Choreographer: Ohad Naharin
Reviewer: Sally Cinnamon
There is a grumble of disapproval as Batsheva Ensemble begins their two-night residency at The Lowry in Salford. There are protestors boycotting the dance troupe’s connection with ‘Brand Israel’, their government’s international initiative to positive-promote all things Israel.
It would be hard, as a reviewer, not to make note of this as security is high in the building (I lose count the number of police uniforms I pass on the way to the bar) and, in fact, a couple of the protestors infiltrate the performance and bring proceedings to a temporary halt. It’s a sour start to the evening and although everyone has the right to protest, it seems bizarrely worthless to be hollering remonstration at young dancers.
That aside, this is my first experience of the youth wing of the company founded by Martha Graham and Baroness Batsheva de Rothschild in 1964. ‘Deca Dance’ is a celebration of the company’s back catalogue, a sort of taster menu of choreography spanning the twenty years Ohad Naharin has been Artistic Director.
The talent, maturity and complexity of the dancer’s abilities belie their tender age. Dancer, Or Schraiber prologues the show as the audience filters to their seats. He’s dancing alone on stage. It looks improvised, it might be choreographed, either way, it’s the best opening I’ve seen in recent years and a sample of things to come.
There’s a wry sense of mischief in Schraiber’s performance as well as remarkable skill and poise and I can’t help salivating. I am not disappointed. The show is wonderfully anarchic, spiritual, beautiful, moving and hilarious. The pieces are explosive and charming concurrently and, even though sometimes they may not fuse together as a whole menu, they are, individually, delicious.
The music choices seem unusual at first, too, but, after a little digging, it seems Naharin was primarily a musician. His love of eclectic ideas in his dances pours over in to the accompaniment.
The troupe is supremely gifted and it’s clear Naharin works with dancers who not only arrive at the company with great skill but also bring something of themselves. There’s a sense of collaborative work in the Ensemble, a sense of individual personality without ego. Naharin is selfless enough to allow the dancers’ own uniqueness to flavour the pieces.
The show is on tour throughout the UK and has been harboured by protest at every venue so far. It shouldn’t put you off. There were those outside in the cold that protested and there were those of us watching that warmed to some of the very best young dancers in the world.