The acclaimed and crowd-pleasing Tel Aviv-based Batsheva Dance Company, celebrating its 50th Jubilee, returns for an adapted version of Deca Dance, the company's montage of signature past repertory pieces. The dance will be performed exclusively in Miami -- which will also be the company's opening city during its 2014 U.S. tour -- this Saturday and Sunday at the Arsht Center, launching the center's 2014-15 Knight Masterworks-Signature Dance Series.
Founded in 1964 by the Baroness Batsheva de Rothschild, Batsheva Dance Company today is a very different company from when it began. Originally under the artistic direction of Martha Graham, the company was the only one that performed the iconic modern choreographer's repertory outside her own company. But the company that transformed contemporary Israeli dance with Graham's work found a new renaissance on the world stage in the early 1990s under the direction of Ohad Naharin.
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Naharin, who trained with Batsheva, the School of American Ballet, the Juilliard School, and Maurice Béjart Ballet du XXe Siècle, was himself invited by Graham to join her company.
But after his appointment in 1990, he began forging a new path and creating his own craft -- he's known as the pioneer of the "gaga" movement, which emphasizes exploration of sensation with improvisational techniques.
There are many works in contemporary dance where it seems dance itself -- really, the body itself -- is a tool used as a means of interpretation of emotion, or a piece of music, or even a theatrical device. But Naharin's process and technique have liberated movement from many conventions and have made that body expression the emphasis of his process. We asked him about it.
"Over the years I have learned that the dancer must listen to its body before telling it what to do, " he says. "By listening, one discovers the scope of sensations, texture, distribution of effort, availability, pleasure, clarity and efficiency of form... The more one listens the better the chance to connect great passion, high skills and the power of imagination."
Seeing his company perform, it's obvious the dancers are not merely instruments but vessels. During class and rehearsals, working in a studio with no mirrors, dancers are encouraged to improvise in the creative process. Although Naharin's pieces distinctly carry his voice, one can see how much of the performers' unique voice, exploration, and discovery contribute to the final product onstage.
More important, those who perform his work seem all the more committed and fully invested, which is what gives audiences such a thrill.
"My work is totally dependent on the dancers. I never fall in love with my work; I fall in love with my dancers all the time. They teach me a lot of what I know, and they help me to discover better ideas and new solutions. Their creativity is instrumental in processes of new creations. I ask of them to go beyond their familiar limits on a daily basis, constantly adding new tools to their tool box and using it to become better interpreters."
Batsheva Dance Company has always found a receptive home here in Miami, and the program offering of Deca Dance seems likely to continue the tradition. It will feature a montage of Naharin's finest choreography, including excerpts from Zachacha (1998), Kyr (1990), Deca Dance (2006), and Mabul (1992).
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Says Naharin: "Everybody should dance, a few minutes, every day."
Performances are Saturday and Sunday at 8 p.m. inside the Ziff Ballet Opera House at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami. Tickets cost $25 to $90. Visit arshtcenter.org or call 786-468-2000 .
-- Miguel Angel Estefan Jr., artburstmiami.com