What’s in a name

The Batsheva Dance Company performs ‘Hora’.

Scene from the fantasy film 'Black Panther'The Batsheva Dance Company performs ‘Hora’ (photo credit: ASKAF)
Scene from the fantasy film 'Black Panther'The Batsheva Dance Company performs ‘Hora’
(photo credit: ASKAF)
A few weeks ago, during a meet-and-greet with foreign presenters gathered in Tel Aviv for the annual International Exposure Festival, celebrity choreographer Ohad Naharin let in on a little secret that many Batsheva Dance Company fans have wondered about for years.
Speaking to the crowd about his acclaimed children’s performance Kamuyot, Naharin finally divulged that the names of his works are often chosen by chance and bear little to no connection with the inspiration for the piece or the content of the dances.
“What does it mean Kamuyot?” he relayed back to the crowd, among which was Atanas Maev of Bulgaria, who transcribed the meeting for a local website. “At some point in the process, I needed to come up with a name.
Our publicist met me in the corridor and asked me, ‘So, what will be the name of the next piece because we need to send a press release?’ She was holding a piece of paper in her hand, and I asked her to show it to me. On it was written ‘something, something, kamuyot.’ In Hebrew, kamuyot means ‘quantities.’ Like if you do something in kamuyot, it means ‘in quantities.’ The word ‘quantities’ was there, and I pointed to the word and said, ‘This is the name.’ It’s not that I don’t take the research of the name seriously, but I don’t take the name itself seriously. I feel that the name, basically, is something you want to live with. In this case, yeah, I don’t know why. If she had a different word on the page maybe I wouldn’t have chosen it, but something about ‘kamuyot’ felt right. And the name lived up to its intention because we have had more than 1,000 shows of this already,” he said.
Later in the same event, Naharin explained the origins of his 2017 work Venezuela, again letting us in on a type of random chance in the selection process.
It seems that Naharin was playing by these rules in 2009 when he created Hora, which will return to local stages this month.
The name, which brings to mind the joyous circles of sneaker-clad non-professional dancers, sets the stage for a work that will comment on Israel and Israeli culture. And while many may find such ties in the choreography, the work does not rest on the hora, on folk dance or on Jewish customs. Instead, in Hora, Naharin laid out one of his most atmospheric and highly charged works to date.
is danced by 11 members of the Batsheva Dance Company, distinguishing the work from the majority of the company’s larger repertory pieces. Set to a score of classical compositions reimagined by Japanese artist Isao Tomita, Hora kicks off with a flush of green. The stage, illuminated in grassy hues, seems to be alive with energy as the dancers present themselves one by one.
There is no “shafteh mayim” (grapevine) or hand holding in their togetherness but rather a parade of individual virtuosity and rebellion. The group is a chaotic container of rapidly colliding and separating particles, a net of dynamically shifting bodies rocketing through the space. All this is intensified by the juxtaposition of electrified versions of Debussy’s Claire de Lune, Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries and Strauss’s Space Fantasy from the soundtrack of the film 2001: A Space Odyssey. Although the cast has received a nearly complete update since Hora premiered, the piece still packs an enormous amount of punch and relevance.
This season will also include performances of Venezuela and Last Work. Later in the season, the company will unveil a new commission by Portuguese choreographer Marlene Monteiro Freitas titled Canine Jaunatre 3.
But for most, the season will be remembered as the one in which Naharin stepped down from his post as artistic director of the Batsheva Dance Company, passing over the reins to former company dancer Gili Navot.
The Batsheva Dance Company will perform Hora on February 18-20 and 25-28 at the Suzanne Dellal Center in Tel Aviv. For more information, visit www.batsheva.co.il.