The moment in which Ohad Naharin’s Anafaza premiered was a turning point for the Batsheva Dance Company. The work was created to celebrate the company’s 30-year anniversary, honoring the rich history filled with creations by iconic choreographers such as Martha Graham, Jose Limon, David Parsons, Alvin Ailey and Mark Morris.
However, in that moment, the company’s character changed dramatically, from an ensemble that purveyed many artistic voices, to the vehicle for one with an outstandingly strong, compelling and clear vision. Anafaza, though not Naharin’s first work for the troupe, cemented a new language in Israeli dance, which continues to lead the local and international dance communities today.
This month, the Batsheva Dance Company and Batsheva Ensemble will return to the stage with an updated Anafaza. The show is a co-production with ToMix, a content platform that specializes in cultural events. Performances will be held at Hangar 11 in Tel Aviv, beginning on June 16.
The last incarnation of Anafaza
The last incarnation of Anafaza was 13 years ago. Then, as now, Naharin called on longtime collaborator Avi Belleli of the rock band Tractor’s Revenge. Belleli, Naharin and Danni Makov will perform live music for the three dozen dancers on stage.
Presiding over the performance will be the master of ceremonies, Billy Barry. For Barry, who is currently in his 12th season with the company, this role offers an opportunity to experiment with new mechanisms on stage.
“I don’t usually have speaking roles,” he divulges by phone. Many will recognize Barry from previous Batsheva works such as Momo, Last Work and 2019. With his tall frame, long blond hair and serpentine movement, Barry is hard to miss.
“I think it has something to do with things that I do outside of the company. There’s an ex-dancer of the company who started a drag show at the Kuli Alma that I was hosting. Ohad (Naharin) came and saw one or two of these shows. I think that might have planted a seed of me being the host of this show.
“In the beginning, I’m speaking Hebrew, which I don’t usually. Later on, I get to improvise and interact with the audience, this part being in English, of course. It’s just nice to perform with my voice. Doesn’t happen too often in our work. Or if it does, it’s usually the voice of the group.”
BARRY’S FEELINGS toward the role are very similar to those of Yossi Yungman, who performed it 30 years ago. “It was the ’90s,” laughs Yungman. “A lot of time has passed. I remember I really enjoyed the role I had because it was such a varied role. It let me do a lot of things in many moments of the show; narrate, dance, speak to the audience. [During] the whole show, I was running from place to place. It turned the show into something very fun and enjoyable.”
Yungman, who plans to attend the dress rehearsal of the new Anafaza, shares that he is curious to see how things have changed.
As an assistant rehearsal director, Barry was part of many conversations about how each section would be restaged. The two other rehearsal directors, Guy Shomroni of the main company, and Gavriel Shpitzer of the Ensemble, were dancers in the company during the last incarnation of Anafaza. Barry just missed it.
“I was in early meetings of how the process would roll out and how we’re going to teach it. As we went through every section, Ohad would say, ‘I want to rework that and that.’ We’ve been with Ohad every day for this restaging. For something that exists and is coming back, it’s usually put together without him. He knew from the beginning that he wanted to tweak so much of it. It was unusual.”
The process of restaging Anafaza has included both learning old sections and creating new ones. “There’s a timelessness to it, because it’s the piece that became signature of Batsheva,” Barry says.
“In every restaging of an older work, there’s so much of it that is redone. There are sections that are from pieces that were made recently. There are some entirely new sections. I was curious when we were making the new things, how they would sit next to parts that by comparison look older than things we are making for it now. But everything sings very naturally together.”
He adds that one of the newer additions to his role has him in a harness, soaring above the stage. “I’m pretending I don’t have a fear of heights,” he laughs. “I don’t think I do, but I’ll only know once I get to the hangar.”
Anafaza will be performed at Hangar 11 on June 16, 17, 19, 20, 21, 22, 24, 25 and 26. For more information, visit www.batsheva.co.il.