Dance Review: A winning presentation for ‘2019’

The one decisive factor that will make 2019 memorable to the core, has to do with space design, rather than the bold and important dramaturgical content.

OHAD NAHARIN’S ‘2019.’ (photo credit: ASCAP 2019)
(photo credit: ASCAP 2019)
‘2019’ by Ohad Naharin,
(international premiere)
Studio Varda, Tel Aviv
December 10
Ohad Naharin’s latest creation 2019 has it all: a tight group of fine dancers that shine with singularity, and a choreography that seems to achieve fresh outlook on its performance’s components. Naharin’s seems to color anew and enrich his craft, reached by a higher degree of liberty, both for the dancers and their self expression and for Naharin, allowing him to dare and remove a veil or two, and be more specific in terms of his own thoughts and sentiments regarding local reality. Sentiments which were often present in many of his previous creations as undercurrents.
Yet the one decisive factor that will make 2019 memorable to the core, has to do with space design, rather than the bold and important dramaturgical content, or innovating movement’s choices, never used before as part of Batsheva’s corporeal lexicon.
On that evening, the spectators were seated on a particularly long rows, facing the wide curtain. A languid male dancer in front of it, dressed in black, wearing black boots with high stiletto heels. He was using pantomime to illustrate recorded instruction in Hebrew, English and how surprising – in Arabic.
The curtain was whisked away to reveal a same size group of people staring with surprise at us. For a second, it seemed as if we are seeing ourselves in a huge mirror, before we reset our perception. The stage which separated us was soon filled with dancers undulating their hips to a song in Arabic, with lyrics depicting his feelings and sorrows. Naharin had used Arabic music and recited poems in the past, yet the important attention given in 2019 to what a large part of Israeli, or more specifically – Jewish local population – will call “subversive.”
Yet the heavier ammunition released by Naharin had nothing to do with songs and poems in Arabic, which is legally regarded as an official second language of Israel. After all, iconic Lebanese singer Fairuz is embraced by all.
It started innocently with Ehud Manor’s song – loosely translated – “Next year we’ll sit on the balcony and count wandering birds”... what could be a more straightforward optimistic song? Yet nowadays, these naïve and optimistic lyrics seemed more far-off as the years go by.
Subtle irony is being replaced with Hanoch Levin’s sarcastic and prophetic play, written after the Six Day War, You and I and the Next War. I’ll quote only few short lines – freely translated – which are relevant today not just for us. “When we are asleep, we are three: me and you and the next war….and when all is over, once more we are three, you and I and the photo.” I don’t think there was an Israeli writer that understood our future position any better than the late Levin, where each of his lines is sharp as a weapon.
There must have been in the work process some invigorating potion which affected the dancers. I never saw them so vibrant, so expressive, so powerful. Was it the impact of the content, or the delighted opportunity to shine as individuals, in a similar manner one remembers from street dance wars of the past’s underprivileged kids when they were given a chance to fluff their feathers, and show-off their skills?
Once a dance touches your mind, your soul, your stomach – you know it’s a winner.