Batsheva Dance Company

March 5, 2009

Batsheva Dance Company
UCLA’s Royce Hall

Los Angeles, CA
February 28–March 1

Reviewed by

Victoria Looseleaf


Photo: Gadi Dagon, courtesy UCLA. The men of Batsheva, part of Naharin’s “aggressively organic, well-oiled machine,” in


Disturbing, riveting, exquisitely danced. Batsheva Dance Company’s hour-long intermissionless work, Max, choreographed in 2007 by the Israeli-based troupe’s artistic director, Ohad Naharin, either attracts or repels. And that, perhaps, is the point. Even Maxim Waratt’s musical score––industrial sounds juxtaposed with gibberish, sing-songy lyrics rendered in full-throated basso by the composer, who is actually Naharin––adds to the piece’s confounding mysteries.


That said, the 10 dancers charge through endless cycles of edgy, quicksilver directional shifts, embrace jerkiness as an ideal, and offer themselves unconditionally to the trance-inducing concepts of minimalist repetition and variation. Couples rise and fall, unisons are precise, their cocked heads just so. Balletic moves morph into military-like, albeit off-center stances, creating new patterns, shifting shapes.  


This vocabulary is not random but is rooted in Naharin’s own technique, Gaga, whereby the dancer is free to move any which way, but with unprecedented control. The unblocked body then becomes a vessel for distorted, exaggerated motion, and, in the process, forges a metaphysical connection.


This is deep stuff, with the ensemble an aggressively organic, well-oiled machine. Sounds of stampeding bare feet zooming the stage exhilarate, while individual dancers are also allowed to shine: Caroline Broussard is a portrait of complex grace; Iyar Elezra exudes a feral flexibility; Guy Shomroni could be the troupe’s resident dweeb.


And yes, Naharin isn’t afraid to address humor. Popping up in the unlikeliest guises, there’s a bit of headbanging, neo-Irish stepping and a kind of hand gesture motif one might find in a Swan Lake corps.  


Tempos, dictated by the score (Moshe Shasho’s sound design includes the mechanical droning of drills and chain saws), constantly alter, with the dancers occasionally pausing to stare at us, almost cavalierly. Avi Yona Bueno’s lighting also shifts throughout, from greens and pinks to golds and gradations of inky blacks.


Building to a finale that features the troupe belligerently counting aloud in Naharin’s made-up tongue––“Uno; uno, duo; uno, duo, tera”––the work hammers home the Israeli’s kinetic vision: Take hope where you can get it in a world that today is mostly shrouded in obsessive gloom.