NZ Festival 2014
Deca Dance, Batsheva Dance Company (Israel)
St James Theatre, till February 24
Reviewed by Ann Hunt
This extraordinary company is a perfect choice for the opening night of the New Zealand Festival. Inventive, exhilarating, moving - it is everything that the festival aims to be and then some.
It comes as no surprise that Batsheva is recognised as one of the world's leading contemporary dance companies. It is superb.
Artistic director/ choreographer Ohad Naharin takes contemporary dance to a whole new level. His choreography is astonishingly varied and inventive. The dancers soar, contract, roll, flick, shake, all with split-second timing in ways rarely seen before.
All 18 are phenomenal. They risk everything and hold back nothing. Their bodies are sublimely fluid, with magnificent upper body reach. But it is their absolute unflagging energy that takes one's breath away.
Deca Dance is comprised of 10 dances taken from previous Naharin choreographies. Crudely, a kind of Batsheva's greatest hits. Yet so integrated are the excerpts that the work has a wonderful cohesion and appears a unified whole.
One of the most impressive aspects of Batsheva is the way in which gender is almost completely ignored. The men are soft and pliable, the women tough and strong. Then suddenly they reverse. Really, they can do anything. Everyone works for the good of the whole and hence, they are the ideal ensemble.
One excerpt was understandably the audience's favourite and mine too. Dressed in slick black suits and fedoras, the dancers slowly left the stage and coolly selected members of the audience, from all three levels of the theatre. Back on stage, however, the coolness disappeared and the party began.
Not once were the participants put down or ridiculed by the dancers, as so often is the norm in this kind of interaction. At the close of the piece, everyone dropped to the floor, leaving one couple dancing in close embrace.
Then suddenly the male dancer hit the floor as well, leaving the lone woman happy to take her well-deserved ovation.
If ever you needed evidence that dance can break down barriers and make us feel as one, then this was it.
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