BWW Reviews: ADELAIDE FESTIVAL 2014: SADEH21 Displays Strength, Control, and Flexibility
Reviewed Wednesday 5th March 2014
Produced by Batsheva Dance Company, Sadeh21 was choreographed by Ohad Naharin, the company's Artistic Director, collaborating with the eighteen international dancers. Naharin is also the creator of Gaga, a movement language that is now the basis of the training method for the company's dancers. Short words, such as Luna, Lena, Pica, or Layla, convey a wealth of meaning to the dancer. Naharin has won several prizes for his productions, and been awarded two honorary doctorates for his work.
Sadeh21 is translated as Field21, but Naharin points out that could take on any of the meanings associated with the word 'field'. At irregular intervals, the numbers Sadeh1 to Sadeh6 are projected onto the rear wall of the set, then, oddly, Sadeh7-18 appears, followed by the final three as individual numberings again. As the piece has no real breaks between sections, flowing from one to another, and the numbers occur in the middle of pieces of music, this is all rather fluid and, perhaps, intentionally causing the audience to rethink their concept of the format of a dance performance. They certainly do not seem to be marking any drastic delimiting points in the work, and the programme gives no description of the piece at all, forcing the viewers to make their own interpretations.
There is no through narrative to the work, although there are some short sections here and there that seem to form a distinctly thematic episode. There are also occasional brief movements from a dancer or two that are balletic, or from the more conventional schools of modern dance, even touches of ballroom and musical theatre dance, juxtaposed against the main form of the work.
To begin with, each dancer appears and presents a short solo, effectively introducing themselves as a prelude to the rest of the piece. Each solo is highly individual, but the overarching Gaga techniques can be seen in each dancer's work. The variety of combinations possible with eighteen dancers is endless and good use is made of that opportunity, from one, two or a small group through to the entire ensemble lined diagonally across the stage, each slowly turning and briefly creating quickly changing relationships with the dancers either side of them, or the ensemble, one by one, forming a huge circling ring.
Juxtaposition is a key word with, often, one slow movement or set of movement happening at the same time as one or more rapid movements at another part of the stage. Rapid change is also noticeable when a dancer suddenly switches from a smooth, gentle motion to a sudden burst of frenetic actions, the whole body brought into play and, just as rapidly, the reverse occurs. There is also an emotional content. There are moments of humour, of poignancy, of joy, of anger, of physical abuse and fighting, and more.
There are also times when the connection was lost and I felt that I was watching a display of technique, and exposition of pure Gaga training and practice, where the thought behind it was unclear, or not discernable. This is still fascinating, and deserving of admiration, but it left something lacking until reconnecting.
The soundtrack, compiled by Maxim Waratt, a pseudonym used by Naharin, is diverse, even eclectic, with everything from Brian Eno to Johann Pachelbel, Jun Miyake to David Darling, and Angelo Badalameni. Naharin sees this work as filmic and, appropriately, as the dancers disappear off stage and walking upstage behind the rear wall, to reappear climbing up behind it and falling, or throwing themselves down, back out of sight, the credits roll, projected onto the back wall.
The work shows off the capabilities of the Gaga system, and its connection between inner thoughts and emotions and external shapes and movements. There were moments of great passion and emotions, with strong connections to the audience, but other that seemed more like a demonstration. Overall, though, it is something that I found well worth seeing, keeping in mind that they have not been here in decades, the Gaga system have developed enormously in that time, and it could be just as long before we see this remarkable company here again.