Montpellier Dance Festival: June 24-July 9

One by one the dancers enter, performing short solos portraying inner landscapes, and soon the compiled effect of the solos becomes overwhelming.

Ohad Naharin's  ‘Last Work.’ (photo credit: GADI DAGON)
Ohad Naharin's ‘Last Work.’
(photo credit: GADI DAGON)
It was hot in Montpellier, in more than one way.
Temperatures and humidity were high, and a good proportion of the artistic choices premiered in Montpellier were blazing and exposed new facets to prominent artists’ creations.
This is what makes this festival attractive.
Right in the middle, between dance luminaries such as Israel Galvan and Akram Ahan, Emio Greco, Maguy Marin and Anna Teresa De Keersmaker, stood out Last Work by Ohad Naharin, his recent creation for Batsheva. It attracted unusual attention from the media and audiences, who packed the grand hall to the brim and gave the work a long standing ovation.
And rightly so. The 18 dancers gave it their all, and looked better on the stage of Opera Berlioz than they did at Suzanne Dellal in early June.
The first image is the intriguing sight of a lone girl in blue long dress and sneakers running on a hidden conveyor belt, yet staying in the same spot for the entire duration of the dance, marking time. A point of reference.
One by one the dancers enter, performing short solos portraying inner landscapes, and soon the compiled effect of the solos becomes overwhelming.
Naharin went a long way to set them apart, establish their individuality, yet they all share the same unique discipline that became Naharin’s outstanding trade signature, consistently reflected in their movement quality.
The eyes never tired of watching the way they all moved; strong, pliable, precise, intelligent and so inventive.
They seemed to breathe through the skin and get energized from their inner core, traits which make them stand out as a company and as individual dancers.
The work is certainly one of Naharin’s more important ones. Yet along the breathtaking solos and group scenes there is still room for fine tuning to reach that elusive equilibrium of perfection. This feeling was also shared by some of his dancers, who are familiar with the ripening process.
The original title was “The baby, the ballerina and me.” Later Naharin opted for Last Work and it became a great issue at the press conference, raised by concerned journalists in Montpellier.
Though in the past Naharin had explained that in Hebrew the title also meant “the latest work,” he was vaguer abroad, leaving this option open.
As far as performers go, the duet of Akram Khan and Israel Galvan, each of whom can own (and burn down) a stage, was titanic.
Khan, who tamed the Indian Kathak, and Galvan, who revolutionized Flamenco, are worlds apart, but found common ground onstage and fertile dialog through intricate rhythms, and both were triumphant.
Emio Greco, another powerful dancer, arrived as the new leader of the National Ballet of Marseilles, and together with Peter Scholten delivered a spectacular show. No less spectacular but on a more modest scale was the coming of age of Phia Menard with her Belle Hier, a proposition that questions social codes, a subject she knows quite intimately since she made the transition to a different gender a few years ago.
I had seen a couple of solo pieces by Menard, but was overwhelmed by her courage and daring in composing such original and demanding work for her all-female dance group. Suffice to mention that the set included many giant sculptured figures made of cloth, rubber and ice, intended to melt and crumble. I hope to see her perform for local audiences soon.
Don’t miss Batsheva’s ‘Last Work’ at Suzanne Dellal, July 14-17, 22-25.