Fresh and exciting

The Batsheva Dance Company premiers the new work 'Hora' by artistic director Ohad Naharin.

ohad naharin hora 248.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
ohad naharin hora 248.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
'Let's stop here," Ohad Naharin instructs his dancers during a showing of Hora. A delighted smile plays around the choreographer's lips. His eyes sparkle as he drinks in the sight of his latest creation. With the paneled set drenched in a rich leaf-green color and eleven of the Batsheva Dance Company's exquisite dancers decorating the space, Naharin's new piece is indeed a sight to see. Naharin, the artistic director of Batsheva, started working on Hora six months ago in a process which he likens to a playground with its own rules. He first met individually with each company member to develop movement material. After a month of separate rehearsals, the dancers joined together in the studio for the first time. Throughout the creative process, Naharin encouraged the dancers to connect to silliness and develop the ability to laugh at themselves. The choreographer himself laughs as he tries to explain why there are eleven dancers in Hora. (Batsheva has over twenty dancers, who switch off in two casts.) First singing a line from the liturgical Echad Mi Yodea - "eleven are the stars in Joseph's dream" - then claiming that there are eleven stars onstage, Naharin jokingly adds that there are also eleven players on a soccer team. Asked about the title, Naharin says that he was simply drawn to the sound of the word, adding that a "hora" is a type of Israeli dance. But he is quick to note that the word carries different meanings in other languages. It is not a fixed, universally understood concept. Rather, it is a point of departure. Indeed, Naharin's Hora is filled with a series of reference points that serve as springboards, launching the viewer from the reassuring comfort of the familiar into the thrilling exploration of the unfamiliar. Identifiable ballet positions crop up in the choreography; so too do splits and one movement which could be a cousin of the twist. But the dancers persistently leave behind these more common motions, investigating all the options available to their pliable bodies. They find new angles and discover unusual positions. One moment they smoothly trace long arcs through space and the next they condense their energy into quick, sharp gestures. The elements of shape, speed and texture are constantly reassembled into eye-catching combinations. Sometimes this leads to surprising effects, such as when one couple's rapid staccato movements make them appear as if they are dancing in a strobe light. The score also transports Hora from the realm of the recognizable to a more unusual, otherworldly place. Although Naharin began creating movement to the steady beat of a metronome, he finally chose several well-known classical compositions, later revitalized by Isao Tomita's synthesizer. In the hands of the pioneering Japanese arranger, the famous melodies of Claude Debussy, Modest Mussorgsky, Richard Strauss and other composers take on a futuristic tone and original sound. Reflecting on his work, Naharin talks about the frequent use of references but emphasizes the freshness of every moment. Each moment holds the possibility of new delights that, the choreographer explains, are available to all audience members. Crafted with a playful attitude of curiosity and insistently inviting the imagination to push beyond familiar references, Hora is thoroughly infused with this air of freshness. Co-produced by New York City's Lincoln Center Festival and France's Montpellier Dance Festival, Hora has its world premiere in Jerusalem at the Sherover Theater on May 18 and 19 at 8:30 p.m. for NIS 149 (02) 560-5755. It then will tour to Carmiel, Herzliya, Haifa, Tel Aviv, Netanya and Givatayim. For more information visit The writer is a dance scholar and lecturer and can be contacted at