Review: BATSHEVA - The Young Ensemble is Performing at the Joyce Theater

By: Oct. 02, 2015
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On opening night, September 29, 2015, we experienced a great burst of energy by this focused, well-rehearsed, professional company, Batsheva - The Young Ensemble: Ohad Naharin, Artistic Director; Adi Salent, Associate Artistic Director; and Matan David, Ensemble Director. For this debut, September 29th - October 4th at the Joyce, this company of 16 dancers, aged 18-24, is presenting an all new version of the parent company's 2000 work of repertory highlights, Decadance.

Decadance features selected excerpts from works by Naharin: Zachacga (1998), George & Zalman (2006), Max (2007), Seder (2007), Mabul (1992), Sadeh21 (2011), Zina (1995), Kyr (1990), Three (2005), and Naharin's Virus (2001). The music was a 75-minute potpourri, ranging from The Beach Boys to Vivaldi and pop to Arabic. Since the 1990s, when Naharin took the helm of the Israeli contemporary dance company Batsheva, his revolutionary movement language, Gaga, has changed the flavor of this company. The Gaga technique is learned and rehearsed by dancers in a mirrorless studio to verbal movement instructions demanding exploration of the energy stored in specific body parts. While the dancers may come from varying backgrounds, there is unison of movement comprehension and approach, performed with serious focus.

As the audience entered the theater, lights fully illuminated, there was a male dancer dancing alone on the stage (I believe, from the headshot in the program, this was Matan Cohen, born in Haifa). He was clear and confident, and reminded me of Naharin. The company joined him on stage as the front lights dimmed, leaving them to dance in the stage lights, as we are accustomed to seeing. One spirited dancer stood out of the group from the beginning to the end, Stephanie Troyak, of Ontario, Canada, , with her sparkling personality and precise technique.

There was precise unison dancing, as well as dancers painting a moving picture with varying types of movement, from that resembling pop & lock, to natural human movement, to ballet moves, which generally looked like a humoristic, uninspired approach to classical technique. The music was sometimes very loud and scratchy, so, I thought something might be wrong with the sound system. Then the decibel level would become enjoyable and free of static.

There were three duos, which were beautifully constructed and beautifully danced. Some parts were riveting, even if I'd seen them multiple times in the past. Some seemed to me not worth the repeat, as a boring follow the leader section in which dancers formed three lines. The dancer in front would do some small movement, like lifting his/her shirt part way...go to the back of the the next in line could do the same...etc... It seemed to me that there must be more interesting works to present. The dancers came into the audience at one point, as I've seen before in Naharin's work, each choosing an audience member to join them on stage. Most of the "volunteers" looked uncomfortable on stage. One, however, was marvelous, keeping up with and sometimes leading her Batsheva partner. I recognized her to be NYC dancer/choreographer, Nia Love. She made this section fun. Fortunately, this was not the final piece that I've experienced in the past.

All in all, they kept the attention of the audience, who burst into heart-felt applause at the end of certain sections and at the end of the evening, which had no intermission.