Batsheva Dance Company

September 21, 2010

Batsheva Dance Company
Joyce Theater, NYC

September 21–October 3, 2010

Reviewed by Eva Yaa Asantewaa


The female cast of Naharin’s
Park, one of four pieces in Project 5. Photo by Gadi Dagon, courtesy the Joyce.


“Male and female He created them.”  And male and female he, choreographer Ohad Naharin, deployed them.


Project 5

(2008), Batsheva’s latest season showing at the Joyce Theater, is an hour’s worth of spliced-together repertory pieces danced by alternating casts—one male, one female. The pieces aren’t fresh and, despite the company’s marketing, the presumed distinction between the casts turns out to be rather slim. At most, the men look slightly sharper and stark in the space. So what—except tempting the curious to shell out for tickets twice—could be the point of this arrangement?


There are no choreographic revelations here, no standout individual performances arising from this generally skillful, handsome ensemble. Gaga—Naharin’s renowned movement practice that distorts and expands the conventional range of the dancing body—remains an inside job, one perhaps best comprehended in the doing rather than in the watching. Since the enigma called Gaga supposedly arises from within—Naharin’s dancers train and rehearse without mirrors—it’s odd that what works about Project 5 works because, well, it just looks good.

In George & Zalman—a 2006 quintet best remembered for its voiceover recording’s gradual assembling of the words and phrases of a Charles Bukowski poem—dancers mark the accumulated phrases like radiant models at a fashion shoot, hitting exaggerated poses. By its end, the entire audience should be able to recite Bukowski’s “Making It” and even imitate the iconic “Damnation of Faust” pose—lunge stage left with arms jutting up and out like antlers. Anything this dance might mean gets lost in the stylishness of this herd of wiry supermodels or springboks or whatever they are.

(2008), set to Isao Tomita’s irritating electronic version of Ravel’s Bolero, features a pair of dancers who move like wind-up dolls—literally winding their arms like levers to lower and lift themselves into and out of squats, pumping their hips, and gazing at and through us without affect. The combination of this music and Naharin’s mechanistic/decadent choreography seem a lot of effort to tell us what we already know—that Ravel’s piece is much ado about nothing.

—a punkish trio excerpted from 1999’s Moshe—appeared to be the Joyce crowd’s favorite of Project 5‘s “lookers.” It’s basically as inexplicable as anything that precedes it—for heaven’s sake, what are those dancers chanting and why?—but at least it packs some bite. The dancers tensely gesticulate, jerk, and wrestle their standing microphones like rock stars working an arena.

Black Milk
(1985/1991) introduces a tribe-like ensemble. Arranged in a line, the dancers, one by one, scoop gobs of slay-grey mud out of a bucket and smear them down their faces, chests and the long, flowing costumes around their thighs. The costumes’ fabric swirls as they run, leap, and turn in interweaving patterns. The application of these warpaint-like markings might have significance, as might the action of one dancer who separates from the pack to cleanse his/her face, but these features do not appear to have firm connections to the overall   expansive drive of the work. In fact, Black Milk does not end so much as trail off—once again bringing the concept and construction of Project 5, itself, into question.