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Batsheva Ensemble: Deca Dance – Festival Theatre, Edinburgh

Choreographer and Artistic Director: Ohad Naharin

Reviewer: Jonathan Goat


The history of the Batsheva Dance Company is linked closely to thedevelopment of contemporary dance itself: the artistic advisor at itsinception was none other than the legendary Martha Graham. OhadNaharin, a Batsheva pupil of Graham’s, has ensured that the companycontinues to have a dynamic effect on the modern dance world. Their performance of Deca Dance by the Batsheva Ensemble, Batsheva’s junior company composed of an international selection of 18-24 year olds. Deca Dance offered a cross section of Naharin’s work from thelast twenty years, from 1985’s Black Milk to 2007’s Max.

It is an engaging and wholly original dramatic experience. Naharinhas developed a language of choreography that manages to reference thepast while engaging with contemporary forms. He uses rhythm andphysical immediacy to act as a sort of grid within which he candeconstruct everything from classical ballet poses to modern dancemoves; at times they are treated with reverence and used to elucidateemotion, at others to deconstruct conventional form and play with the audience’s expectations.

One is swept along in a maelstrom of self-doubt, sensationalism,subtlety and genuine beauty as he oscillates between all manner of moods; through this a coherent whole is created from a patchwork ofprevious excerpts. The arrangement of the compilation is so successful that one could easily have mistaken Deca Dance to be a stand alone effort. It is no surprise: a hallmark of Naharin’s choreography is his exceptional storytelling ability. Throughout there is a strong emphasis on the importance of narrative as means of creative organisation. Though the content is not always obvious, one can feel how the various narrative drives form the backbones of their respective pieces.

Naharin’s style seems to work best in the larger ensemble pieces, where the dancers tuck into a single unit and utilise snappy rhythmic movements to create an uncanny tension. In the more intimate pieces arranged for two or three dancers the style gains a refreshing originality; however it does require a certain sacrifice of that gracefulsubtletyand effortlessness that the form requires.

At times the use of choreographic rhythm and dramatic playfulness can seem as though he has perhaps over-egged the pudding: but this would be to disregard Naharin’s exceptional ability to combine opposites, a rarething indeed in modern dance. His is a radical and joyfulchoreographic voice that you should make sure you see when you get thechance.

Runs Until 31 October


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