03) 517-1471.