Saturday, February 11, 2012

Sneezing and Dancing, 9/23/10

Batsheva at the Joyce.

Have you ever seen a dancer sneeze during a performance? Me neither.
There must be some logical scientific explanation, but absent that, I’m guessing because they’re in a state of extreme focus. Whereas if you’re relaxed and just going about daily life, you’re at the mercy of involuntary actions like sneezing or coughing. Or when you get the hiccups — it always seems to be at home, in a relaxed state, and not at work or in public. Right?
And why I’m writing about not sneezing in a blog about Israel’s Batsheva Dance Company, I’m not entirely sure either. But Ohad Naharin’s style, “gaga,” is relaxed, taut, natural, formal, muscular, flowing, very difficult, and pedestrian, among many other things. It’s a combination of looking entirely organic while doing things that most of us would find impossible. No other company moves like Batsheva, particularly in work that’s been created in the last few years.
The program at the JoyceProject 5 (through Oct 3), is being performed this week by a female cast, and next week by men. It comprises four short works performed with pauses between, unlike Decadance, which is ten snippets of Naharin’s choreography spliced together to more or less form one long work. Three of the pieces were familiar to me, including the remarkableBolero from 2008. This duet is a great example of how movement, the human body, can be intrinsically interesting, devoid of any narrative thread. The Ravel music (with somewhat cheesy electric keyboard) brings with it none of the baggage that has made it a cliche. It falls into the background, its ubiquity remarkably negated.
The same can’t be said about George & Zalman‘s (2006) soundscore, a layering of Arvo Part (again, a dance cliche) and absurdist text by Charles Bukowski. The dance and text are accumulations, providing a rigidly formal framework within which the lush movements bounce around, like atoms in a microwave. Nor about Park (1999), in which three of the five women advance downstage in fits of movement, speaking into mics in Hebrew, making it obviously a totally different experience if you do or don’t understand the language—either meaningful and to be processed or ignored, or an aural texture.
The final work, Black Milk (1985/91), feels like an early iteration of Naharin’s expression, with its use of props (a bucket of green mud smeared on their faces and torsos), contiguous and more traditionally employed movement (leaps and canons), and a vaguely traceable narrative arc that feels far more present on men (war paint). All four works provide a short, sweet primer, and they all shared something in common, besides Naharin and the dancers—no one sneezed. Not even in the audience.
Image: Project 5. Photo by Gadi Dagon.

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