Sweden picks up a good thing with Naharin

Over 160 dancers from all over the world vied for parts in Batsheva's Swedish-produced production.

kamuyot 88 224 (photo credit: Maxim Reider)
kamuyot 88 224
(photo credit: Maxim Reider)
The auditions that Batsheva Dance choreographer Ohad Naharin conducted for his "Kamuyot" production in Sweden this summer were front page news. Dancers from all over the world, 167 of them, came to try out for the 16 member international company that will premiere its new work in Stockholm on November 27 before leaving for a tour of Sweden that will bring "Kamuyot" to some 20,000 schoolchildren in 100 performances all over Sweden. "Kamuyot" means "numbers of"; it also means characteristics. Naharin says that a month before the premiere in 2003, the piece still had no name and his PR director came to him insisting on a title. She was holding a CD, Naharin took it and "'Kamuyot' was his gut reaction to the CD cover that had the word on it." And no wonder. "Kamuyot," an anthem to the unexpected, is about growing up and finding a way to and through our mortal world. It is by turns lyrical, witty, contemplative and poignant. And yes, the younger the kids are, the more easily they "get it," agrees the choreographer, "because they're not limited by their references." By that Naharin means all the unrelated stuff floating around in our brains "that takes us away from experience." It's composed in GaGa, Naharin's movement language that refines, expands and has its genesis in all the myriad of movements of which the human body is capable. It is "a connecting point between knowing and not knowing, between what we do and what's happening to us." GaGa is about instinctive and efficient movement, he says. To use it well "you have to be sensitive and alert, know the source of your power." Like its predecessor, "Mammoths," "Kamuyot" was created for a large space with the audience seated all around, like a school hall or gym - a space in which neither sets nor elaborate lighting are desirable or necessary. It's accessible, and above all mobile - essential characteristics in a country where funding and the possibility of a terrorist attack are both problems. The international launch of "Kamuyot" happened because the head of Sweden's Arts Administration saw one of the early performances at a school in Beersheva and wrote an admiring article on it for the Swedish press. Birgitta Eglin, executive director of Riksteatern, Sweden's premiere and very prestigious performing arts producing organization, read the article, and events developed from there. Riksteartern is funding the entire venture, which will cost 1.1 million euro of its annual 25 m. euro budget. Its productions - the world famous Cullberg Ballet is one of its companies - reach 45,000 children every year. This is the first time that Batsheva Dance has created an offshoot of itself to perform one specific dance piece. The 16 member international company has dancers from Australia, Denmark, Germany, Holland, Italy, Korea, Norway, Poland and Sweden plus four from Israel, all from the Batsheva Ensemble that premiered "Kamuyot" and has danced it ever since for some 180,000 school-kids from four years old to 18 all over the country. Having the Ensemble dancers in the company helped the rest learn the piece during a very intense month in Sweden, and last week they came here for a second, and even more intense month of rehearsals. They are an attractive and personable bunch of young people, and brave too. At one point each of the dancers moves from person to person in the audience and responds according to the reaction he, or she, receives from the people. Some look away, some look down, some just look back, but some smile. That elicits a smile back, even a handshake, and a dizzying pleasure results. And isn't that the point? To connect?